About this online course


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Course video

As objects around us begin to collect data, it is possible that they may enable designs we could never think of. Thing-Centered Design (TCD) is a new way of researching and designing that looks into the creative possibilities of the Internet of Things. TCD teaches you how to partner with intelligent things to expand your capabilities and envision new design solutions.

As a designer you might be familiar with the technologies that enable IoT. But a fresh perspective is needed to fully understand the impact of these technologies in your design practice. Placing a sensor on a device is, for instance, more than just collecting data. A designer using a thing-centered approach will ask: what can the sensor find out for me, and what new possibilities can it open up for my work?

This online course is aimed at practicing designers and other design and innovation professionals who are willing to experiment and move past the blind spots of human-centered design in a world in which things (from intelligent personal assistants through autonomous drones to smart contracts) make things too.

In this online course, you will have the opportunity to interact with like-minded peers from different countries and institutions and experience a mix of inspirational lectures, interviews, experimental tools and techniques, and tailored feedback that will help you develop a thing-centered approach to design for the Internet of Things. Discussions during the course will be facilitated by thing-centered designers from The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Taiwan.

The expected course deliverables will range from writing a brief to sketching the design of a possible solution, and will be attuned to each participant's experience and professional practice. No coding skills are required.

What can you discover through applying the thing-centered approach?
With TCD you might learn that smart mobility in Taipei is not just about energy efficiency but also new social relations, or that technology for older people is not so much about safety as it is about vitality and resourcefulness. You may find out that the scooter's tailpipe wants to become a heater for sharing warm foods and drinks with friends while on the road, or that the fridge magnet of an elderly home wants to physically pin (as if they were made of paper) the recipes exchanged by email between mother and daughter. After TCD, your next scooter or IoT product for older people will never be the same.

During this course, you will:

  • Acquire an understanding of what a "thing" is in contemporary design practice
  • Acquire an understanding of how a thing-centered design approach contributes to expanding our human-centric view of the world and offers additional resources to human imagination and capabilities
  • Apply thing-centered tools and techniques to partner with things in the design process
  • Select and devise thing-centered tools and techniques in your own design practice
"Contact with the practitioners themselves (Elisa and Iohanna) was a valuable way to exchange thoughts on the topic and through discussions gain a better grasp of the topic and where it's headed."
Course participant, IDE Master Class 2017


Course Syllabus:

Week 1 : Getting started
Introduction to thing-centered design (TCD): what is a thing in contemporary design practice? The starting point that things now hold both perception (e.g., sensors) and possible agency (e.g., AI), and thus 'participate' in design in ways that previous industrially produced objects could not. Overview of the Internet of Things (IoT) design landscape, and video interview with Chris Speed (Centre for Design Informatics, University of Edinburgh, UK).

Week 2: Expand
Understand how to partner with things to expand your research capabilities. Learn how to use intelligent cameras and sensors to see the world from a "thing perspective". Video interview with TCD designer Anuradha Reddy (Internet of Things and People Research Center, Malmö University, Sweden) on her work on the "sensitivities" of things, and presentation of method cards from the TCD toolkit.

Week 3 : Reframe
Understand how to partner with things to envision new design solutions rather than engineering the obvious. Learn how to make sense of TCD data to frame problems in new ways. Video interview with TCD designer Wen-Wei Chang (Taipei, Taiwan), author of the TCD method Interview with Things.

Week 4 : Rehearse
Move towards more-than-human design practices. Learn to select and devise TCD tools and techniques in your own design practice. Video interviews on the future of TCD and its applicability to emerging fields of design with Nazli Cila (author of the TCD method Object Persona) and Majid Iqbal (author of the book "Thinking in Services").

Assignments of this course include:

  • Design brief (choose an objective from your own design practice and identify a set of potentially relevant "things")
  • Thing ethnography (instrument things for artificial sensing and conduct ethnographic research from a "thing perspective"; submit a 2-minute video)
  • Interview with things (conduct an "interview with things" that can help you make sense of your data and ideate a possible solution)
  • Reflection (explain and reflect on your TCD process)



If you successfully complete this course you will earn a professional education certificate and you are eligible to receive 1.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

View sample certificate


This course is primarily geared towards working professionals.



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

Enroll now

  • Starts: Future dates to be announced
  • Fee: €695
  • Group fee: contact us
  • Length: 4 weeks
  • Effort: 3 - 4 hours per week

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