In the Delft Design Guide, the authors show several design models, approaches and perspectives on design. For example, the design process for product innovation, agile design and development, integrated creative problem solving, user-centred design, co-design, co-creation and service design. In all these models, approaches and perspectives, the stages of the basic design model are combined by situational characteristics.
Design thinking will be especially relevant when you want to make something you have no idea what it will look like. This means you have an open problem. In an open problem, you need a precise problem formulation and an approach to how you think you can solve the problem, as described in a design brief. The approach followed in the course and curriculum design will depend on the complexity and difficulty of the task. It should not be possible to deduce the design from the problem formulation. If this is possible, it’s clear you don’t need the design process.
An interesting remark is given in the Foreword: ‘Of course, strong design methods don’t guarantee creative and effective solutions. This still depends on each designer’s talent, intuition, and skill. But the methods provide a structure that creates serenity, a space to think, and time to reflect. From my experience (= the writer of the Foreword), I know it takes time to get ‘into the zone’ and be creative.
Basic design cycle from the Delft Design Guide
In this stage, you analyse aspects of your design goal or problem. The processed information will yield the design criteria.
In this stage, you generate or ideate concept ideas for solutions. This ideation results in concept designs. First, your thinking process is divergent: envision as many relevant ideas as possible. Second, your thinking process will converge: You select 1–3 best ideas. Often, you combine different ideas.
In this stage, you draw and model your concept design to estimate and define the expected properties of your design. Your thinking process is mainly convergent.
You use your design criteria to evaluate your design. In this stage, the focus is on critical thinking about your design ideas.
In this stage, you decide whether your design or an element is acceptable. If not, you go back to one of the earlier stages
Studying the Guide, I could recognise some design characteristics that should be given more thought in course and curriculum design.
- The experiences of the teacher designer are vital to be able to formulate relevant design problems and to list requirements and possible solutions. The designer should try to get a firm grip on the relevant knowledge, conventions and assumptions, examples, good practices, relevant theories, etc. These insights should help to design and find new solutions for your problem.
- A crucial mistake of designers is functional fixedness. Designers fixate on the initial, often the self-imposed structure of the problem representation. As a result, real solutions might be blocked.
- During the design process, you formulate quality criteria and requirements which should be realised in the final product. One part of the quality criteria will reflect the didactical vision you and the faculty have about this course. Another part of the quality criteria will depend on the selected content and didactical methods. During the project, the criteria will be formulated more clearly and detailed because the designer will develop better insight into the various aspects of the course design problem. You will evaluate the realised design products/ideas at certain moments to see if you are working in a good direction.
- The teacher designers follow an eclectic procedure, meaning they will derive ideas from a broad and diverse range of sources. Design processes are always iterative. Step-by-step, you will formulate, describe and evaluate your design idea or collect additional information to enable you to make better decisions about your design ideas. In technical design, it is stressed to formulate various design ideas and evaluate these ideas. The Datum method (see Van Boeijen et al. 2020) helps evaluate alternative pedagogical ideas qualitatively.
- Creative thinking has a vital role in designing. There are diverging and converging moments of thinking during the design process. There are all kinds of creative approaches to stimulate creative and new ideas: spider-content web, nominal group, brainstorming group, etc. Useful visualisation products are a storybook, an outline of the main topics, a blueprint, the blended learning wave, etc.
- A design will be prepared in close cooperation with the persons using the solution, the students, yourself and maybe your colleagues. Communication with the target group (i.e. the students) is crucial because they should be willing to follow the course. In design terms, the course activities and materials should be designed so the students can use these to master the learning objectives.
Technical University Delft, the Netherlands Van Boeijen, A., Daalhuizen, J., Zijlstra, J., & Van der Schoor, R. (2021). Delft Design Guide. Amsterdam: Bis Publishers.
The possible consequences for Course design are described in Chapter 18.2.2 in Jan Nedermeijer, Evidence-Based Blended and Online Learning (2023). Brill: Leiden, Boston (in press).