Design thinking – A way to connect the dots

It was 8:30 a.m on a cold autumn morning, the first day of an exciting journey into service design that was to start at Laurea. After navigating the ridiculously long coffee queue, it was already time for the course to commence.

We all got to know each other and the course got underway.  We were confronted with a refreshingly practical approach by Gijs Van Wulfen and Prof. Katja Tschimmel. Some of the interesting practical and visual tools included ” innovation by mixing and matching (taking two completely different objects and seeing the connection)”,  “mind mapping”, “in-depth interviews”, “developing personas”,  and preparing a “business model canvas”.


All this got us started and thinking using visual tools, which is a key trait of “Design thinking”. Innovation is a complex process, and design thinking  facilitates this. The FORTH innovation method that was developed by Gijs was what we used in pursuit of “Design thinking glory”.   Mind mapping was what got us all started the whole process. Katja showed us tremendous possibilities that can stem out from an idea. A useful tip that she suggested was to pin the mind map on the wall instead of using it on top of a table.


In that way everyone sees it the same way, and keeping a distance from the picture helps to get an abstract view (sometimes you need to go far to see the big picture !!!). Katja also introduced visual tools like photographs, interviews and other visual registers that could be used as an impulse for idea generation. Personas and empathy maps(as explained in Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation) were introduced to us, a tool designers use to understand and interpret the perspectives of end users and the problems they face.

   Service Design exercise

The next task was to create a new service for the university campus. This made us use the concepts and tools we learnt. We used Brainwriting and Brainsketching, storyboarding, and rapid prototyping among other tools to get the innovation ideas into a shape.

It was  interesting to note that during the testing phase,  Gijs suggested us to note down the opinions of other groups, rather than defending your idea. After all, you need to take into consideration, a totally different point of view as well. Its imperative to do this  since one’s own idea (or a group’s idea) will always be attractive to the creator of the idea. So if you don’t listen to others(consumers), you will never get the most important viewpoint!!

We then used a business canvas and put forward, our idea atop the canvas. The business canvas helped analyse the idea from the view of all stakeholders involved.

Once all this was done, it was clear how the visual tools like observation and immersion can help in service design.  You open up to things that look like the norm, and start viewing them differently.  The design thinking using FORTH method thus helps focus, discover customer insights, and develop mini business cases.

We normally learn the most,  when we do things ourselves, and this was the first step into the wonderful world of “Design thinking”. One that may lead way to many interesting possibilities in the future, and one that certainly changed the way we look at the world around us!!!

-Written by Nanda Kumar, 1st year SID student.

4 thoughts on “Design thinking – A way to connect the dots

  1. Very nice post Nanda, with personal touch. Many important elements of design thinking captured, like: visualization and stepping back to see the big picture, group work with listening others to capture important ideas. Brings back good memories from the great experience we went through thogether.

  2. Hi Nanda, I liked your blog post about our team work! We did have had a great ideas and the process was fun to do with our group. I think this is was Design Thinking is on it’s best – fun and inspiring with loads of ideas and perspectives. I hope our studies will continue the way they started! 🙂

    • Thanks Annika. I guess, we definitely learned a lot from the exchange of ideas and use of tools like mind mapping and business model canvas. There were also good insights from Gijs & Katja. I still remember Gijs insisting that we just listen to Feedback instead of defending our ideas. That really made a lot of sense. I try to remember it everywhere now, and helps me understand people more when I don’t try to defend, and just listen !!

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