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 successfully bring technological innovations to market

On successfully completing this course unit, students will be able to:

  • Analyse and present evidence to support investment in a marketable product or system
  • Apply creative problem solving techniques in development of a value proposition
  • Present and defend a business proposition to an inter-disciplinary panel
  • Communicate in an inter-disciplinary team under time pressure

Description of content

Exploring a meta-theme and user personas to develop a value proposition for a new enterprise. The premise for this course is that successful design-led innovation depends on blending customer insight and technical inventiveness to create value - value for customers and users as well as commercial value for innovative firms and their investors.

Consequently, this 1-term course has been designed to take you on an entrepreneurial journey that seeks to mirror the design process.

The programme offers a unique opportunity to build your knowledge, skills and expertise in design-led innovation as well as providing insights into the challenges of introducing novel products and services to market. The process is as relevant to you if you were to examine innovation within an organisation as it is if you were to start your own business.

In the first part of the course, we introduce you to key concepts in design, creative problem solving, prototyping and the disciplines of human centred design. The second part of the course focuses on new venture creation when you will learn about the most relevant theoretical models and best practice.

World class scholars teach you in these domains and together with experienced practitioners, help you develop a team project, from design concept through to a new business proposition with real potential.

Course narrative

The course is made up of formal teaching sessions that run alongside, and inform, a team project that focuses on a real problem 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.

Part 1: Discover + Define: research and discover; gain insights; get inspired

The background and context for the problem area being explored by project teams need to be built from both sufficient desk research and field research. Desk research will identify potential problem areas worth investigating and highlight not only the scope of the problem but also the potential impact if it were resolved. The field research will involve using a range of design research methods.

These methods will enable teams to draw meaningful insights from relevant users and other relevant stakeholders and help to frame a concise and compelling problem statement. Some of the design research methods we teach involve the use of tools such as interviews, observation, rapid ethnography, development of personas, co-design, simple and rapid prototyping with exemplar users.

There will be varied use of these techniques and although not all need be applied in any one project, several are usually applied together.

The problem statement reached can then be used to examine the context further, by working with specific target communities to uncover hidden needs. This should help teams identify areas that can be improved which in turn will help set goals to achieve a well-designed solution.

Part 2: Develop - Distil Insights; Frame challenges; Creative problem solving; Designing solutions

Creating a design brief at this point will give structure to the project and help the team come up with a range of creative options that they can develop into design concepts.

It is crucial for teams to demonstrate the link between the ideation phase and solutioning with the evidence gathered. As this is an iterative process, it may involve a re-thinking of the solution proposed, fresh research and another cycle of effort. Put simply, it's not just a tick list of research methods we are seeking but a demonstration by teams that the insights gathered support the solution and validate the final overall proposition.

Hence, top marks will go to those teams that not only select the most appropriate techniques and apply them diligently throughout the project, but are also able to show a clear link between the evidence gathered, related insights and the resulting problem being addressed.

Part 3: Deliver - Iterate; Implement

Finally, the proposition needs to demonstrate value to all the different stakeholders, value that can be expressed in terms of, for example, improved quality of life for the recipients, improved productivity, financial or efficiency gains for those commissioning the service or delivering it, as well as consideration of broader stakeholders at a community or societal level.

The proposition also needs to be technically feasible and some evidence needs to be presented, rather than assumed, so that in total we have a value proposition that is attractive to all stakeholders, feasible and delivers incremental value that could make it commercially viable for a potential investor.

  • Introduction: Design and its role in business and economic competitiveness. Design as a response to disruptive social, environmental, economics and technological change.
  • Design and creativity: How creative methods can be used to develop new ideas and strategies
  • Design tools for innovation: The process of ideation and creative problem solving in creative design, business models and services; Design for users and extreme users - how design focuses on the needs of people; research methods used to identify the needs of people.
  • Market insights - Technological Innovation: Understanding how technological inventiveness needs to be blended with market insight to create radical new solutions.
  • Designing for a systems environment: Understand how design of products and services fit into much larger technological and social systems.
  • Design of Services and the Service Experience: The role of design services; the development of design methods to develop more satisfying user experiences.
  • Defining and Prioritising Markets: Understanding markets and the importance of market segmentation. Defining and prioritising market segments in terms of opportunity. Identifying and managing selected markets to maximise business returns including value chain and value network analysis
  • New Venture Creation: Defining overall value proposition, business and partnership models and business structure. Understand components of, and developing, a business plan. Formation of business including identification and characteristics of founding teams, financial investment requirements and sources, valuations. Case study of one of Design London’s new venture companies.
  • Managing Design: Techniques and methods for managing the design process including setting briefs, selecting designers, managing interdisciplinary teams, and project governance. Role of Innovation Technologies including CAD, Open Source, Visualisation, Simulation, Rapid Prototyping.


Coursework (70%) - Group project written report

Practical (30%) - Oral presentation by the project members to panel of assessors made up of members of DE staff and external experts (10 minutes) followed by question and answer session (10 minutes)