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Unit of study_

DECO2016: Design Thinking

Semester 2, 2021 [Normal day] - Remote

This unit of study provides an introduction to design thinking and its application in a human-centred design process. Students carry out a semester-long project that follows the typical phases of an iterative design process; consisting of user-centred research, ideation, prototyping and evaluation. Hands-on tutorial exercises develop their experience in appropriately applying design thinking methods, against the theoretical background offered by lectures. Students will learn to build empathy with users, identify the problem space, develop design concepts driven by user needs, and persuasively communicate design proposals using visual storytelling.

Unit details and rules

Unit code DECO2016
Academic unit Design Lab
Credit points 6
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Melinda Gaughwin,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment User-centred research
Visual report + appendix
30% Week 07
Due date: 23 Sep 2021 at 21:00

Closing date: 23 Sep 2021
25 pages + appendix
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO3 LO5 LO6
Assignment Independent learning tasks
In-tutorial tasks, Report
30% Week 10
Due date: 22 Oct 2021 at 21:00

Closing date: 22 Oct 2021
1x image per week, Report 1000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO6 LO5 LO3
Assignment group assignment Design proposal and (video) presentation
Visual report + appendix
30% Week 13
Due date: 11 Nov 2021 at 21:00

Closing date: 11 Nov 2021
25 pages + appendix
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO6 LO5 LO4 LO3
Assignment group assignment Design proposal and (video) presentation
Verbal or video presentation
10% Week 13
Due date: 11 Nov 2021 at 21:00

Closing date: 11 Nov 2021
6 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
group assignment = group assignment ?

Assessment summary

A1: Independent learning tasks – Students carry out weekly independent learning tasks which are uploaded for formative feedback, culminating in a reflective report.

A2: User-centred research –  Students apply user research methods in response to a design brief and carry out data gathering, analysis and synthesis.

A3: Design proposal – Each group of students follows a user-centred design process to iteratively ideate, prototype and evaluate a design proposal that meets the design brief, and delivers a (recorded) group video presentation.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas. In 2020, the assessment items differ slightly from the handbook listing due to logistical complications related to Covid-19.  Quizzes will be replaced by in-tutorial assessments (independent learning tasks).

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Work of outstanding quality, demonstrating mastery of the learning outcomes assessed. The work shows significant innovation, experimentation, critical analysis, synthesis, insight, creativity, and/or exceptional skill.


75 - 84

Work of excellent quality, demonstrating a sound grasp of the learning outcomes assessed. The work shows innovation, experimentation, critical analysis, synthesis, insight, creativity, and/or superior skill.


65 - 74

Work of good quality, demonstrating more than satisfactory achievement of the learning outcomes assessed, or work of excellent quality for a majority of the learning outcomes assessed.


50 - 64

Work demonstrating satisfactory achievement of the learning outcomes assessed.


0 - 49

Work that does not demonstrate satisfactory achievement of one or more of the learning outcomes assessed.

For more information see

These grade ranges have been translated into detailed rubrics for every assessment, which can be accessed by clicking on the assessment in canvas.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction to design Lecture (1 hr) LO5 LO6
Introduction to the designer's mindset Tutorial (2 hr) LO5 LO6
Week 02 Visual thinking Lecture (1 hr) LO3 LO5
Visual thinking with sketching and sketch-noting Tutorial (2 hr) LO3
Week 03 Design as a process Lecture (1 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6
Understanding users with interviews, mindmapping and empathic modelling Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO4
Week 04 User research part 1 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO5
Writing a research plan and preparing research tools Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO5
Week 05 User research part 2 Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO5
Project working time and group forming Tutorial (2 hr)  
Week 06 Data synthesis Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5
Interpreting and synthesising data with affinity diagramming Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO4 LO5
Week 07 Idea generation part 1 Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO4
Idea generation methods; mindmapping and brainstorming Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO4
Week 08 Idea generation part 2 Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO4
Idea generation methods; extreme characters, storyboards and scenarios Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO4
Week 09 Prototyping Lecture (1 hr) LO3 LO4 LO6
Prototyping in iterative design; experience prototyping and low-fidelity prototyping Tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO4 LO6
Week 10 Design evaluation Lecture (1 hr) LO4 LO6
Design evaluation with usability testing and think-aloud protocol Tutorial (2 hr) LO4 LO6
Week 11 Personas Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4
Creating personas from data Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO3 LO4
Week 12 The future of design Lecture (1 hr) LO6
Practicing reflection Tutorial (2 hr) LO6

Attendance and class requirements

Please refer to the Resolutions of the University School:

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

All readings for this unit can be accessed through Canvas.

The set textbook for the unit, which is available for purchase on most commercial websites (e.g. Book Depository, Amazon and Booktopia), or loan from the library in hard-copy is:

First edition:

Tomitsch, M., Wrigley, C., Borthwick, M., Ahmadpour, N., Frawley, J., Kocaballi, B., ... & Loke, L. (2018). Design. Think. Make. Break. Repeat. A handbook of methods. BIS publishers.

Second edition:

Tomitsch, M., Tomitsch, M., Borthwick, M., Ahmadpour, N., Cooper, C., Frawley, J., Hepburn, L.-A., Baki Kocaballi, A., Loke, L., Núñez-Pacheco, C., Straker, K., & Wrigley, C. (2020). Design. Think. Make. Break. Repeat : a handbook of methods ([Revised].). BIS Publishers.

Please consider purchasing the second edition if you are planning on taking other design units as you will find it valuable. The second edition contains 20 additional methods and three new case studies.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. engage in contextual inquiry to identify the need for a design
  • LO2. demonstrate competence in design ideation
  • LO3. communicate information and concepts visually and tangibly
  • LO4. apply an iterative and evaluative process to the design of products/systems
  • LO5. describe and explain activities associated with a design project
  • LO6. reflect upon and critique design activities using appropriate language.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

The timeframes to complete formative feedback tasks throughout semester and additional formative tasks have been lengthened based on student feedback.

Additional costs

This unit has a required text book, which can be purchased for a cost of approximately $35 in most online bookstores.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.