Dec 2, 2021
Written by Tejas Anil Shah

Design Thinking: Tools of the Titans

What do Pipedrive, Velvet and Sandbox have in common?

Pipedrive, a Unicorn company, has a very successful sales platform for businesses to use. Velvet is Estonia’s best design company. Whereas the Sandbox is part of the University of Tartu, Institute of Computer Science. So, on the surface not much!

But as they say, the devil is in the details. In our case it’s also quite easy to guess, since Sandbox is all about Design Thinking. So if you guessed that Design Thinking is used in all these places you’d be right. But read on to find out how these companies use the tools and methodologies that we focus on here at Sandbox as well.


One of the biggest components of design thinking is empathy. Solving a problem requires a deep understanding of what it feels like to have the problem in the first place. The best designs and products often come from people who know what it feels like to have the problem.

Be it Velvet who proudly call themselves “#1 empathy-first design agency in the world!”, or Pipedrive where one of the rules they have is that everybody does a sales call. The point is to develop empathy in order to solve the problems better.

Image showing the homepage of Velvet, the best design agency in Estonia. It has the text: "#1 empathy-first design agency in the world!"
Velvet homepage
Everybody calls at Pipedrive
Empathy at Pipedrive (From Agne Kink's presentation at Design Thinking Conference, Tallinn 2021)

The first step of any Design Thinking process is to empathize with people, and this is something that we focus on here at the Sandbox. We believe that using empathy is a skill that all future product managers and digital product creators need. It is a skill that needs practice.

Collaborative Tools

Since the pandemic started the digital product management industry has seen a massive shift towards using collaborative tools like miro, Figma, and MURAL. For instance, user research at Pipedrive moved from primarily using Google Sheets to using miro according to Agne Kinks, Head of Market and Customer Research at Pipedrive. Miro is a great digital whiteboard among other things.
There are plenty of good reasons for this shift. The biggest one being these tools being very visual in their approach. The fact that they are great for rapid brainstorming is the icing on the cake.

Miro at Pipedrive (From Agne Kink's presentation at Design Thinking Conference, Tallinn 2021)

At the Sandbox and in Design Thinking we are big on prototyping. These tools allow students to brainstorm ideas together and help in testing out possible solutions to partner problem statements.

MURAL board for a problem statement from The Happy Handicrafters

All in all, the point that we’re trying to make is that the digital software industry is moving towards building products using the elements of Design Thinking and this is one of the things that we focus on at the Sandbox.

Important note: Design Thinking is not limited to digital products, it can be applied to physical products as well. We did a post explaining that here.