Tag Archive | Storytelling

Who are you designing for?

For yourself? For the leadership who asked you to drive a new project? Think again. One of the first phases of applying Design Thinking is understanding who your audience is by building a deeper understanding of who you are designing for. Steven Portigal shares a great reminder by saying; “You may be a user but be careful of being seduced into designing for yourself.” 

Once you are familiar with who you are designing for, it is essential to remember that products and services should be always experienced from the user’s perspective via empathy


In Design Thinking, empathy means understanding what the user needs, wants, feels and thinks. It is also a key part understanding why they demonstrate certain behaviors and thoughts. This leads to a question; How can one empathize with the user? To gain empathy with the users we should imagine being in their shoes. Ideally, as a designer it is extremely helpful to observe them in their natural environment, whether that is an office, a factory, a shop or home. Furthermore, if we want to empathize with the users it helps to try to adopt a mindset of a beginner. This means to drop our own assumptions and biases while making those observations. 

The above picture illustrates the importance of empathy in Design Thinking process

Design Thinking is seen as a human-centred approach to solve problems, and in Design Thinking there is also an effective toolkit for innovations (Katja Tschimmel 2012). In the beginning of Service Design process, the importance of collaboration with the users is obvious. According to Kouprie and Visser there are three techniques for empathic research: direct contact, communication and stimulating ideation. Observation is one of the most effective techniques to have direct contact with a user. Beside observation, there are two other base elements of a successful design thinking process: insight and empathy, states Tim Brown. 

Role of Storytelling 

After observation, designer’s next goal is to translate observations to insight and try to represent the user’s experience somehow for example by storytelling.  A good story well told delivers a powerful emotional and perhaps an intimate experience. Storytelling also helps in a biggest challenge of Design Thinking, which is to help people to articulate the latent needs they may not even know they have. Satiro and Tschimmel (2020) have highlighted, that a story makes the message more accessible, and it engage the audience to the innovation. Stories can be formed in multiple ways, such as digital storytelling, visual storytelling, storyboards, scenario generation, storytelling through videos, plays and such.  Based on the storytelling method, we can generate questions and those questions can lead to more innovative ideas and concepts.  

In the picture above, storytelling is represented as a part of the Double Diamond design process model

“You need to turn ideas into stories that matter to people” – Jennifer Greenwood, Storytelling and Design Thinking expert 

A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end, just like all innovations processes should have. The one reason why storytelling needs to be part of the design thinker tool kit, is that it organizes information in a temporal and sequential way.  

Written by SID 2022 students Heidi Gustafsson & Minna Vainio


Portigal, S. (2013). Interviewing users. 

Knowledge without borders. 2020. Design Thinking and storytelling. Accessed 23 August 2022.   

Brown, Tim (2019). Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers 

Kouprie, M & Sleeswijk Visser, F. 2009. A framework for empathy in design: stepping into and out of the user’s life. In Journal of Engineering Design Vol. 20, No. 5.  

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

Tschimmel, K. (2018). Toolkit Evolution 62. An E-handbook for practical Design Thinking for Innovation. Porto: Ed.Mindshake. 

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”.  

Why is Storytelling at the core of Design Thinking?

My story with Design Thinking goes way back to 2017, when I started to take life coaching sessions. My coach was a Service Designer and a passionate Design Thinker. As in every coaching session, there is a part in which the coachee needs to offer at least 20 solutions or actions she/ he will be taking to solve the problem. From those 20, only three are chosen and executed lately. Why this story has any connections with Design Thinking besides that my coach was a practitioner is that all those 20 solutions I proposed were Design Thinking practices. My coach was astonished, and she told me, and I quote: “It took me years to study and practice Design Thinking, but it seems that for you, it’s natural.” I was amazed, as well. If I look back now to that day, I believe I might have been what Tim Brown names in his Change by Design book “raw Design thinking material” ( Brown, 2009, 235).

Pexels Stock Images, 2019, Nairobi, Kenya

I have started with this story to dive into why storytelling stands at the core of Design Thinking.  Tim Brown in his “Change by Design” book mentions the fact that “we mostly rely on stories to put out ideas into context and give them meaning” (Brown, 2009, 132). Without a story, many ideas fade along the way, products don’t succeed, brands fail, and people are forgotten.  Stories and storytelling is what we create and do every day. From telling your partner how was your day, to telling your manager how to move forward with a project, everything we say needs to have a story behind, so it can be understood and remembered.

Through stories we move people, we convince them to support our ideas, we encourage them to spread our message.

For this reason, Brands rely so much on storytelling. As an example, in any perfume commercial, the viewer gets plunged into a heavenly world in which one gets superpowers and can achieve everything. The brand tells a story about how the buyer feels and how their life will change if they buy the product. “Stories reinforce the emotional reasons” (Brown, 2009) and that is why we remember, and we pass it on to other people. Stories are crucial for brands because they are a powerful tool to make a significant impact.

