Breaking the ice on Design and Design Thinking 

Don’t worry if you are not familiar with the concept of design thinking, here you will get your first dose of design thinking vocabulary!

Figure 1: Perception of Design Thinking 

Before starting our Masters degree program in Service Innovation and Design, the concept of design thinking was vague and unclear also to us. Once the first Design Thinking Master class held by Katja Tschimmel begun, we quickly noticed that there is no universal definition of design and design thinking available in literature, and even professionals and researchers working in the field of design thinking have not been able to agree on single definition (Buchanan, R. 1996; Motee, I, 2013; Tschimmel, K., 2022). It also started to make sense why that is: With a single definition of design thinking, it is impossible to cover the diversity of ideas gathered under the label. Instead, it makes more sense to look for where and how the concept is used in different situations, both theoretical and practical, and what meaning is given to the concept (Johansson-Sköldberg, U., Woodilla, J., & Çetinkaya, M., 2013).

Figure 2: Design Thinking terminologies. 

Since we learned that there are as many definitions as there are people involved in the field, and it is pretty easy to get confused with the terminology such as creativity, creative thinking or design, designerly thinking and design thinking. Our aim is to break the ice by getting familiar with these basic terminologies often used around the topic of Design Thinking. 

Creativity is defined as a cognitive capacity to develop something new (Tschimmel, K. 2021). A person is recognized as creative when a large number of specialists endorse that his work has brought an important contribution to the field. Here, it is interesting to understand the difference between creativity and creative thinking, as the cognitive ability to deliberately and intentionally produce new ideas and targeted results is defined as creative thinking (Tschimmel, K. 2021).

Design is often associated with creativity, and even some researchers consider creativity as an essence and the heart of design. For a lay man, the whole idea of designing is either to create something new, or make existing objects, conditions, and services better and preferred ones. Designerly thinking links theory and practice from a design perspective, whereas, in design thinking the design practice and competence are used beyond the design context, and most importantly the people involved in the process does not necessarily have scholarly background in design (Johansson-Sköldberg, U., Woodilla, J., & Çetinkaya, M., 2013). In simple words, It can be said that design thinking is a simplified version of designerly thinking.

This is only a tip of the iceberg when it comes to the topic of Design Thinking, however, it’s a good place to start our learning  journey, and you should join us!

Written by Usman Sheikh and Hanna Valkonen, SID MBA Students


Buchanan, R. (1996). Wicked Problems in Design Thinking. In: Margolin, V. & Buchanan, R. The Idea of Design. A Design Issues Reader. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 

Johansson-Sköldberg, U., Woodilla, J., & Çetinkaya, M. (2013). Design thinking: Past, present, and possible futures. Creativity and Innovation Management, 22(2), 121-146. 

Motee, I (2013). Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School. 

Tschimmel, K. (2021). Creativity, Design and Design Thinking – A Human-Centred ménage à trois for Innovation. In Perspectives on Design II. Ed. Springer “Serie in Design and Innovation.” DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-79879-6 

Tschimmel, K. (2022). Design vs Design Thinking. In Creativity and Innovation Affairs. (in process). Available only for SID students at Laurea University. 

5 thoughts on “Breaking the ice on Design and Design Thinking 

  1. Thanks for sharing your valuable thoughts. It is very interesting to learn about the diversity of Design thinking concept. The pictorial example of Ice-berg for the perception of Design thinking is bang on. Design thinking has multidisciplinary approach and one should embrace its essence with open-mind. Before out Design Thinking Master class held by Katja Tschimmel, i was also having limited knowledge about this concept but Katja Tschimmel’s Innovation & Design Thinking Mindshake model was an excellent start to Design thinking concept. It was excellent to, not only learn about the concept but also walked through each step to apply the methodology for problem solving. My first impression was, its just another fancy design tool but once applied in practice, its benefits, value additions and practicality has become more and more evident.

    I totally agree with your opinion that its just beginning and more focused approach is required to understand the diversity of Design thinking concept but lets get the ball rolling.

  2. The authors of this blog post succeed to make the multidisciplinary role of design thinking understandable by describing the different concepts relating to the approach. It became clear that there is no universal definition of design and design thinking, since the definition depends on the context. The metaphor of a tip of an iceberg represented well the first impression and the beginning of our journey to Design Thinking.

  3. I think it´s a very interesting metaphore of service design area as an iceberg with some parts being visible and tangible at first sight and some parts (the invisible) being harder to grasp, requiring more in-depth involvement and study to fathom.
    In my mind this is not only applicable to us as students, but also to business in general, where the notion and understanding of service design may be limited to the more tangible and visible things like workshopping, UX/UI-design, customer journey mapping etc. I find that our job as future service designers is to expand the knowledge and understanding of what service design really is about and what value it can bring.

  4. Thank you for your post! I personally liked the way how you wrote it. The post is very informative and it defines the issue well. I would say that a person without any knowledge can get a succinct understanding of the topic with the help of your post.The first picture describes design thinking very well, it gives the reader a better understanding about the non visible things. Great job!!

  5. Thank you for a good blog post about the design thinking vocabulary! You described well how problematic the definition of design and design thinking is since there is no single definition or common understanding about the subject. I really appreciate you getting us familiar with the basic terms and vocabulary. It is a very useful recap as the terminology is easily confusing. PS. I loved your picture of an iceberg illustrating the world of design thinking.

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