Basic Track

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

The hybrid Basic 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 14-week semester is structured in three main projects, connected through additional workshop formats.

The Basic Design Thinking 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. Student teams are composed according to our fundamental pillars of diversity: Gender identity, cultural background, and disciplinary expertise.

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.

Semester overview:

The 1st project (1 week) makes students familiar with our working space and community. We introduce our Design Thinking methodology specifically to understand how to generate qualitative insights and to frame a problem for a design challenge.

The 2nd project (3 weeks) launches newly composed teams into the generative part of the methodology – the solution space. The second project unlocks new experiences about ideation techniques, methods and principles of prototyping, as well as testing for feedback. All towards the end to design desired, relevant solutions.

The partner project (8 weeks) is the culmination of the Basic track: Teamed up in new constellations once more, participants are now ready to collaborate on eye-level with a partner organization. The project partner brings in a design challenge that is relevant to their internal or external future development. Teams then implement their learnings of the 1st and 2nd projects towards defining the problem space and developing relevant, tested solutions.

Throughout the semester, our team of highly experienced Design Thinking coaches with various professional and academic backgrounds, accompanies the students in their individual team projects.



Application requirements

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

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

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

This  infosheet outlining the application process supports interested applicants in their application.

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.

Review all information about the Basic Track application process.

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

Unfortunately, participation in the Basic Track program is not acknowledged as official educational leave by the state of Brandenburg.


Elisabeth Höpner

HPI School of Design Thinking
Program Coordinator

Phone: +49 -331-5509-507

E-Mail to HPI D-School Office

Further Information