Parfums Christian Dior, Natalie Portman. Picture from Vogue, 2017. Accessed on 22 September 2019.

In the Innovation Process Evolution 6² created by the Portuguese company Mindshake, a new concept is presented through storytelling with visual support such as a storyboard, photos, or prototypes. A story accompanied by images keeps the listener engaged and curious. Even though we had many ideas along the innovation process, only one idea “stand out from the crowd.” That idea had a story with a begging, middle, and end. That is why an idea without narrative structure is doomed to fade away along the design thinking process.

Fig. 1: Innovation Process Evolution 6² Mindshake Design Thinking Model by Katja Tschimmel (2018)

We have developed many ways over the years on how to deliver our stories: from books to movies, to coffee-talks and social media, storytelling is what sets us apart from other species and makes us human. (Brown, 2009. 131)

Even though storytelling is as old as time, it is still the most common activity we do every day. Therefore, this ability that makes us unique is at the core of the innovation process and problem solving, and hence the key element of Design Thinking.

Written by Andreea Cozma on 22nd of September, 2019.


Brown, T & Katz, B. 2009. Change by design: how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. 1st edition. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

Tschimmel, K. 2019. Design Thinking. [lectures]. Held on 6-7 September. Laurea Univesity of Applied Sciences.

Future of Service Design – does it exist?

Ever thought about this? Is service design just one ism, which comes like a wave: First small, getting strong and then fading away. When reaching the end of its existing curve, the ism is so worn out that no-one even wants to hear the words “service design”.

PaneeliAalto University Executive Education arranged on the 1st of June 2017, on International Service Design Day, networking event around this very interesting theme. Speakers and panelists who game from different backgrounds looked at the topic in a versatile and detailed way. They represented front line service design expertise: Peter Barkman, Managing Director from Palmu Helsinki, Laura Franck, Client Service Director from Hellon, Ulla Jones, Business Designer from OP Financial Group and Pekka Toivonen, CEO of Muotohiomo. Next I will raise some points from the discussion to give some thoughts to this important heading.

Transformation is the point

Service design have to grow from project oriented way of doing to be way of thinking that leads to cultural change and transformation in organization. “Human” and “experience” should be taken as a part of business plan in the organization. The experts see that service design as a concepts and the term might disappear. The content itself becomes an everyday part of organizational approaches and practices. Whatever the term that is used, important is to make measurable changes with goal of creating better experiences and focus on customer. Continue reading

Once upon a time in Tampere Global Service Jam

What is The Global Service Jam? It’s a global innovation burst of 48 hours. Think of a bunch of musicians starting to play together. They all have their individual instruments, but after some try and error, they will be able to reach harmonies and create a unique sound and create new music. It’s the same with innovation, having a group of motivated people with diverse backgrounds, ready to work hard together. And perhaps most importantly, as the Jam rules goes, they’re ready to have fun. This blog post focuses on the storytelling method that influenced me the most during the jam, and how it was utilised through out the service design process. The Jam event it self was an excellent example of a successful use of storytelling, as the event followed a dramatic structure from the start-up sequence to the fade out.



Tampere Global Service Jam had a great location at Finlayson factory area. No Jam is a Jam without the Emergency Rubber Chicken.


Tampere Global Service Jam

This story begins at the creative and beautiful setting of historic cotton factory in the Finlayson area in downtown Tampere, Finland. One of the old factory buildings (actually called the New Factory held a Global Service Jam event.  Tampere Jam was hosted by experts Tirri, Anna and Reetta from Kolmas Persoona, and Mikko from Solita. There were also inspiring key notes from Anne from Tarinakone and Juha from Diagonal. The idea of a jam is good and simple: get together, get inspired by the given theme, ideate, form groups, develop the service together and finally present your service prototype. We had three groups of jammers developing their ideas who designed from the same starting point totally different service prototypes. All the individual service processes used multiple and different design methods, ethnography and storytelling being common to all groups.

The results included:

So how to get all this amazing work done in such a short time? Using appropriate tools and getting inspired by the hosts, key note speakers and other jammers. Storytelling had a strong place in each and every design at Tampere Jam, during all the process. As one of our key note speaker Anna from Tarinakone told us, storytelling can be utilized not just in the final presentation of the service prototype, but along the way as well. You can find Anne’s great presentation on Slideshare.

The Power of a great Story

Stories attract and engage people, thus the method of including them in your design process is a very effective one. There’s a neurological explanation to this: our brain produces stress hormones when we get excited and “feel-good” hormone when we see adorable characters in the story. A happy ending of a story releases dopamine, leaving the listener to feel more optimistic. A mixture of these three elements produces a good story and gets your audience’s attention.

Continue reading