How Design Thinking has merged with AI to Improve User-Centricity Across Industries - Spring2 Innovation

How Design Thinking has merged with AI to Improve User-Centricity Across Industries

July 9, 2024

Imagine a world where creativity meets cutting-edge technology, where the intuitive process of design thinking is supercharged by the transformative power of artificial intelligence. By merging these two forces, design thinkers have unlocked unprecedented possibilities for innovation and user-centric solutions. Artificial Intelligence’s ability to process vast datasets, predict trends, and generate myriad design options in seconds complements the empathetic, iterative nature of design thinking. This fusion empowers professionals to not only understand and meet user needs more deeply – but also to ideate, prototype, and test solutions with unparalleled speed and accuracy. 

Design thinkers have integrated AI into the design thinking process to enhance innovation especially in the private sector. As a result, we have seen dynamic, efficient, and profoundly insightful new approaches to problem-solving that have the potential to modernize industries, enhance public services, and create a more responsive and engaging world. 

Business & Private Sector

In private sector, specific AI tools are revolutionizing the design thinking process by dramatically boosting efficiency and cost-effectiveness. For example, Natural Language Processing (NLP) algorithms analyze customer feedback from social media and reviews in real-time. These outputs provide immediate, actionable insights that previously required extensive manual effort by sorting through and interpreting each and every comment or post. 

The possibilities are endless. Implementing NLP-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can handle routine customer inquiries and support requests, providing instant responses and freeing up human agents to focus on more complex issues. This reduces wait times and operational costs while maintaining high customer satisfaction. We can see where it is is especially useful in B2C communication for product inquiries, such as Lululemon’s “24/7 Virtual Assistant” chatbox on their website that can interpret and answer simple questions from customers about products or order/delivery updates.

It can also be used for more complex software services, too. Leaders in marketing software, HubSpot, leverage NLP in their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to significantly enhance user experience and operational efficiency. By integrating NLP, HubSpot automates customer support responses, allowing their chatbots to handle routine inquiries with ease, providing instant assistance to users and freeing up human agents for more complex issues. 

Additionally, NLP enables HubSpot to personalize marketing content by analyzing customer interactions and preferences, ensuring that each communication is tailored to the individual’s needs and interests. This not only improves customer engagement and satisfaction but also streamlines the marketing process, making it more efficient and effective. Through sentiment analysis, HubSpot’s CRM can also monitor customer feedback and sentiment across various channels, allowing businesses to quickly identify and address any issues, thus maintaining a positive customer relationship and brand reputation (HubSpot, 2023) (Data Science Dojo, 2023).


If you’re familiar with the 5 phases of design thinking, you might already be able to see how NLP can be extremely useful in the Empathize phase of the process. However, AI has also significantly enhanced the define phase by enabling more precise and efficient analysis of user data, leading to clearer problem definitions. 

The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is utilizing AI in the define phase of the design thinking process to enhance healthcare services by accurately identifying and understanding core issues that affect patient care and operational efficiency. The organization has applied the use of AI for analyzing patient feedback and healthcare data to identify common problems and patterns. 

In one instance, AI tools are employed to process large volumes of patient reviews and social media comments to extract key themes and sentiments. This comprehensive analysis helps healthcare professionals pinpoint specific issues, such as delays in service or other areas where patient expectations are not being met. Through the clear definition of these problems, the NHS can develop targeted strategies to address them, ultimately improving patient satisfaction and service delivery (Marr, 2021).

The NHS has established dedicated AI centers, such as the London Medical Imaging and AI Centre for Value-Based Healthcare, which focus on utilizing AI to define and tackle specific healthcare challenges. These centers use AI to analyze medical imaging data, which helps in identifying patterns and anomalies that may indicate underlying health issues. This not only aids in early diagnosis but also in defining the precise nature and scope of healthcare problems. By leveraging AI to enhance the accuracy and pin-point problem definition, the NHS ensures that subsequent phases of design thinking, such as ideation and prototyping, are based on data-driven insights. This approach leads to more effective and innovative solutions tailored to the actual needs of patients and the healthcare system (NHS AI Lab, Annual Report 2021-2022).

Public Sector

Singapore’s recent Smart Nation initiative is a continuing effort to integrate AI into urban life to improve national public services and overall quality of citizen life – especially in regards to the prototyping and testing phases of design thinking. For example, similar to the NHS, the Smart Health TeleRehab project employs AI algorithms to monitor patient recovery and provide real-time feedback. This allows for rapid iteration and refinement of the healthcare system, ensuring that the final product is both user-friendly and effective in meeting patient needs​ (Smart Nation Singapore, 2017). 

Another Smart Nation initiative involved collaboration of various working groups toward innovative solutions to public transportation and infrastructure problems. In the country’s first autonomous vehicle (AV) test center, the testing sessions involve replicating real-world road conditions, including traffic schemes, road infrastructure variations, and weather elements like rain and floods. It uses advanced AI to prototype and test AVs, ensuring their safety and efficiency before deployment on public roads. The test center’s strategic location within Singapore’s largest living lab fosters collaboration among academia, industry, and government to accelerate AV innovation (Smart Nation Singapore, 2017). 

Without a doubt, AI is profoundly transforming various professional industries, from public sector to healthcare to marketing, by enhancing the design thinking process. The cross-industry applications of AI highlight its versatility and impact when combined with the rigorous framework of design thinking. By combining both of these powerful tools, professionals can gain deeper insights, enhance problem-solving accuracy, and ultimately deliver more innovative and effective solutions, showcasing the incredible potential of AI to drive positive change across diverse fields. 


Data Science Dojo. “5 Examples of Natural Language Processing in Action.” Data Science Dojo, 19 Jan. 2023, Accessed 3 June 2024.

HubSpot. “Using AI with HubSpot’s New Tools: ChatSpot and Content Assistant.” HubSpot, 2 Mar. 2023, Accessed 3 June 2024.

Marr, Bernard. “4 Powerful Examples of How AI Is Used in the NHS.” Bernard Marr, 2 July 2021, Accessed 3 June 2024.

NHS AI Lab. “NHS AI Lab Annual Report 2021-2022.” NHS, 2022, Accessed 3 June 2024.

Smart Nation Singapore. “Smart Health TeleRehab to Improve Patient Access to Rehabilitation Services and Productivity for Therapists.” Smart Nation Singapore, 5 May 2017, Accessed 3 June 2024.

Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). “Living Lab Framework.” IMDA, Accessed 3 June 2024.

Smart Nation Singapore. “NTU, LTA and JTC Unveil Singapore’s First Autonomous Vehicle Test Centre.” Smart Nation Singapore, 22 Nov. 2017, Accessed 3 June 2024.



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