About this online course


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Course video

Cultural sensitivity and understanding can stimulate the potential for innovation in new product and service design. This course will show you how!

Join us and learn how to:

  • avoid mismatches between designs and intended users;
  • develop your cultural sensitivity and understanding to stimulate your potential for innovation;
  • find a new source of inspiration and opportunities for new product and service design.

Could a valuable (and healthy) innovative idea, such as the use of hot air technology to fry food be adopted worldwide? Can indigenous patterns and other forms of native art be used to decorate products regardless of their context and meaning? Can the way we look at and compare cultural differences and practices be a source of inspiration in product and service design?

This course will take participants beyond the obvious into the unexplored. It will expand their view and move their research from the realm of the traditional user-product environment into the cultural context. Cultural sensitivity will help, not only to avoid mismatches between designs and intended users, but it will also prove a great source of inspiration and opportunities for new product design.

This course is geared towards working design professionals who want to gain insight into why culture is relevant for their work, through what lens they can study culture and how they can examine culture and apply the results to their work.

Course video subtitles will be in both English and Spanish!

You will learn to:

  • Identify culture and its role, both from a personal and professional perspective.
  • Recognize and understand cultural terms.
  • Reflect on the influence of culture on individual and collective identity.
  • Provide personal examples of the terms used during the course.
  • Determine opportunities for applying culture as a tool while designing.
  • Integrate cultural tools and theory into a design project *.
  • Judge the use of the cultural approach in other projects.

* We will introduce you to a card set; a practical tool specifically designed for product and service designers.

Mutual Benefit Approach

The course will give you, as a working professional, the opportunity to learn and benefit from masters students' work; their reflections on design, their application of the theory provided and their use of a range of methods. Furthermore, you can even save time in your practice as we offer you the opportunity of pitching a design challenge that our masters students may choose to work with during the course. In addition, their fresh view on 'what design can do' in their own assignments will help you to discover new possibilities for new product and service design. Our course team will also provide you with feedback and answer all your questions.


"I learned how culture expresses itself in so many different ways and on many different levels. Many things we don't perceive as culture in day to day life are in fact part of it. And so, without noticing quite often we design something which really mostly works only in our own culture."

"I thought it was a fantastic course, I learnt a lot which I will apply to my work."

''It is a great course and I'm thoroughly enjoying it."

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'Real world' examples

In a comparatively new field of study it would be easy for a course to be highly theoretical but Culture Sensitive Design includes concrete examples of the theories applied to practical design contexts.

Think ahead: A company developed a hot air fryer that was intended for frying French fries. At a later stage of the development the company realized that the technological principle of frying with hot air - which limits the use of oil and is therefore very healthy - was a valuable idea, worth exporting worldwide. However, the initial product was based on Western food culture and did not fit the requirements of Asian food culture yet.

Avoid mismatches: A designer was fascinated by an indigenous pattern and decided to use it as a styling element for shoe design. Through a lack of understanding of the culture the context, way of use, function, and moreover, the meaning of the pattern, was completely changed. The original users of the pattern as it was first intended felt offended and complained via social media.

Find new product ideas: In a design research project on sustainable bathing, cultural variety was consciously used to broaden the perspective about the ways people bathe around the world and the cultural significance of bathing. A comparison between bathing in Japan, India and the Netherlands helped to gain a deeper understanding and to generate new, and more sustainable, ways of bathing, such as bucket bathing which maintains hygiene and conserves water.

Be adaptable: The mobile phone was initially designed for individual use. However, in some parts of the world it was found that people shared a phone where its design did not support this collective way of use. The finding led to suggestions for modifications, such as multiple address books on a single phone, so that each user could maintain a separate contact list.

Course Outline

The course consists of lectures, interviews with experts and practitioners, quizzes, hands-on assignments and so called 'mapping sessions' accompanied with easy to fill in templates, relevant literature and links to existing videos shared on the Internet, the Crossing Cultural Chasms card set, reviews by your peers, and last but not least; exchange of examples and experiences between you, other practitioners and masters design students via the discussion forums. You retain access to all these materials, including templates, to re-use after you have completed the course.

Week 1: Getting to Know Culture

  • Culture in design and framing culture
  • Guest interview on acculturation
  • Assignment: Key terms we use to describe and understand culture

Week 2 and 3: Culture and Identity

  • Culture and identity
  • Third Culture Kids
  • Guest lecture on game design research
  • Guest interview on cultural sensitivity and third culture kids
  • Two assignments: timeline and key terms

Week 4 and 5: Cultural values and practices

  • Guest lecture on value and value conflicts
  • Cultural values and practices
  • Culture sensitive design in practice
  • Designers' identity
  • Guest interview on cultural values in the design practice
  • Assignment: Design company culture

Week 6 and the holiday period:

  • Pitching your design project
  • Guest interview on the global design practice
  • Interaction and feedback with students online

Week 7:

  • Final presentations on students' design projects
  • Wrap-up together with students

Practical details

  • Course length: 6 weeks prior the Christmas break and 1 week afterwards.
  • Subtitling available in English and Spanish!

Course credentials

This course has been prepared by international experts in the role of culture in design processes within the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering at the Delft University of Technology. The course instructor, Annemiek van Boeijen has extensive practical experience as well as relevant research in this field. She is also one of the creators of the award-winning MOOC Product Design: The Delft Design Approach, which has enrolled nearly 50,000 students to date.


Certificates and CEUs

If you successfully complete this course you will earn a professional education certificate and you are eligible to receive 2.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

View sample certificate


This course is geared towards working design professionals who want to gain insight into why culture is relevant for their work, through what lens they can study culture and how they can examine culture and apply the results to their work.

For an optimal course experience for both design practitioners and our master design students, we invite especially design practitioners with the following background:

  • you have relevant background and experience in product design (or service design);
  • as a hands-on designer or as a design researcher you are working for a studio or company, or other organization;
  • you are not a student.

In order to complete your enrollment you will be asked to upload the following document:

  • a copy of your passport or ID card (no driver's license)


If you have any questions about this course or the TU Delft online learning environment, please visit our Help & Support page.

Enroll now

  • Starts: Nov 04, 2019
  • Fee: € 375
  • Enrollment open until: Oct 28, 2019
  • Length: 7 weeks
  • Effort: 3 - 4 hours per week

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