Basic Course in Design Research

Course coordinator and examiner: Maria Hellström Reimer

Course Description

The course is an introduction to Design Theory and methods used in different kinds of design research that is related to basic ontology, theories of knowledge, research methodology and design practice. The aim is to give the doctoral students a substantial orientation to be able to relate their own work to different traditions and ways of working in a qualified way. The aim is also to present the students with an adequate network of senior researchers and other doctoral students and by that contribute to the creation of a well-working community of practice within design research.

The course proceeds over a period of two years with opportunities for the students to start at any moment and still get the whole content. The course is organized with eight three-day meetings with lectures, presentations, seminars and workshops. At least one meeting a year takes place in an internationally renowned research environment. Each meeting has a theme related to a conceptual framework. The framework and the themes are developed continuously to catch the most important issues. The actual themes can be found in the appendix.   

Intended learning outcomes

After the course the doctoral students should be able to

  • demonstrate an understanding of basic theoretical and methodological approaches in the Natural Sciences, the Social Sciences, the Humanities and in Artistic Research;
  • give an account of different design practices and related knowledge processes;
  • articulate an understanding of basic theories, traditions and methods in design research in relation to the student’s own project;
  • account for important international research environments;
  • carry through critical text analyses and peer examinations of projects and thesis work;


Education methods

Besides lectures, seminars and workshops in the whole group there are seminars and workshops in smaller seminar groups. These groups have their own tutors and a permanent composition in order to build a strong community where people can ask questions and come up with comments without deeper pre-considerations. The groups are related to different themes and get together at least two times each meeting.  The actual themes are presented in the appendix.  These occasions are used for presentations and critique of on-going thesis work in the group, comments and discussions about assigned texts, theme-oriented discussions and reflections about the course.


The examination is active participation during seminars and workshops and written reflections after each seminar, including summaries of readings. Approved participation, including submission of written assignment, will result in 2 credits per meeting. Participation only will correspond to 1 HP credit. The credits will be reported yearly or after completing the full cycle of seminars.

An additional 2 credits may be obtained through the submission of a more comprehensive written reflection on the thesis project in relation to the field of design research, presented at a meeting and showing familiarity with a selection of the basic literature (see below). The maximum number of credits for the course is 18.

List of basic literature (complemented by a selection of articles)


Alexander, C (1964) Notes on the Synthesis of Form. Cambridge University Press.

Bennett, J. (2010) Vibrant Matter. A Political Ecology of Things. Duke University Press.

Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5-21.

Czarniawska B (2007): Shadowing and other techniques for doing fieldwork in modern societies. Liber. Malmö.

Dewey, J. (1934) Art as Experience. New York. Penguin Group Inc.

Dunne A (1999) Herzian Tales: Electronic products, aesthetic experience and critical designs. Royal College of Art. London

Frayling C (1993): Research in Art and Design. Royal College of Art Research papers. London

Gaver W, Pacenti E (1999) Design: Cultural Probes. Interactions, Volume 6 Issue 1, Jan./Feb. 1999, pp. 21-29.

Goffman E (1986) Frame analysis: An Essay on the Organization ofEexperiences. Northeastern Univeristy Press. Bosten

Halse. et al. (2010) Rehearsing the Future. The Danish Design School Press.

Haraway D J (1991) “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century," in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge.

Jegou F, Manzini E (2008) Collaborative Services. Social innovation and design for sustainability. Milan:  Edizioni

Koskinen, I. (2011) Design research through Practice: From the Lab, Field and Showroom. Morgan Kauffman.

Krippendorff, K. (2006). The semantic turn: A new foundation for design. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis.

Latour, B. (2005) Reassembling the social: an introduction to Actor–network theory. New York, Oxford: University Press.

Manzini, Ezio (2015) Design When Everybody Designs. An Introduction to Design for Social Innovation. MIT Press.

Moggridge B (2007) Designing interactions. Cambridge MA: MIT Press Boston USA.

Nelson, H., & Stolterman, E. (2003). The design way: Intentional change in an unpredictable world. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Educational Technology Publications.

Rittel, H. W., & Webber, M. M. (1974). Dilemmas in general theory of planning. Design Research and Methods, 8(1), 31-39.

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner. New York: Basic Books.

Simon, H. (1969). The science of the artificial. Cambridge. MA: MIT Press.

Suchman, L. (2006) Human-Machine Reonfigurations. Plans and Situated Actions. Cambridge University Press.


Dela/spara Dela eller tipsa

Designfakulteten grundades i december 2007 med finansiering från Vetenskapsrådet och KTH. Dess främsta verksamhet är att driva en nationell forskarskola i design i samarbete med ett 20-tal institutioner runt om i Sverige.

Institutionen för maskinkonstruktion
Brinellvägen 83-85
100 44 Stockholm


Föreståndare maria [dot] hellstrom [dot] reimer [at] mah [dot] se (Maria Hellström)
Informationsansvarig sushel [at] kth [dot] se (Susanne Helgeson)

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