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Unit information: Design and Systems Thinking for Innovation in 2021/22

Unit name Design and Systems Thinking for Innovation
Unit code INOV10001
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Parker
Open unit status Not open




School/department Centre for Innovation
Faculty Faculty of Arts


To innovate you need new ways of looking at problems to find novel and creative solutions that may have been missed from a purely analytical problem solving approach. This unit looks at the interconnectedness of various factors to understand the bigger picture (systems thinking) of the problem whilst bringing together a human-centred problem solving focus (design thinking) to create innovative solutions to design challenges. Design and Systems thinking strategies provide deeper insights about the users and the systems involved in a problem, to define and reframe the problem(s) and generate solutions or alternative approaches than those that already exist. In this unit you will learn to structure your natural creativity by applying these strategies to come up with innovative solutions to all kinds of problems for the course themes.

The unit aims to:

  • develop knowledge and understanding of the theory of design and systems thinking and how it can help to drive creative innovation.
  • develop the ability to put into practice critical design and systems thinking skills.
  • teach basic skills in ideation, brain storming, and a variety of different visual literacy and articulacy techniques to explain design decisions – including sketching and rapid prototyping.
  • develop the ability to describe, evaluate, analyse and critique innovation case studies.
  • develop the ability to reflect on a series of innovation challenges by applying design thinking and/or systems thinking theory and practices.

Intended learning outcomes

Students successfully completing the unit will be able to:

  1. Summarise the theory of design and systems thinking and explain how it can drive creative innovation.
  2. Apply design and systems thinking strategies to a series of innovation challenges to create new alternatives, solutions and ideas.
  3. Employ ideation and brainstorming techniques, and use visual literacy and articulacy to explain design choices through sketches and rapid prototyping.
  4. Analyse, evaluate and reflect on design and systems thinking case studies.
  5. Reflect critically on their own design and systems thinking practice.

Teaching details

Teaching will be delivered through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including lectures and practical activities supported by collaborative and self-directed learning.

Students will be advised to set up their own spaces online for group collaboration.

Assessment Details

Individual Reflective Critique, 2000 words or equivalent, (40%). [ILOs 1, 2, 4, 5]

An individual reflective critique on the use of design and systems thinking strategies for innovation for the challenges, including references to the case studies covered.

Team Project, 3000 words or equivalent, (60%). [ILOs 1-3]

An industry-facing, team-produced, report and presentation of the innovative design solution proposed, including sketches and rapid prototypes to communicate designs.

The word count will be shared across the group and may be scaled based on team size.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. INOV10001).