Visualize this!

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”

-Edward de Bono


It was at a course of Design thinking at Laurea where I wrote down on my notebook and underlined this very inspirational thought: “We are not all designers, but we can all be design thinkers.” This sparkle of inspiration was given to us by our lecturer Katja Tschimmel. We spend a very intense couple of days with her, trying to find an answer to this mystery: what is design thinking?


For a very visual person like myself the most exciting part of solving this mystery was to realize how very visual the whole concept of design thinking is. Even the actual process of design thinking, not only the tools and the outcomes of it, can be visualized by different, harmonic forms. Examples of these various ways to visualize the design thinking process and the possible tools can be found from Tschimmel’s article Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation (Tschimmel, 2012).

An image is worth a thousand words

Since visual perception is the dominant among the senses, perception in and through images plays a special role in Design thinking (Tschimmel, 2012). Images have the power of clarifying the ideas, and often a picture says more than thousand words. According to Nigel Cross, designing seems to be difficult to conduct by purely internal mental processes, the designer needs to interact with an external representation. Visualization supports the ‘dialogue’ that the designer has between problem and solution (Cross, 2011). Designing aims to transfer the abstract ideas from our mind into forms that can be observed from the outside.


Therefore we, as design thinkers, are encouraged to use as many post-it notes, sketches, mind maps, Lego plays, cartoons etc as we just have energy for, to get the (often hidden) ideas from our heads into something more concrete. No matter how bad you think your drawing is, or how stupid you think are the ideas you were going to write on the post-it notes, just give your inner design thinker a chance.

To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong

In design thinking there is no right or wrong, all the ideas, ways of doing and outcomes can be useful. In fact, as Tschimmel said it, mistakes and failures are an important part of the creative process of the design thinking. Also Cross summarizes in his book, that innovative designer is prepared to fail occasionally, and is not afraid of failure (Cross, 2011). In order to find the most innovative, creative new solutions it is important to take a walk both on the safe side, and on the unknown side of the mind. Thoughts that may seem stupid or irrelevant can give you new ideas once you look at them from the outside.


After spending the time at the course of Katja Tschimmel I am inspired and eager to learn how to play with the different, visual tools of design thinking. We may not all be designers – but to be a design thinker can be just a matter of having the courage to try!


Written by Mirka Liekkinen, Master’s Degree Programme in Customer-centered Service Development


Tschimmel, Katja (2012). Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.

Cross, Nigel 2011. Design thinking: understanding how designers think and work. Oxford: Berg

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