University of Technology Sydney

85503 Thinking Through Design

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Design, Architecture and Building: Design
Credit points: 6 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


The aim of this subject is to help students develop their attitude, behaviour and thinking as designers. It aims to show them what the field of design looks like from the inside and to challenge preconceptions. Students develop their knowledge of design processes and design research techniques that are common to all design disciplines. Students learn a range of strategies for working in teams, defining design problems, researching design contexts, generating creative responses, evaluating proposals from different perspectives, and visualising the arguments for proposals. The subject also introduces students to the rigorous and self-directed learning environment of the School of Design.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

1. Work iteratively within a series of design frameworks to produce outcomes which evidence a developing knowledge of design thinking and revision of your own work
2. Demonstrate participation in collaborative learning opportunities in the subject, including tutorials and group work
3. Make connections between creativity, criticality and reflection
4. Demonstrate the application of curiosity, experimentation and risk taking in design
5. Manage briefs, deadlines and feedback in design projects
6. Critically reflect on own learning demonstrating awareness of strengths and weaknesses
7. Show cultural awareness and sensitivity towards Indigenous perspectives through project site research

Teaching and learning strategies

The subject involves a 1hr lecture each week, followed by a 2hr tutorial each week, and 2 assignments. For most students, these will be face-to-face classes, though some students will complete the subject remotely.

You are expected to be an active listener to the lectures, taking notes, and raising questions that occur to you both in the lecture and in your tutorials.

Tutorials involve specific activities set by tutors to help you better understand and apply the concepts presented each week, and to learn how to be a designerly systems thinker. These working sessions include group discussion, individual discussion, and peer review. Each tutorial session involves the negotiation of a particular series of exercises. To develop a richly practical understanding of the concepts taught in this class, you will need to be an active participant in class discussions and activities. By doing so, you will be able to complete your assignments iteratively, contributing something each week.

The primary objective of this subject is for you to develop new habits as an active observer and a reflective practitioner. To do this, it is essential that you make time in your schedule to journal after class about what you learned in class. Over time, your journal should be something you do at least weekly, perhaps daily, using it to record and reflect on all your design classes and projects, and even designs and design writing you encounter outside the university.

English Literacy:
If students are concerned about English literacy skills they are encouraged to contact the UTS Higher Education Language and Presentation Support (HELPS) service as early as possible. See:

The aim of this subject is to help you develop academic and professional language and communication skills to succeed at university and in the workplace. During the course of this subject, you will complete a milestone assessment task that will in addition to assessing your subject-specific learning objectives, assess your English language proficiency.

Assessment 2 will be assessed for English language proficiency. You will be directed to further language support after the completion of this subject if your language is below the required standard.

Academic Literacy:
The Library has many resources to support Academic Literacy.
All students new to university are encouraged to make use of this resource.

Content (topics)

  • Tools and strategies for idea generation and evaluation
  • Different approaches to research – including textual and visual material
  • Understanding and investigating the context of design including being sensitive to place and country
  • Desigining in systems
  • Sustainability and Transition
  • Designing on UTS Campus and the precinct
  • Good practice in critical reflection
  • Techniques for active observation
  • Techniques for creative exploration
  • Understanding and participating in group processes
  • Approaches to presentation and communication


Assessment task 1: Thinking Through Systems Mapping


Assessment 1 is a group project. The assessment requires the systems thinking approach in combination with active observation techniques that you have developed in the studios. You will learn how to communicate in two ways: as a Designer working in a team, and as a Design team communicating to an audience.

This assessment will provide students with an awareness and understanding of the importance of oral and visual communication amongst various design disciplines, between group members, and to audiences. Students will demonstrate an ability to collaborate with others, and develop the ability to synthesise and curate ideas as a team. Students will also learn how to incorporate theory into their own design practice and develop strong approaches to visualising concepts and ideas for a project.

The assessment will prompt students to conduct desk research and site-visits. Students will incorporate their acquired knowledge and research skills (including site-visiting skills) from the first 5 weeks of the course to develop a set of maps that contextualise their observations and discussions within a systems-thinking approach.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

3, 4, 5, 6 and 7

Type: Presentation
Groupwork: Group, individually assessed
Weight: 40%
  1. 7-minute group presentation in-class accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation.
  2. Submit PDF version of presentation slides onto Canvas (only one representative from each group to submit).
  3. A designer contribution statement addressing the individual contributions of each member to the project.
Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
Quality, depth and sensitivity of the observations underlying the maps and presentation, demonstrating iteration of ideas, processes and design methods. 20 4
A reflective approach to group learning, making allowances for different approaches and learning styles. 20 6
Openness to exploring multiple pathways through system analysis and combining ideas to produce creative ideas. 20 3
Ability to manage group expectations and progress for weekly development, including preparation and presentation of progress week-to-week. 20 5
Ability to contextualise research including demonstrating awareness of Indigenous perspectives. 20 7
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Assessment task 2: Visual Guide to Understand Design


Assessment 2 is an individual submission. Students are expected to reflect on their learnings of the design topics discussed in the lectures of the second half of the semester and incorporate their learnings into their own design discipline. Students will foster their skills as reflective practitioners using visual language, accompanied by annotations. Students will demonstrate an ability to synthesize and curate their acquired knowledge throughout the course in the form of a “Visual Guide”. Students will demonstrate an ability to design for their identified target audience.


This task addresses the following subject learning objectives:

1, 2, 3, 4 and 6

Type: Design/drawing/plan/sketch
Groupwork: Individual
Weight: 60%

11 x A4 (or equivalent) pages designed as a multipage PDF (breakdown below).
1x Designed Cover Page with a considered title, name and student ID
1x Page for the Critical Reflection (200-300 words)
8x A4 pages for the Visual Guide
1x A4 page for reference list

Criteria linkages:
Criteria Weight (%) SLOs CILOs
1. Ability to edit, arrange and represent the Visual Design Guide with originality, creativity, clarity, design consistency and experimentation with various design methods. 20 4
2. Ability to integrate annotations and images into a relevant, intuitive, thoughtful and accessible design that effectively communicates towards audiences. 20 3
3. Evidence of a comprehensive understanding of the concepts used in this course and making connections to a design discipline. 20 6
4. Ability to apply a reflective approach in their analysis of the design concepts and shows an ability to evaluate and synthesise information to generate insights. 20 1
5. Demonstrates developed habits of Journaling, including experimentation of multiple mediums, design methods and understanding of course content. 20 2
SLOs: subject learning objectives
CILOs: course intended learning outcomes

Minimum requirements

Students must submit all three assessments to pass the subject. 80% attendance is required in lectures, tutorials, field trips and in-class presentations. Records of lecture and tutorial attendance will be kept.

Required texts

Please access all required readings through the library website.

Recommended texts

See Reading List at UTS Library

Other resources

HEADS UP: Access HEADS UP through the Library website for a range of video assistance with:

  • Academic writing
  • Referencing
  • Using the library
  • Presentations
  • Study Skills, and much much more

Academic Writing Guide: Available through the library website. It also contains a section on research writing and a short section on assessment.

English language resources
Just a reminder that we have a wide variety of resources to support English language learning including but not limited to: Grammarly@EDU is an automated grammar tutor and revision tool for academic writing. It works one-on-one with a student to develop sentence-level writing skills, prevent plagiarism, and reinforce proper revision habits. Upload drafts of your writing assignments to Grammarly@EDU to receive immediate instructional feedback on over 100 points of grammar. See this page for the full list or search for 'Grammarly' through the Library website.