Design Thinking Open University course U101

I’ve recently enrolled on an Open University course: U101 Design Thinking.

‘Design Thinking’ is something of a buzz phrase at the moment, at least in my social and professional circles. Had I paid more attention to the course title, I may well have decided against enrolling, on the basis that I’m a contrary bugger and don’t want to be seen doing something that’s in vogue.1 Fortunately, I made my decision to sign up from reading the course description. It’s something I’m interested in just out of personal interest but it also happens to be useful to me professionally, as well.

Now, last year I took two courses at what was supposed to be equivalent to first year degree level (it felt more like GCSE), following advice from the local OU support centre. Given that these courses were supposed to be about current uses of technology, I was appalled that I was sent a huge number of printed text books (most of which got sent to the recycling centre unopened). To be fair, PDFs were provided online but for some reason, when corrections to course material needed to be made, they sent an email out about it, and didn’t update the PDFs to reflect the correction. Absolute madness. The walled garden software (email, forums, IM) used by the OU was also terribly designed, as was the browser version of it. All in all, the impression given was ‘do as we say, not as we do’.

So when another big box from the OU arrived last week, I thought, “Oh, here’s another lot of stuff for me to recycle.” I finally got round to opening the box about ten days later, and was pleasantly surprised to find a t-shirt, masking tape, a ruler, some transfer paper, a pencil and other bits and pieces that had labels encouraging me to think about them as something more than a t-shirt, pencil, &c. No text book destined to remain unopened – just objects and a few words that made me think that the OU has really thought about this course thoroughly and applied, well, design thinking.

So with just a few items and a few words, the Open University has already got me infinitely more excited and positive about than I ever was about the courses I took last year. The fact that I’m bothering to take pictures of the course material and write this blog post is evidence of that. I hope the course lives up to the early promise.

  1. The same kind of childish thinking that used to make me dislike some bands as soon as they started selling more than a few records. Now I hate bands who go mainstream on the more rational basis that they’re only selling more records because they started writing formulaic bland anthemic crap. Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Athlete, I’m looking at you hiding behind your admittedly impressive piles of cash. []

5 comments on “Design Thinking Open University course U101”

  1. Beatriz says:

    Dear K,

    I am looking for a Design thinking course outside Spain, my country.
    Could you explain me a bit about your opinion of this course in the Open University.
    What’s your opinion? It is useful, helpful. There are interaction with the other students. There are many practical exercises, etc.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. […] The busiest day of the year was June 2nd with 42 views. The most popular post that day was Design Thinking Open University course U101. […]

  3. Richard Lane says:


    • Kenneth Yau says:

      Hi Richard,

      I started this course 4 years ago, so the content may well have changed but given that this is a 101 course, it is by definition a general introduction. I think if you have no background at all in design it would be useful just to give you some solid foundations before specialising. However, I’m not sure how useful it would be for graphic design. It felt more like it would be useful for general product/industrial design, but I could be wrong, given that I don’t really know an awful lot about graphic design.

      Your best course of action would be to speak to someone at the OU for advice.

      Good luck.

  4. […] basis that I’m a contrary bugger and don’t want to be seen doing something that’s in vogue.1 Fortunately, I made my decision to sign up from reading the course description. It’s something […]

Leave a comment