Design Research and Integration

Faculty: Lawrence Abrahamson and Deborah Alden



COURSE Description

Design, its related tools and its research methods have become essential components for companies that seek disruptive change and true innovation, and have found that old models lead only to incremental solutions. Held at IDEO, this course will examine early phases of the innovation process with an emphasis on design research methods -- from framing an initial challenge to inspiration, insight, synthesis, idea, and concept. We will address the key transitions between articulating needs and designing solutions for those needs. Working in teams on a shared challenge, students will create designs that convert creative ideas into action and products grounded in human-centered research.


Course objectives

The key competencies taught in this course are: User Empathy, introducing students to approaches, design research methods and implications of designing to meet the needs of other people than themselves; Team Dynamics, where teams learn to work on a shared challenge; Synthesis/Analysis, which acknowledges that all design is synthesis, and that strategy is a synthesis of ideas; Opportunity Framing, where students learn how to make abstract theory more tangible; Structured Brainstorming, where the rules of brainstorming and surfacing the most creative ideas are practices; and Real Consequences, where the outputs become actionable ideas grounded in human centered research.


Class experience

The innovation process is intellectually and creatively demanding, and, like anything worthwhile, requires practice, critique, and iteration. Students will work in teams and be responsible for their team’s deliverables. Working through team member roles and responsibilities is a valuable part of this experience, and reflects the team-based nature of contemporary design enterprise. Students will be required to keep weekly timesheets to document their work, and the accumulation of timesheets will be the basis of reflection on the market value of design research. 


course deliverables

Students in this course will come away with a set of tools to:

  • Conduct basic design research
  • Build unique points-of-view about industries/consumers
  • Synthesize a wide variety of data
  • Frame opportunity areas
  • Create design strategy that is tangible and actionable
  • Lead brainstorming
  • Refine and Communicate Ideas that are pitch and/or publication worthy