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Graduate courses

Departments' graduate courses for PhD-students.


Syllabus for

Academic year
TEK495 - Design thinking and innovation
Design och innovation
Syllabus adopted 2018-02-21 by Head of Programme (or corresponding)
Owner: MPMEI
7,5 Credits
Grading: TH - Pass with distinction (5), Pass with credit (4), Pass (3), Fail
Education cycle: Second-cycle
Major subject: Industrial Engineering and Management

The course is full. For waiting list, please contact the director of studies:
Teaching language: English
Application code: 26118
Open for exchange students: Yes
Block schedule: A
Minimum participants: 10
Maximum participants: 30

Module   Credit distribution   Examination dates
Sp1 Sp2 Sp3 Sp4 Summer course No Sp
0114 Written and oral assignments 7,5 c Grading: TH   7,5 c    

In programs



Maria Elmquist

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General entry requirements for Master's level (second cycle)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Specific entry requirements

English 6 (or by other approved means with the equivalent proficiency level)
Applicants enrolled in a programme at Chalmers where the course is included in the study programme are exempted from fulfilling the requirements above.

Course specific prerequisites

The course has no prerequisites and is open to students from other master programs.


This course aims at introducing students to design thinking. Design thinking is a way of working with user-centered innovation to address problems where not all knowledge is available at the outset, i.e. the problem itself is an unknown (wicked problems). Design thinking rests on five principles, User involvement, Problem framing, Experimentation, Visualization and Diversity. Design thinking has gained in popularity both in industry and in governments in the last decade and is an important contrast to the more linear view of problem solving. It is argued to develop the creative potential of individuals and enable them to deal with wicked problems.

This cause has a special focus on skill development through active engagement in real world problems. Students will work in groups of 4-5 students to find solutions to three challenges (projects). Through projects the course aims to support skill development in the following areas:

• Ethnographic research: Students will be taught ethnographic methods to be applied in their projects, enabling them to perform basic user-research such as user observation and interviews.
• Problem Framing and Understanding: The course will teach students how to frame and re-frame problems to develop a systemic problem understanding as a base for further problem solving.
• Experimentation: When it comes to design and innovation, it is essential to develop and learn fast. Experimentation through visualization and prototyping are essential skills to set up and conduct experiments. Students will set up their own experiments to evaluate and develop their ideas.
• Creativity: The course will encourage students to develop and try new ideas. It will support students by providing techniques for idea development.
• Team work: Through working in interdisciplinary teams, the course also aims at developing the student¿s team work abilities and self-awareness.
• Reflection: The course will enable students to explain the importance of reflection in innovation and practice its use through field diaries and short reflection sessions.
• Presentation: The course will enable students to explain and use basic presentation and storytelling techniques.

Skill development will be supported through reflection sessions where individual experiences will be discussed in relation to theory and research results.

Learning outcomes (after completion of the course the student should be able to)

• Explain what role design thinking can have in innovation work and under what circumstances it can be useful.
• Deal with uncertain and ambiguous problems in a user-centered way
• Conduct basic ethnographic research
• Better visualize ideas using simple prototyping and visualization techniques
• Improve team performance through increased awareness of their own role and influence on the team


This course will introduce design thinking as a way of working with innovation. The course includes lectures on design and innovation, but mainly consists of three challenge projects where students learn design thinking through experiencing it. The complexity of the challenge increases for each project.
• The first project exposes students to theory about the design process. It introduces students to the subject and guides them through a simple challenge. This project is performed in class.
• The second project expose students to the theory of wicked problem solving and iteration. Within the second project, students are required to work in their project groups on a real world challenge and present their results to the group in the following session.
• The third project is an open project together with an industry partner that will allow the students to test their skills on a challenge project that they select from real problems. Working within a real world setting, this project will require students to think about implementation of their concepts by taking business and technological aspects into account.
A detailed seminar description, including literature and dates, will be provided on the course home page two weeks before the course starts. The course syllabus will also outline the content of the project portfolio.


The assumption of this course is that design thinking is best learnt through project experience. Students are expected to actively participate in class, and in the three projects. As knowledge is built gradually through the three projects, participation in all sessions is required. In addition to the sessions, students are expected to work on their projects (conduct research, build prototypes etc.) in-between sessions. Limited supervision will be provided in the third project.


The course literature will be detailed in the course syllabus.

Examination including compulsory elements

The course will be examined on the basis of both individual and group project work. The evaluation will take into account the projects’ outcome, the process and the presentation of each project. Details of the examination will be provided in the course syllabus.

Page manager Published: Thu 04 Feb 2021.