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From Design to
Design thinking

My first contact point with the term design thinking was in 2011, when I got a pre-internship at the global design and innovation company IDEO, even before I really knew I would follow the path of a designer one day. This event was crucial for the rest of my further career, but most of all it was crucial for my view on the role of design in today’s world.

Shortly after graduating from school, I applied to study design in Munich. Not wanting to let the half-year waiting period – before the uni would start – go to waste, I looked for an employment where I could already get a taste of the related tasks involved. It was a lucky shot, that IDEO Munich was looking for a pre-intern at that time and I was thrilled when I received the acceptance letter. Back then, I hadn’t heard much about it, to be honest. But when I familiarized myself with the company’s profile, I quickly realized what a lottery win it was.

I was overwhelmed by the company’s culture, values and how many different talents from a wide range of disciplines were there involved. This fact was already one of the key takeaways for my personal development as a designer. In order to create a real impact you have to involve different perspectives into a project and to learn acting collaboratively. For me it was and still is a flourish community, where you can find designers, entrepreneurs, engineers, teachers, researchers, psychologists, anthropologists and more. All of them committed to create positive change through design.

Shared and lived

values beliefs principles at IDEO

Design is about making things tangible, rolling your sleeves up, getting your hands dirty and getting real.
Genuinely wanting success for others and going out of your way to help them get there is the secret sauce.
Always encouraging people to “ask for forgiveness, not permission”.
Supporting one another, pulling together in one direction and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable-ness that ensues.
A collective excitement shared by everyone for pretty much everything.
Every single person, without exception, goes out of their way to acknowledge everyone around them, using the word “we”.
Collective interdependence also needs individual independence to underpin it.
To learn more about IDEO's culture take a glimpse into the little book of IDEO

Creating impact through design is a promise which makes IDEO unique. This consideration starts exactly there, where design turns into design thinking. Being a part of human-centered design, it is a mindset, which helps not only designers but every person in understanding and solving complex challenges. This challenges could be big questions of our time, such as education, climate change, health, food or mobility. Always starting with How/What can/might we?IDEO is tackling some of the most complex global contemporary challenges by using a design thinking approach. And one more thing to reveal: it’s always about the people. Building by learning, and learning by building in order to design solutions. In the first place – for people.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

Tim Brownchair of IDEO

This approach is indeed very powerful. It can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategies and allows people with different professional backgrounds to use creative tools in order to address a vast range of challenges. Bringing together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable.

Tim Brown is the executive chair at IDEO and one of my personal role models when it comes to question today’s role of designers. I personally share his view on the recent phenomenon that many of contemporary designers are not thinking big enough (me included). Many of us are reducing their full potential in order “only” to create nice and nifty surfaces. By pursuiting the long-term and maybe not so first-glance obvious goal of making consumption more consumptional. Without a question, there is a need for beauty nowadays, maybe even more than ever. And it’s totally ok, when we are not challenging the biggest problems of a mankind every single day. But I think there is more, we can do about it – especially as designers. We have the power to clarify and enlighten, to help and make ideas thrive. And this is also an invitation Tim Brown makes in his inspiring TED talk, which I only can recommend.

In his TED talk he says the design profession has a bigger role to play than just creating nifty, fashionable little objects. He calls for a shift to local, collaborative, participatory “design thinking” – starting with the example of 19th-century design thinker Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Thinking big by

Tim Brown

To learn more about the design thinking approach visit

To end up this exploration I just want to add, that for sure, many of us have or even want to create consume-heavy commissions. And it’s totally ok. I personally just observed this attitude about me, that I am not fulfilled by contributing to selling measures only for the sake of selling. That’s why I found my calling in creating identities and strategies for start-ups and companies, that need a clear direction in order to bring their idea to life, so that they can improve the lifes of their customers. And this is something which makes me super happy: helping others becoming successful. An aspect I like a lot about IDEO.

Credits for information and media used in this post: IDEO and TED