Hasso-Plattner-InstitutSDG am HPI
Hasso-Plattner-InstitutDSG am HPI

Visual Thinking (Sommersemester 2019)

Dozent: Dr. Julia von Thienen (Internet-Technologien und -Systeme)

Allgemeine Information

  • Semesterwochenstunden: 2
  • ECTS: 3
  • Benotet: Ja
  • Einschreibefrist: 01.04.2019-26.04.2019
  • Lehrform: Seminar
  • Belegungsart: Wahlpflichtmodul
  • Lehrsprache: Englisch

Studiengänge & Module

IT-Systems Engineering MA
  • Kommunikation
  • Management und Leitung
Data Engineering MA
Digital Health MA


Visual thinking is a key skill to facilitate creative developments. It is therefore an often-used resource in design thinking projects. Also beyond innovation goals, visual approaches of processing information and representing content have unique advantages compared to verbal or other approaches. The class will be specifically concerned with questions of when, why and how to apply visual thinking techniques in digital engineering projects.

In the course, we read “Experiences in Visual Thinking” by Stanford prof. emer. Robert McKim, who was a founding father and pioneer of design thinking. McKim notedly contributed to the “be visual” motto in design thinking and advanced highly refined prototyping methodologies. The book covers in detail skills and techniques of seeing, imagining and idea-sketching. Student teams present a chapter of the book each, which is then discussed by the whole group. The chapters also include exercises to be tried in class. In the subsequent class session, each student team discusses empirical research on behalf of their chapter topic. (There will be brief recommended literature regarding pertinent studies. In line with the emerging field of neurodesign, the recommended literature will cover neuroscientific studies with implications for design practice. However, student teams are free to make their own choices on behalf of research studies they find relevant and helpful.) The class will then explore opportunities to translate research findings and visual thinking techniques/skills into helpful tools for digital engineers.   

As for a semester project, each student picks one idea from “Experiences in Visual Thinking” he or she finds particularly promising and translates it into a visual thinking tool to aid digital engineering projects.


Robert McKim: Experiences in Visual Thinking


These four contributions account for 25% of the grade each

  • the chapter presentation including at least one class exercise and a handout
  • the discussion of related research and a respective handout
  • your first prototype of a visual thinking tool for digital engineers
  • your final visual thinking tool for digital engineers + brief documentation


8.4.      Experiencing Visual Thinking in Digital Engineering Contexts

15.4.    Visual Thinking in Design Thinking and DT Research

29.4.    Ambidextrous Thinking, Work-Place Design & Relaxed Attention

6.5.      Seeing

13.5.    Research on Seeing

20.5.    Imagining

27.5.    Research on Imagining

17.6.    Idea-Sketching

24.6.    Research on Visual/Sensual Representations

1.7.      Student Presentations I: Your Visual Thinking Tools for Digital Engineers (first prototype test)

8.7.      Student Presentations II: Your Visual Thinking Tools for Digital Engineers (final test)

15.7.    Seeing, Imagining and Idea-Sketching in Digital Engineering