Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2017-2018 (archived)

Module BUSI3271: Design Thinking

Department: Business School (Business)

BUSI3271: Design Thinking

Type Tied Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap Location Durham
Tied to N201
Tied to N203
Tied to N207
Tied to N509
Tied to N510
Tied to N511


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • This module explores the theory and practice of design thinking, the application of the mind-set and techniques of the designer to solve everyday problems. Emphasis is placed on both commercial and societal issues, from developing new products and services to delivering improvements in health and social care. The approach adopted is problem-based, encouraging students to become entrepreneurs, marketers, visual strategists, ethnographers and storytellers. In the process, students gain both a deep conceptual understanding of the whole design thinking process and a comprehensive toolkit with which to address real-world innovation challenges.


  • Fundamentals of Design Thinking 
  • History and practice of design thinking 
  • Major schools of thought – Stanford, Nordic, Societal, etc. 
  • Human-centred design philosophy and the psychology of the designer 
  • Design theory, principles, terminology and rhetoric 
  • Design thinking, innovation and customer experience (CX) design
  • Stages and Methods 
  • Discovery – searches, analogues, observation, customer analytics, etc. 
  • Interpretation – contextual analysis, user safaris, shadowing, personas, profiling, mobile ethnography, etc. 
  • Ideation – CX mapping, touch-point analysis, brainstorming, design canvas, storyboarding, etc. 
  • Experimentation – design propositions, prototyping, value co-creation, walkthroughs, market testing, iteration, etc. 
  • Evolution – blueprinting, lifecycle mapping, implementation planning, command-and-control structures, outcome metrics, etc.
  • Design, Innovation and the ‘Real-World’ 
  • Design thinking “best practices’, methodological limitations, and critiques of ‘human-centred’ and ‘customer-centric’ innovation 
  • Innovation and the sustainability challenge 
  • Legal, ethical, regulatory, commercial and societal dimensions

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of this module, students will be able to:
  • Understand the innovation process and the contribution of design thinking to that process 
  • Identify and critique key schools of thought within the design thinking community and their distinct methodological contributions
  • Display an advanced knowledge of human-centred design principles as they apply within both commercial and not-for-profit contexts
  • Analyse the user experience in a detailed and structured format, identifying key behaviours, touch-points and moments throughout the customer journey
  • Scope, develop, facilitate and project-manage a design thinking programme to address a live innovation challenge
  • Display knowledge of the significant aspects of design thinking theory and practice as they apply within commercial and social contexts
  • Have advanced understanding of human-centred design principles as they apply within innovation processes
  • Have an awareness of the legal, ethical and regulatory dimensions of design thinking practice
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to apply customer experience (CX) analysis models within a real-worlds context
  • Ability to design and implement a full design-thinking programme, selecting and responsibly applying appropriate techniques at each stage in the process
Key Skills:
  • Skills of enquiry and explanation through design thinking practice 
  • Written communication - through formative and summative assessment

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching is by lectures and practical classes. Lectures provide conceptual input, discussion of case studies, debate of legal/ethical issues, etc. Practical classes provide training in, and exposure to, key design principles and design thinking techniques. Learning takes place through attendance at lectures, preparation for and participation in practical classes, and private study.
  • Formative assessment is continuous, undertaken within practical classes.
  • Summative assessment is by written assignments. The first assignment is an analysis of a customer/user experience in a real-world context, applying relevant conceptual frameworks, and documenting findings in a 1500 word essay. The second assessment is to design and conduct a design-thinking project over the course of the module, supported within the practical classes, submitting a formal project report of 4000 words at the end of the module.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 1 weekly 1 hour 21
Workshops 8 4 per term 1 hour 8
Preparation and Reading 171
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written analysis 1500 words max 100%
Component: Project Report Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written project report 4000 words max 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative work is undertaken within the practical classes. Students receive training and practice in the use of key customer experience analysis and design thinking methodologies linked to their summative assignments, with continuous assessment and feedback throughout.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University