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Unit of study_

DECO2016: Design Thinking

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

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 Adrian Wong,
Lecturer(s) Adrian Wong,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Design concept proposal
Due date: 11 Jun 2023 at 23:59
15-20 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Assignment Design thinking method
30% Week 05
Due date: 26 Mar 2023 at 23:59
1-1.5 minute video
Outcomes assessed: LO1
Assignment Conducting interviews
35% Week 09
Due date: 30 Apr 2023 at 23:59
10-15 pages
Outcomes assessed: LO2

Assessment summary

Assignment 1 - Design thinking method

The aim of this assignment is to further develop your knowledge and understanding of human-centred design methods. Working individually students will research one design thinking method (from the textbook - Design. Think. Make. Break. Repeat. A Handbook of Methods) and find two examples online that strongly demonstrate the use of that method. The case study will be presented as a 1-1.5 minute video presentation that clearly outlines the design thinking method researched, and how each example illustrates it.

Assignment 2 - Conducting interviews

The aim of this assignment is to acquire practical skills in user research in response to a given design brief. The first step of any design project is to develop an informed understanding of the design problem, through human-centred research. This sets up the foundation that is needed to ensure that your creative work will be a genuine response to the needs of the people who you are designing for.

The interview is a common technique for learning about the current practices of potential users, that can provide insight into user needs, motivations, values and issues. Working individually students will develop a set of interview questions, conduct interviews with 3-5 people, analyse the interview data using affinity diagramming, and reflect upon the results and process.

Assignment 3 - Design concept proposal

The aim of this assignment is to develop your ideation and conceptual design skills. Working individually students will follow a human-centred design process to iteratively develop, prototype and evaluate a design proposal that meets a design brief. The proposal is to be documented using visual communication and storytelling techniques, with an accompanying design rationale and reflection.

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.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

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) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
The designer mindset Tutorial (2 hr) LO6
Week 02 Visual thinking Lecture (1 hr) LO4
Sketching and Sketch-noting Tutorial (2 hr) LO4
Week 03 User research part 1 Lecture (1 hr) LO2
Understanding context: observation and immersion Tutorial (2 hr) LO2
Week 04 User research part 2 Lecture (1 hr) LO2
Interviews Tutorial (2 hr) LO2
Week 05 Data synthesis. Representing users Lecture (1 hr) LO2
Affinity diagramming Tutorial (2 hr) LO2
Week 06 Design as a process: iterative, exploratory Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Sharing and peer critique of Assignment 1 Tutorial (2 hr) LO1
Week 07 Generating ideas part 1 Lecture (1 hr) LO3
Ideation Tutorial (2 hr) LO3
Week 08 Generating ideas part 2 Lecture (1 hr) LO3
Visual storytelling Tutorial (2 hr) LO4
Week 09 Prototyping Lecture (1 hr) LO5
Experience prototyping Tutorial (2 hr) LO5
Week 10 Open forum Lecture (1 hr) LO1
Low fidelity prototyping Tutorial (2 hr) LO4
Week 11 User evaluation Lecture (1 hr) LO5
Think-aloud protocol Tutorial (2 hr) LO5
Week 12 Responsible design. Ethical critique. Lecture (1 hr) LO6
Design evaluation with ethical critique Tutorial (2 hr) LO6
Week 13 Future of design Lecture (1 hr) LO1
USS feedback. Write a postcard to the future Tutorial (2 hr) LO1

Attendance and class requirements

Students are expected to attend 90% of timetabled activities, as per the school resolutions, unless granted exemption by the Head of School and Dean, Associate Dean Education or relevant Unit Coordinator.

The Head of School and Dean, Associate Dean Education or relevant Unit Coordinator may determine that a student fails because of inadequate attendance.


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

The unit will make use of the following textbook in tutorials and the assessment.

Tomitsch, M., Borthwick, M., Ahmadpour, N., Cooper, C., Frawley, J., Hepburn, L.A., Kocaballi, A.B., Loke, L., Núñez-Pacheco, C., ‎ Straker, K., ‎Wrigley, C. (2021). Design. Think. Make. Break. Repeat. A Handbook of Methods (revised edition). BIS Publishers, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Students can purchase a hardcopy or e-book version.

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. appreciate the principles and methodology of the human-centred design approach
  • LO2. engage in contextual inquiry to identify the need for a design
  • LO3. show imagination and competence in design ideation
  • LO4. communicate ideas and concepts visually
  • LO5. evaluate design ideas and proposals from the user perspective
  • LO6. reflect upon and critique design proposals from ethical principles

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.


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.