Beyond shame – Drawing first time since childhood


Yes. This really is a cat. Made by 38-year-old woman.

I am married to a painter and my mother is a kick ass drawer. This is the reason why I haven’t touched a pencil in my adulthood. I hate to be worse than others.

I thought I would live happily ever after without having ever confront my difficult relationship with drawing. I was wrong.

In September 2017 I started to study Service Design in Laurea University of Applied Science. I took part of a workshop by Katja Tschimmel. Our first task was to draw a portrait of a person who was sitting next to us. I totally froze up. I rather twerk naked in front of the class, than draw a real person who I don’t even know.

But Katja Tschimmel didn’t give me mercy. So I took the black marker in my hand and draw a horrible picture from poor Hannele Laaksolahti. In paper she looked like a manga-witch! I’m so glad she didn’t get mad to me.

Don’t unlearn elemental skill 

After the workshop was over I realize that drawing is an essential part of Service Design. I can’t hide from it anymore.

Tim Brown, the CEO and president of world famous service design company IDEO, writes in his book Change by Design the importance of drawing.

“Design professionals spend years learning how to draw. Drawing practice is not so much in order to illustrate ideas, which can now be done with cheap software. Instead, designers learn to draw so they can express their ideas. Words and numbers are fine, but only drawing can simultaneously reveal both the functional characteristics of an idea and its emotional content.”

I noticed that I have become a logical, verbally oriented adult, who has unlearn this elemental skill. I need to let this shame go, and start drawing like a child again.

But why we need to draw, if we are designing, for example a new organization model?

Tim Brown describes why visual thinking makes ideas better. “When I use drawing to express an idea, I get different results than if I try to express it with words, and I usually get to them more quickly. “

You don’t need to draw like an artist or graphic designer. A silly, childish mark is enough to get the idea.

Are you design thinker or traditional thinker?

Our teacher, Katja Tschimmel has made a difference between design thinker and traditional thinker. Sad but true, I am still on the traditional one. But the change has started!

Traditional thinker

  • Mainly verbal, uses diagrams and tables
  • Mainly rational and objective
  • Analytical, deductive and inductive
  • Looking for correct answers
  • Lead by organizing and planning
  • Customer-driven
  • Principally individual

Design thinker

  • Mainly visual, use of sketching and prototyping tools
  • Intensive observation and wondering, challenging stereotypical perception
  • Emotional and rational at the same time
  • Abductive and inventive
  • Failure is part of the process
  • Emphatic and human-driven
  • Principally collaborative


Anu-Elina Lehti

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.

Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design. How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. HarperCollins.

8 thoughts on “Beyond shame – Drawing first time since childhood

  1. Yes! I’m not alone. Sadly I also noticed to be a real traditional thinker when I read Katja Tschimmels article. That’s why I plan to take all the visual tool courses which are offered to us. For better or worse! And I believe that I – and you – can be visual in so many others ways too than only drawing. Inspite of the essence and importance of drawing in service design.

  2. Just wanted to chaim in and say that I like your cat 🙂 Keep drawing!
    PS. After making few drawings it’s hard to stop! It’s fun!

  3. But hey that’s a great cat because it’s totally recognizable! 🙂 Don’t be too hard on yourself, because we all have different styles of drawing. This one is your unique style! I haven’t really drawn since school so drawing is new for me too. But I believe that the more you draw the more you get comfortable drawing 🙂 So let’s just work with those crayons and forget about traditional thinking for a while!

  4. Drawing has been one of my hobbies since childhood and Katja’s class made even me think of drawing in a different way. When you’re going through the steps of a design thinking process in a hurry, there’s no time to draw masterpieces. I think the notion in your quote from Tim Brown is an important one: the drawings are not made to illustrate ideas but to express them. It’s like the difference between an instruction manual and a poem. You’re not drawing a photorealistic masterpiece but giving another form to something that already exists inside of you. Maybe for that reason the cat at the beginning of you post looks just perfect to me 🙂

  5. Love the cat! I feel the same about drawing. I have never been drawn to arts & crafts and have always preferred books and written/oral communications to visual ones. I am really looking forward to the “Visual Tools” elective course for developing the very dormant visual skills inside me.

  6. Being married to a kick-ass drawer, I share your pain. And admire your cat, it’s much nicer than what I could ever draw… This whole visual world of design thinking is something very new to me, and I feel very uncomfortable using some of the more visual tools. But being very bad at something can also feel very liberating. From where I’m standing, the only way is up.

  7. (Your cat is better than mine.) My kids sketch better than me, but then I notice they spend much more time practicing and sketching than me. I, on the other hand, am much more verbal, and a traditional thinker. We have something in common, we both have take the plunge into a non-verbal, visual, inventive, world where the problems are wicked and the answers measured on a scale from good to better. In “Creative Confidence” book they state that drawing lines, triangles, squares, blobs and circles is the starting point to drawing anything – your cat shows that you are well on your way!!!

  8. I really liked that you highlighted the importance of drawing in design. I am a true believer of visuality and using pictures for example in work presentations or planning my own life. Pictures, whether they are self-drawn or from Google, bring ideas in life and help to simplify complex or abstract things. Things that might sound tricky when using only words. As the saying states a picture really is worth a thousand words. And by the way, your cat is actually quite spot on and recognizable. One thing that drawings, pictures and other visual elements also do, is to draw attention. In fact, your cat is the reason why I decided to comment your post.

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