Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : Design

Postgraduate Course: Design Thinking (1): History and Theory (DESI11174)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course will introduce students to the history and theory that provides the foundation of Design Thinking. The course provides a survey of design studies research from 1960s until the present, critically examining whether design thinking is a specialised form of problem-solving; an iterative practice involving reflecting on and reflecting in action, or; a socially-driven approach involving argumentation, negotiation, planning and organisation. The course will provide insights into the development, rationale and application of the Design Thinking framework, providing a foundation for suitable critique. The course operates independently, but serves as an excellent primer for students interested in Design Thinking (2): Practice.
Course description Modern material culture has been shaped by design, and in recent years, Design Thinking has offered those outside the traditional design disciplines associated with production to develop creative approaches to problem-solving through "thinking like a designer". This course, through an inverted lecture format, introduces you to the theoretical backgrounds underlying applied approaches to design thinking. A history of research regarding design activity is outlined, through various paradigms of thinking about design: design as method (Jones, 1964); design as problem solving (Simon, 1973); design as reflective practice (Schön, 1983); design as iterative development (Cross et al, 1996); design as experiential interaction (Moggridge, 2007) and finally, design as a practice of placement, abduction, and re-framing (Buchanan, 1992; Dorst, 2011). The lectures provide a foundation for critical engagement with the Design Thinking framework (Brown, 2008; Martin, 2009), as one approach for managing complex challenges, addressed through images, objects, services and system design, understanding how the framework can (or cannot) be transferred to other domains and disciplines.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 9, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 1, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 87 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Assignment (100%): A creative account of a personal object of choice that demonstrates and discusses key concepts introduced in the course (reframing, placement, demarcation, iteration) that highlights how a designer may begin to understand this object, through various forms, places, and relations. 1500 words
Feedback Formative feedback is regularly communicated through the course. This takes a number forms, including verbally through group sessions where work and ideas are discussed with both peers and tutor. A formative feedback event will take place at the mid point of the course, the particular format is outlined in the relevant course handbook and the course VLE.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Describe and critically discuss the range of design thinking approaches, theories and frameworks
  2. Demonstrate a high level of skill involving cognitive abilities related to design thinking, including visual analysis, reframing and placement
  3. Communicate complex information and concepts to relevant audiences clearly and effectively, using appropriate modes and media
Reading List
Core Reading List

BUCHANAN, R. 1992. Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8, 5-21.
CROSS, N., CHRISTIAANS, H. & DORST, K. 1996. Analysing design activity, Chichester; New York, Wiley.
DORST, K. & CROSS, N. 2001. Creativity in the design process: co-evolution of problem-solution. Design Studies, 22, 425-437.
JONES, J. H. C. 1970. Design methods: seeds of human futures. London; New York, Wiley-Interscience.
SCHÖN, D. A. 1983. The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action, London, Temple Smith.
SIMON, H. A. 1996. The sciences of the artificial, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press.

Additional Readings

ALEXANDER, C. 1973. Notes on the Synthesis of Form, London, Oxford University Press.
ARCHER, B. 1979. Design as a discipline. Design Studies, 1, 17-20.
BROWN, T. 2009. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation.
DORST, K. 2011. The core of ¿design thinking¿ and its application. Design Studies, 32, 521-532.
DORST, K. & DIJKHUIS, J. 1995. Comparing paradigms for describing design activity. Design Studies, 16, 261.
GOLSBY-SMITH, T. 1996. Fourth Order Design: A Practical Perspective. Design Issues, 12, 5-25.
JONES, J. C. 1984. Essays in design, Chichester, West Sussex; New York, Wiley.
MARTIN, R. L. 2009. The design of business : why design thinking is the next competitive advantage, Boston, Mass., Harvard Business Press.
MOGGRIDGE, B. 2007. Designing interactions, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press.
PINE, B. J. & GILMORE, J. H. 2011. The experience economy, Boston, Mass., Harvard Business Review Press.
RITTEL, H. W. J. & WEBBER, M. M. 1973. Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. Policy Sciences, 4, 155-169.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills This course will allow students to foster key competencies involving the history and theory of
design thinking through a critical understanding of principle theories and concepts; develop
key cognitive design skills of re-framing, allowing them to identify, conceptualise, and de#ne
abstract approaches to complex problem-solving behaviours, and; communicate the varying
nature of design-thinking activities using appropriate methods, to a range of non-specialist
audiences through multi-modal approaches.
Keywordsdesign,design thinking,design studies,innovation studies
Course organiserDr Arno Verhoeven
Tel: (0131 6)51 5808
Course secretaryMiss Emili Astrom
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information