Creativity is relational. Its practice is mostly about casting widely and connecting disparate dots of existing knowledge in new, meaningful ways. To be creative, you’ve got to mine your knowledge. You have to know your dots. – Bruce Nussbaum

One of the things that I do a lot of, at workshops or during my strategic design thinking and consulting work, is to help clients look at things from a different point of view. This often involves linking unrelated (but relevant) elements, from all over the place, together.

Design Thinking is really a methodology that inspires creativity and a creative mindset. Creativity cannot exist in vacuum, and Design Thinking’s user centered approach provides stimulation and limitation (yes you read right, limitation) that inspires creativity.

Not only that, there is another step to creativity that Bruce might have missed, and that is synthesis. You can connect, for example, a pigeon to a cucumber, but it is meaningless and out of context. This is where Design Thinking comes in again, a tool or platform to synthesize and give meaning to your creative output.

When done right, Design Thinking provides the last and most important dot of all, the central dot (in a web) that links it all.

Via: 4 ways to Amplify Your Creativity

Journey map by Evan Litvak. A fresh look at a visualization of a circular repeated journey.

Kim Cullen, from Adaptive Path, recently shares their process in teaching Journey Maps at Workshops. Their process was adapted from Jamin Hegman and Jared Cole’s service design workshop. (A great introduction to the basics of Service Design by the way.)


What is the purpose of the journey map and who is it for? Will a design or engineering team use it to build out a service? Or is it a tool for executives to socialize a concept throughout the company? Is it intended to be tactical or inspirational?

Create hierarchy by prioritizing. There tends to be a desire to document everything in a journey map, especially if it’s intended to be a tactical tool. But is there an aspect of the experience that is most important to elevate? The emotional highs and lows? The “break points” (points when users disengage with the service)? Use of media and devices?

How do visual hierarchy, typography, color, scale, space and dimension impact communication of the story? What associations do people already have with certain colors? Are there opportunities to use symbols over words? How do you indicate where the journey begins and ends or the most critical moments?

How are these visual choices appropriate for the audience and purpose of the map? How will the typography and hierarchy differ if it’s an inspirational poster versus a something that will be printed and referred to daily?

Activity Overview

  • Introduce the concept of service design. Some great resources include:,,
  • Identify a familiar service as the focus for the activity.
  • Have one member of each team describe a specific experience they had with that service.
  • As the “research subject” is talking, other members of the team capture key people, actions, emotions, things and contexts that they hear in the story on post-its. Use a different color for each category.
  • Group the captured notes on butcher paper and identify key stages of the journey. Do meaningful patterns emerge? Is there anything surprising?
  • Do rapid sketching of possible visualizations and share with the larger group.
  • Refine through digital visualizations. Emphasize that the goal is to not only to document the experience but provide insight into user needs and identify design opportunities for improving or evolving the service.

  • Another Journey Map by Tanya Siadneva
 that focuses on rider emotion. Similar to our Heartbeat Experience Map Tool, Tanya’s resulting highs and lows allows her to identify design opportunities.

    What was interesting with this activity, was the different types of visualizations created by the participants, who were incidentally students (graphics shown up top and above). Firstly it proves the robustness of the process. Secondly the students have a very different take (as they have no preconceive ideas) to the so called “industry standards” of Journey Maps that look very much like a map of train lines and stations.

    This also aligns with my belief that tools are just meant to be tools. There should not be only one right way to do it, nor should you spend time arguing the mechanics of expressing the experience or customer journey. The success or failure of such tools is in its ability to get you to your goal of creating meaningful user experiences. How it works or looks really does not matter.

    Thanks for sharing Kim!

    Via: Adaptive Path.

    Tucker Marion, Sebastian Fixson and Marc H. Meyer, writes a wonderful piece for the MIT Sloan Management Review on the challenges of Digital Design without good Design Management. Here is an excerpt:

    So, what’s the problem? There are potentially two. First, because the technology makes the work look complete at every step in the process, it can create a false sense of security. There can be a tendency to move on to the next stage in the process before teams have taken the time to deeply learn user needs, construct alternative solutions and vet both of these. In other words, the “fuzzy front end” of the design process may be cut short — to the company’s long-term disadvantage. This is, we believe, one of the major reasons product failure and success rates have changed little over the past several decades.

