What is there for students in Design Thinking inside the Design Factory Global Network family?


Week 40 was again time to gather for International Design Factory Week (IDFW) 2023. Design Factory Global Network (DFGN) is one of Häme University of Applied Sciences’ (HAMK) networks, where we are privileged to belong as one of 40 DFs globally. All Design Factories are different, but most of them share the passion for design thinking (DT). 

Design Thinking is an approach to innovation, developed around 2000s at Stanford University, which informed a large part of the entrepreneurial culture of the Silicon Valley. DT is used to find creative answers to complex problems, through a phase of analysis and redefinition of the problem, ideation and experimenting. 

The three main characteristics of the approach are: It places the human at the center, both as designer and as end user, stimulating empathy and collaboration. It fosters creativity and the generation of ideas and supports the quick testing of ideas through prototyping, acceptance of failure and continuous iteration. Design Factory is a platform where students, companies and institutions have a place to experiment and prototype solutions in a safe environment. 

Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward (J. Maxwell).  

First encounter with the Design Factory family

A year ago, I was a new member of Design Factory (DF) family. Everything was new to me, but already a year ago I realized how special this network was. Activities and initiatives that we planned during IDFW 2022 in Leeuwarden have at least tripled. Our original plan was to create some new connections towards other Design Factories, but amazingly, things just moved forward more rapidly than we ever expected. 

I have been assisting Future Design Factory in the Netherlands and have co-organized two extra intensive weeks; Water in Friesland and SuperWeek 2023. I found myself, also co-organizing and job shadowing, at Shenkar DF Israel and that trip was also very fruitful. 

We also brought a few business challenges to HAMK students. International Product Development Project (iPdP) with inno.space Mannheim Germany took its place with 20 students, who innovated new solutions for four companies during spring term. 

Deepening collaboration with Design Factory family

Everything that happened during the last year, found their place also at IDFW 2023. We were so glad that we could share what Design Factory family means to us. We introduced our unique collaboration with Future Design Factory to the DF family. We share the same tools and methods and are packaging them as a toolkit free to use by anyone. We want to keep this toolkit alive: anyone in our network can upload their tools and methods as blank templates, so they can be utilized in all DFs, if needed, in teaching. The most beneficial experience has been staff mobility, as we have been helping each other. 

But what’s there for students? Everything, what we do, we do for students. Naturally, writing scientific articles is benefiting our students, because we in one way prototype and test our teaching with peers. That’s why feedback is so important for us. 

But how can students get onboard? I have always recommended reading emails I send. For instance, we received funding from Finnish National Agency for Education that allows us, HAMK DF, take 15 students to Shenkar DF Israel. In addition, we will get visitors from Shenkar as well. Last year we noticed how small the world is. As mentioned earlier, we brought Shenkar JamWeek’s challenges to HAMK and modified them a bit. Suddenly a global issue became local. We will continue JamWeek collaboration. 

Second, we will cherish our relationship with Future Design Factory and develop it further, as well as, with the new RUN-EU Design Factory, the Irish FORGE Design Factory that has also joined Design Factory Global Network. 

Third, we started a new collaboration with Melbourne Design Factory and this collaboration’s aim is to take students to the other side of the globe. Every DF is different and at HAMK we took regenerative thinking as one of our guiding principles. In Australia regenerative thinking is much further than in Finland, so research wisely, co-writing and learning is needed. 

Before landing Down Under, there is Singapore DF, where regenerative thinking is already put into practice. Staff mobility and giving students opportunities to expand their know-how in an international environment and career development is in our loop. In addition, London DF will have more than 10 students from HAMK for their Heathrow challenge. 

Design Thinking is a core for Design Factories all over the world. Design Factory Flobal Network is a family that works under the Design Thinking umbrella. We are a group of innovative, some might say a bit restless and weird people, who take their job seriously. Students come first. 

It will be interesting to see what next year will bring. Hard work at least, but also fun. 



Sanna-Maaria Siintoharju, HAMK Design Factory 

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