Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

PWR 2KSB: Design Thinking: Bringing d.thinking to Research, Writing & Presentation

Main content start

Catalog Number: PWR 2KSB

Instructor: Kim Savelson

Units: 4

Grade option: Letter (ABCD/NP) 

Prerequisite: PWR 1, ESF, ITALIC 95W, or equivalent


Course Feature: WR-2 requirement

Look around—there is no area of contemporary life where design is not a significant factor in shaping human experience. And it’s not just about trendy shoes or some other new product. Design techniques are being used to tackle more complex problems, such as finding ways to provide low-cost healthcare throughout the world. Businesses were the first to embrace this new approach—called design thinking—and nonprofits are now adopting it, too. Whether it’s a new toothbrush, a new school, a new web page, a new healthcare campaign or a new educational program, “design thinking” describes the innovation process.

In this class, you will have the opportunity to learn more about design thinking and design studies. We will read works about play and creativity, the process of design thinking, and the ethics of design. You will choose a project idea and pursue research that will ultimately culminate in a print-based argument as well as a live oral presentation. This research can be in the area of design studies (you could conduct an inquiry into a material product, like a piece of wearable technology or even a museum), or, you can take on a "wicked" or messy design problem that challenges our world today (how to negotiate cultural collision when trying to bring healthcare across borders); or, you can engage in a design thinking project that offers a new design suggestion or prototype (we will work this out together). As you move forward with your individual research, our class will be approaching design from a rhetorical perspective: our hypothesis will be that all products—digital and analog, tangible and intangible—are vivid arguments about how we should lead our lives.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5 min live oral presentation; written text of 900-1200 words) Your presentation will introduce the class to the topic you will investigate, offer a set of questions that will contextualize and drive your research, and argue for the importance of your work by articulating a motivation for the project.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) You will each develop a research project that will examine something “worth examining”: some aspect of design studies, the designed environment, social design, or perhaps you will use design thinking to explore another approved topic. We can cast a wide net here. One important thing about the “research writing” in this class is that you will be able to write an academic piece (scholarly), or, a “hybrid” piece—a piece of writing that while “long form,” is appropriate to a more hybridized context (a hybrid academic/intellectual-audience piece).

Delivery of Research

(10 minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) For this presentation assignment you will rehearse with me inside small groups; workshop other rehearsals/presentations; and finally after revising your talk, share your final research talk with class community using a multimedia format.

Genre/Mode Assignment 

For this short assignment (1000 words-ish) you will adapt your research idea to a new format, and write for a specific publication in the “real world”—one that is not academic, but still intellectual. An online magazine, maybe, or a blog. You’ll adapt your style of presentation to the publication you choose.