    Second, the very ease with which designs can be digitally drafted and prototyped might afford engineers the opportunity to “try it again and then, again and again.” In other words, the final design process can remain fluid longer than is useful. The ability to quickly iterate designs can lead to a spiraling effect, chewing up time and labor expense and effectively mitigating the benefits of digital design itself. Research has shown that these “virtual design rounds” can account for 75% of total project development costs, and they can delay project completion. For example, Airbus suffered severe delays in the development of its new A380 due to issues with CAD revisions

    While this is something I have observed anecdotally in my years in the industry, the authors have backed it up with some good research. The reality is that engineers and designers should NOT be designing in CAD. Period. The only time someone should get into CAD is when the design direction is finalized and you need a dimensionally resolve a design.

    The challenge going forward is that CAD is getting really easy to use these days. So the problem becomes an issue of process and as the authors say an over emphasis on CAD leads to team shortchanging “…valuable activities such as extensive user research, intensive parallel concept development, and deeper systems and architecture design as part of the front end of development.”

    This fuzzy up-front work should be kept fuzzy. However if CAD is brought in too early in the process, things look too complete. Especially when you throw V-Ray into the mix. Furthermore, you do not want a client to latch on to an idea early in the process, especially if you don’t really know if it is going to work of if the inside is not even shelled!

    The author’s second insight on the repeated iteration problem is an interesting one. In many ways it feeds into a designer’s creation engine and his or her passion for perfection. A designer could spend a whole bunch of time tweaking radius and curves just to ensure it’s “right”. Again this supports the notion to stay out of CAD until the design is done.

    Another way to look at it is that, if you find yourself tinkering around a design, it is time to step away from the computer and either get back to sketching or making foam models.

    Don’t get me wrong, I do not have anything against CAD. I would even consider myself an expert in Rhino and have also been extensively trained in advance surface modeling in Pro-E. But just like a pencil, CAD is a tool and we should be very aware of what it can do and it’s limitations (which are often difficult to see).

    Anyways check out the rest of the article, as it has some great real-world examples. Enjoy!

    Everyone knows who David Ogilvy is.

    He is probably one of the worlds greatest “ad men” and the likely inspiration to Mad Men. In 1948, David started Ogilvy & Mather, an advertising agency responsible for some of the world’s most iconic ad campaigns such as Dove beauty products featuring real women, and American Express’ “Don’t Leave Home without it”. However, not many people know that he is a lousy copywriter, at least, not in the traditional sense.

    In a response to a fan letter on how to be a better copywriter, David insists that he is actually a lousy one and writes:

    April 19, 1955

    Dear Mr. Calt:

    On March 22nd you wrote to me asking for some notes on my work habits as a copywriter. They are appalling, as you are about to see:

    1. I have never written an advertisement in the office. Too many interruptions. I do all my writing at home.

    2. I spend a long time studying the precedents. I look at every advertisement which has appeared for competing products during the past 20 years.

    3. I am helpless without research material—and the more “motivational” the better.

    4. I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve. Then I go no further until the statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.

    5. Before actually writing the copy, I write down every concievable fact and selling idea. Then I get them organized and relate them to research and the copy platform.

    6. Then I write the headline. As a matter of fact I try to write 20 alternative headlines for every advertisement. And I never select the final headline without asking the opinion of other people in the agency. In some cases I seek the help of the research department and get them to do a split-run on a battery of headlines.

    7. At this point I can no longer postpone the actual copy. So I go home and sit down at my desk. I find myself entirely without ideas. I get bad-tempered. If my wife comes into the room I growl at her. (This has gotten worse since I gave up smoking.)

    8. I am terrified of producing a lousy advertisement. This causes me to throw away the first 20 attempts.

    9. If all else fails, I drink half a bottle of rum and play a Handel oratorio on the gramophone. This generally produces an uncontrollable gush of copy.

    10. The next morning I get up early and edit the gush.

    11. Then I take the train to New York and my secretary types a draft. (I cannot type, which is very inconvenient.)

    12. I am a lousy copywriter, but I am a good editor. So I go to work editing my own draft. After four or five editings, it looks good enough to show to the client. If the client changes the copy, I get angry—because I took a lot of trouble writing it, and what I wrote I wrote on purpose.

    Altogether it is a slow and laborious business. I understand that some copywriters have much greater facility.

    Yours sincerely,


    What is really fascinating is that this “lousy” process is, as we know now, a recipe for creativity. Enjoy.

    Via: Letters of Note.

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