Véronique Hillen

101 landmarks to innovate

Why this book?

When we start telling people about our world, the first question is always: but what exactly is design thinking? Too often, I hear people who think they know reduce it drastically to three variables at best: it is creativity and prototyping, plus possibly the idea of multidisciplinary teams. It’s a bit like saying that France can be reduced to the beret and the baguette. Or Germany to sausages and beer. True, these are (perhaps) dominant characteristics (though I’m not entirely sure about the beret!). But this runs the risk of painting something of a caricature and missing the subtleties of a much richer, deeper and more inspiring universe.

Design thinking is like a culture: when you visit another country, you encounter all its riches, its architecture, its food, its national costumes, its heritage… You can either travel through like a tourist in a hurry, see only a minuscule part and make uninformed value judgments. Or you can live there like a native, though even more curious, amazed and eager to learn, in which case you experience all its richness, sometimes more deeply and subtly than the inhabitants themselves. Because you have an outsider’s view, the curiosity to understand and to learn, the pleasure of discovery and the desire to stay.

For me, design thinking is like another country’s culture. When I encountered it, it felt like coming home: “This is my world. I have found it at last!”

The richness of this world inspired me and continues to do so. I looked for the codes. I interpreted them. I play with them to set the stage for a world that is faithful to the canons of design thinking but reinvented to match specific objectives and conditions.

This book retraces my apprenticeship: my searches, my explorations, my prototypes, my experiments, my discoveries. It is addressed to everyone who has chosen to step onto this stage, everyone who has chosen to tackle the challenge of learning through our programs, everyone who is planning to join us at Paris Est d.school in the near future. I hope that people will enjoy reading this booklet as much as I enjoyed writing it, and find it as inspiring as my own journey has been.

About the author



Founder and Dean of Paris-Est d.school

With 15 years of expertise in innovation and strategy, she has been developing her scientific and pedagogical skills in design thinking since 2006 (a stay at Stanford CDR, where she remains a “visiting scholar”, for 7 months full-time and 6 months part-time). In France, she was a pioneer in the design of eco-innovation training based on design thinking, developing a program for top executives at Thales (discovery trip and establishing 6 project teams tracked over 6 months).

She was academic director of the “Industrial Engineering” department at École des Ponts ParisTech and personally initiated courses such as Innovacteurs and ME310 at the School, in an international network of 9 universities encompassing 50 multidisciplinary teams.

She created and developed the d.school project as part of IDEFI (Innovative Education Excellence Initiatives), a call for projects by the Ministry of Education and Research within the framework of France’s grand emprunt big loan program. In March 2012, the project was awarded the d.school label and a budget of €4.1 million to set up the future school.

« Innovate, it's like making a gift. » Véronique HILLEN

The book

Introduction / Place / People / Process / Conclusion / Bibliography


« « 101 landmarks to innovate » presents at the same time both theoretical principles and illustrations. It makes accessible to anyone the state of mind and practical tools of design thinking. It is a straightforward and inspiring book for any person who wish to shape tomorrow’s world and put the human side back to the center of it. »

Benjamin Ducrocq, Air Liquide

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Design thinking Process


Our first and main source of inspiration is based on ethnographic research. The goal is to understand the constraints, issues, expectations and dreams of those we want to innovate for. Dynamic conversations and observations in real context are two major tools among another fifty. Depending on the projects, the tools are adapted and our sources of inspiration grow bigger.


Idéation is a 3-phases step : creativity/ quick prototyping / test with users in real context. The goal is to give birth to ideas as quick as possible and to share them so we can understand the consequences in terms of user experience and technical feasibility. We are seeking to invent the perfect user-experience by iteration.


The ultimate goal is to introduce the solution into the reality. For that, we use different technics : storytelling, the achievement of a pilot and of course, a close collaboration with our partners internal process and operations.

Partnerships and missions

Stanford University


Seoul, ICED


University of Philadelphia


Reggio Emilia


TODAI et TokyoTech

2008 / 2014


2012 / 2013 / 2014





University of Technology, Sydney


ThinkPlace, Canberra


Swinburne Factory




Paris-Est d.school at École des Ponts ParisTech
6-8 avenue Blaise Pascal – Cité Descartes
77420 Champs sur Marne


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