Design Thinking: From Cultural Probes To Desktop Walkthrough

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You want to make the most out of your product for your customers? Have you tried design thinking? Check out some tools that will help your startup thrive!

As Marshall McLuhan said, we shape our tools and then our tools shape us. Now we will mostly concentrate on the service environment, how people live, what they do, what physical constraints they have in the day-to-day routine, what their life routine is.

Cultural Probes

Cultural probes are one of the information gathering techniques, in which the customer produces the valuable information over the prolonged period of time. Customers are invited to write the diaries or/and record their everyday life routines via video/audio. Once the probe is completed, the researchers are free to continue the investigation remotely by sending the new instructions via email or text message. The major intent of this continuation is to adapt the new insights and change the priorities with regard to them.

A Day In The Life

It is a technique directed at reproducing the typical daily activities of the target groups or major personas. There are different ways of performing this technique. For example, it can be done in a very simple way of a comic strip and graphics or it can be full of photos and videos to depict the customer’s environment and the activities. This tool is highly valuable as it broadens understanding of the customer not only in the scope of the service.

Design Scenarios

Design scenarios are hypothetical stories presenting sufficient amount of real details for the sake of exploring particular aspects of the service offering. To build the design scenarios we can use simply a text or storyboards or even videos. The key point is to be centred upon a well-defined persona and produce as much as possible scenarios. Only when you accumulated lots of scenarios, you can refine them and come to the most optimal one.


A storyboard is a series of graphics, drawings, picture, etc. that are put into a particular sequence of service events. It can be used for visualization of a common situation or hypothetical one. The process of creating the comic strip stories forces the designers into the shoes of the customers or other service stakeholders.

Desktop Walkthrough

It’s a technique that tries to imitate the real service environment. By the use of LEGO figures designers can act different scenarios and simulate the possible problems.

Desktop Walkthrough


Envisioning the service scenarios, previewing the possible physical constraints and imagining what might happen in the daily life get the Service Designers closer to understanding and fixing the key service touch points. However, it’s only the beginning. The next step is to prototype the service and test it through these touchpoints, in this particular environment. In the next article we will investigate the last bunch of techniques directed at testing and prototyping and finalize with the Service Design Toolbox.



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