Basic Track

The Design Thinking Basic Track study program is the first part of the one-year Design Thinking education offered at the HPI School of Design Thinking.

The Basic Track program equips students with the knowledge, skills, and creative confidence to implement the basics of the iterative Design Thinking mindset and methodology. It enables them to develop human-centered solutions for complex problems. The 16-week semester is structured in two main projects, connected through additional formats.

The Design Thinking Basic Track program is an official certificate study program of the University of Potsdam.

In the first semester at the HPI D-School, students experience highly diversified and professionally facilitated teamwork. We compose our student teams according to our basic criteria for diversity: Gender identity, cultural background, and professional expertise. Our team of highly experienced Design Thinking coaches with various professional and academic backgrounds accompanies the students in their individual team projects.

The disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has propelled our program design and how our participants, coaches, and partners collaborate in a new form: Design Thinking in a hybrid space, combining the virtual format with on-site work in the Design Thinking spaces at HPI D-School. The virtual program consists of live inputs from our program and coaching team and collaborative teamwork in the digital space, supported by interactive live coaching sessions. We use various digital tools, such as the virtual whiteboard "Miro" and our online learning platform "openHPI".

In addition, all participants also have access to physical Design Thinking spaces, all equipped with appropriate technology to work in a hybrid setting (part of the team on-site, part of the team remote/distributed). Our program team also creates an open culture of experimentation in the virtual and hybrid space, encouraging all students to unleash their potential and build their creative confidence.

Our learning-approach builds on team-based, experiential learning and a culture of experimentation. It highlights the importance of iterative, repeated reflection for deeper learning. We implement this as a project-based course, where participants collaborate each semester with a strong portfolio of project partner organizations including NPOs and NGOs, large enterprises, young start-ups, social organizations, as well as research institutes and universities.

Besides the hands-on project work, our program leads, together with our coaching team, host workshops, trainings, and discussion rounds addressing tools, methods or research findings in Design Thinking.

Video: Introduction to the Basic Track



Semester overview:

Design Thinking 101 (5 weeks)

The first project at the HPI D-School makes participants familiar with our hybrid working space and vibrant community. We introduce the fundamentals of the Design Thinking mindset while working on a design challenge with a diverse and multidisciplinary team. As part of the first project, participants will:

- Understand and experiment with different user research methods to gain an understanding of the design challenge from the user's perspective

- Identify insights from qualitative data they gathered

- Apply several ideation methods

- Develop testable prototypes to collect feedback

Deep Dive (one day)

The Design Thinking Deep Dive marks the transition into the second phase of the program and is a format in which participants of the Basic Track have the opportunity to share and deepen knowledge and skills among themselves. The goal of the Deep Dive is to leverage existing skills and knowledge and promote peer-to-peer learning. On this day, participants also have time to familiarize themselves with the upcoming (second) phase of the Basic Track and to get to know other team members and coaches.

Partner project (8 weeks)

The partner project is the culmination of the Basic Track. Participants are now ready to collaborate on eye level with a partner organization from the public, private or social sector in new team constellations. They apply Design Thinking to develop human-centered solutions for their partner's challenges. The partners experience the potential of up to ten interdisciplinary participants who use their Design Thinking skills and creativity to foster innovation.

ToolFest (one day)

With the Design Thinking ToolFest, we dedicate an entire day to developing new skills in analog and digital prototyping techniques. The ToolFest is integrated into the partner project curriculum in such a way that participating teams have the opportunity to make their ideas experiential. Participants can register individually for a workshop and learn how to use working materials with support from experienced coaches.



Applications for the Basic Track

Applications for the Basic Track program are open twice per year.

For the winter term, our application platform opens in the middle of May. After registering on the online platform, the submission deadline for all required documents isJuly 31st.

For the summer term, our application platform opens in the middle of November. After registering on the platform, the submission deadline for all required documents is January 31st.

This infosheet gives an overview about the application process. Here you can review all information about the Basic Track application process.

Applicants who pass the first round of selection will receive an invitation to one of our two-day D-Camp workshops (usally taking place during last week of August for the winter term, last week of February for the summer term). After attending the D-Camp workshop, applicants will receive a final admissions decision.

All admitted participants contribute a participation fee of 750 Euro, which helps the organization to offset the expenses of the program. For current HPI students, PhD candidates, and employees of the HPI, the participation in the Basic Design Thinking program is free of charge.

You can find more answers to frequently asked questions on our FAQ page.

On the Hasso Plattner Institute website you can find further information about the course.


Elisabeth Höpner

HPI School of Design Thinking
Assistant (Programm Coordination)

Phone: +49 -331-5509-507

E-Mail to HPI D-School Office

Further Information