What you will study
The module is presented online in four blocks corresponding to the different levels at which design thinking can have an impact on our lives: at the individual, group, social and global level. You will have practical activities, skills development and academic coursework to do each week, and the freedom to manage your own learning.
Central to the module is an online virtual design studio, where you will upload your practical work – using images you have created – to discuss with other students and your tutor. You will also be able to see and discuss the design work of other students. Learning to use the expertise of others is a vital part of design thinking and something that is encouraged in the design studio environment. Throughout the module you will be encouraged to engage with the world around you, formulate and solve design problems that are relevant to your own life, and participate in the U101 community of design thinkers.
Block 1: Design and the Individual
In the first part of the module we concentrate on the skills that you will need to begin your creative work: taking and uploading digital photographs, composition, basic drawing and observation. You will be introduced to Compendium, a software tool with which you can record and link together different types of information in a digital scrapbook. You will also be introduced to the OpenDesignStudio environment, where you will create a profile and upload your creative work. Along with your skill development there will be more academic study, introducing you to the world of design and design thinking through text, audio, video and multimedia. You will see interviews with design practitioners, and case studies of their work. As you work through the block you will carry out a sequence of activities that will lead up to your first assessed design project: the design of a T-shirt.
Block 2: Designing for Others and with Others
In the second block of the module our attention focuses on designing for the needs of specific groups of people. You will investigate what types of design make other people happy, as well as finding out what it’s like to experience what other people experience. You will learn skills of making and presenting prototypes – crucial in design thinking – and you will learn about how to ‘frame’ a problem, and how to recognise a good solution. This block is not only about designing for others but also about designing with others. Knowing how, and when, to collaborate with others is extremely useful in designing and as part of your assessed design project for this block you will work online with a small number of your fellow students. For your project in this block you will propose a modification to an existing product to make it easier to understand and use.
Block 3: Design in Society
Block 3 looks at how design can have an impact in society through services and systems such as housing, planning, health, transport and recycling. You will gain an understanding of the factors influencing change in a society and how they apply to your local context. And you will learn how to search for information, observe, map, and analyse complex environments. In your online study you will see a number of case studies where design has made a significant impact at the society level. For your design project you will design, produce, and test a game, based on a service you have studied.
Block 4: The Global Impact of Design
When the full context of design is taken into account we have to consider how design thinking can have a global impact. This final part of the module brings together all the skills you have learned in previous blocks to teach you about how to integrate them all – balancing people, processes and materials – through the process of design. You will look at the global context of design and consider the ethical implications of what design thinking can achieve. In the final design project assessment you will be encouraged to pursue your own design thinking inquiry around a specific theme – for example, food, health, or leisure – leading to you designing a way to communicate the results of your inquiry.
The module has regional day schools associated with it. These will provide an opportunity to take your creative work for criticism and development, as well as engaging in creative activity. Attendance is encouraged but not compulsory. The cost of the day schools is included in the module fee.
You will learn
At the end of the module you will be able to identify the characteristics of design thinking and how it is different from other types of thinking. You will also have an awareness of how design thinking can be applied in a wide range of contexts from the personal to the global.
On a more practical level you will learn how to investigate and think creatively about design problems and opportunities, integrate different styles of thinking in a design process, and explore, evaluate and critique the design thinking of others. You will also discover how an attitude of playfulness can aid design thinking.
The module has a large online element and, in exploring the different environments it offers, you will learn about the creative possibilities of the internet. You will also learn how to identify and use expertise through social networking.
Design thinking is an ability that can be applied to a wide range of contexts, from the personal to the business sphere. It can help you creatively engage with a problem situation in almost any discipline. Design thinking is thus a module that has vocational relevance equally in the so-called ‘creative industries’, and in business more generally. The module is designed as a foundation for future study in design at The Open University but will also provide a foundation in design should you be considering studying design elsewhere.