Module Leader

Andrew Brand

Design-led innovation and enterprise is run collaboratively by the Dyson School of Design Engineering and the Royal College of Art’s School of Design with contributions from the RCA Service Design MA programme, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and Innovation RCA.

This is an interdepartmental exchange (IDX) course, giving many students their first opportunity to work alongside peers from other departments. Between 80 and 100 students participate each year, working in self-elected groups of up to seven people.

Students learn to apply human-centred design, creativity and systems-based approaches to develop innovative, viable and sustainable solutions for unmet needs in areas of their choosing.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students should be able to:
  • Describe the roles of design systems thinking and human centred design in the process of developing a new venture
  • Explain how customer insight can be used to bring technological innovations to market
  • Invent, adopt or adapt ideas that deliver value by applying a range of design research tools and creative problem solving techniques
  • Formulate a business proposition to attract investment in a product or system
  • Contribute to an inter-disciplinary team


Description of Content

The module adopts a design science research approach that differs from scientific explanatory research (i.e. it is different to traditional engineering, deterministic approaches that you may have used in previous studies). Design-led research makes a creative jump to ‘what can be’, through the use of qualitative and quantitative methods, an emphasis on prototyping and effectiveness of a solution in your chosen context.

The module has been structured to take you on an entrepreneurial journey that seeks to mirror a design process. It offers a unique opportunity to build your knowledge, skills and expertise in design-led innovation as well as providing insights into the challenges of realising novel products, systems and services. The tools and techniques introduced in this module are as relevant to those working in start-up businesses as those in large organisations.

The course is made up of formal teaching sessions that run alongside, and inform, the team project that focuses on a real problem or opportunity in a particular domain. Teams are regularly coached throughout the course to ensure the newly introduced tools are applied appropriately, to ensure the best possible project outcomes.

The course is divided into three phases.

Phase 1: Discover & Define
The main activities in this phase are exploring, observing, collaborating, analysing, synthesising, mapping, probing, forecasting, reflecting, framing, scoping, and understanding. Your goal is to build the foundation of a credible project that is a good balance of:

  1. Potential for exploration and innovation, and;
  2. Focus such that you can develop and deliver meaningful outputs in the time given.
You will identify a potential project and define the objectives. You will carry out desk and field research to validate your project and its objectives and uncover insights that will drive innovation and new ideas.

You will develop an understanding of the stakeholders and the design space and, based on that understanding, come up with actionable problem statements and original points of view. You will develop an understanding of the commercial opportunity and the market (including value proposition, stakeholder analysis and existing solutions in the area) to a high level such that your project has a firm foundation and is a credible proposition.

Phase 2: Develop
The main activities in this phase are co-designing, ideating, prototyping, testing, simulating, combining, prioritizing. You will create a multitude of directional ideas and possibilities. You will generate and test feasibility and viability of several concepts within one single design objective – to meet the innovation opportunity identified in Phase 1. You’ll do this through mock-ups, storyboards, technology tests, sketch models, and other media depending on your concept.

Phase 3: Deliver
The final phase is about bringing a well developed idea to life and capturing the value it generates. You will evaluate the needs and aspirations of your stakeholders and the parameters of the specific context to configure a business system, generate a compelling product offering and create for meaningful customer experiences, to make an investable proposition.