Hasso-Plattner-InstitutSDG am HPI
Hasso-Plattner-InstitutDSG am HPI

(Neuro-)Design Thinking for Digital Engineering (Sommersemester 2020)

Dozent: Dr. Julia von Thienen

Allgemeine Information

  • Semesterwochenstunden: 2
  • ECTS: 3
  • Benotet: Ja
  • Einschreibefrist: 6.4.-22.4.2020
  • Lehrform: Vorlesung / Projekt
  • Belegungsart: Wahlpflichtmodul
  • Lehrsprache: Englisch

Studiengänge & Module

IT-Systems Engineering MA
  • Management und Leitung
  • Kommunikation
  • Design Thinking Advanced
  • Design Thinking Basic
Digital Health MA
Data Engineering MA
Cybersecurity MA


Update: As long as we can’t have personal meetings in class, this course is hosted on openHPI. To find it on the platform, please log in at openHPI and then search for "(Neuro-)Design Thinking for Digital Engineering." The course starts on April 27. If you have trouble finding the course on openHPI, please reach out to Julia.vonThienen@hpi.de.



Abstract: The world changes rapidly. Digital engineers reinvent our every-day lives in the process of digital transformation – a process that gains even more speed and dynamism in the face of corona. Such a re-invention of every-day affairs through digital solutions introduces challenges and opportunities, where design thinking offers helpful tools. This course provides a theoretical overview of why and how design thinking works, including the biological basis of design thinking phenomena. Inspired by such insights, there is ample room for free, creative engineering project work in this course, design thinking style.



The lecture "Design Thinking for Digital Engineering" has been offered for some years at the HPI. It is now re-designed as part of the evolving Neurodesign Curriculum at the institute. Neurodesign is a new academic work domain at the intersection of (i) neuroscience (ii) engineering and (iii) design thinking - creativity - collaboration - innovation.

Design thinking is often conveyed practically. This course takes a complementary approach. It focuses on research and the theoretical basis of design thinking. Lectures review empirical research and modelling approaches concerning design thinking - creativity - collaboration - innovation. As an amendment of the new class format, discussions are added concerning the biological underpinnings of the phenomena. We also experiment with physiological measurements during creative engineering to better understand its dynamics.

Participants are invited to draw inspiration from the various research insights and brief experimentations offered in class. In creative engineering projects, you can address self-chosen questions at the intersection of (i) body-related measures, (ii) digital engineering, (iii) design thinking - creativity - collaboration - innovation. Here are some sample projects that you could work on:

  • In light of corona challenges, how might digital solutions bring back the experience of freedom and/or rich analogue experiences in people's everyday lives?
  • Which easy to capture (physiological or non-physiological) parameters provide indicators of favourable vs. less favourable project developments? E.g., which indicators can help to predict whether a creative engineering project is on a good track vs. heading towards a dead end?
  • How can we summarize and display body-related parameters to supply people with helpful feedback? For instance, in creative engineering teams, speech times of team members can be captured and simple sonification algorithms reveal team-dynamics, such as balanced communication styles vs. dominant-and-reserved speakers.
  • How can physiological measures augment digital engineering solutions? E.g., can eye-tracking or motion-capturing provide alternative means to control a computer?
  • How might we address all human senses (or more human senses) with digital engineering solutions? E.g., what if users received more information via tactile experiences?
  • How can data modelling, data analysis and/or machine learning benefit (neuro-) design thinking objectives?

It is possible to conduct a bigger project by working on your subject in the class “Ambidextrous Thinking” as well. It is also possible to continue a project begun in an earlier neurodesign course if you would like to.

Equipment that you can use for projects includes:

  • Consumer-grade EEG kits: Muse 2
  • BITalinos plugged dual for electromyography (EMG), electrocardiography (ECG), electrodermal activity (EDA), electroencephalography (EEG), to measure motion (accelerometer, ACC), light (LUX) and record button presses (BTN)
  • Empatica E4 wristbands for the measurement of skin conductance, motion & heart rate etc.
  • Tobii Pro Nano for eye tracking
  • Speakers (Yamaha HS8 & audio interface Focusrite), e.g. for 3D data sonification

As long as we cannot meet in person to exchange equipment, there is even more reason and opportunity for being creative. You are welcome to experiment with all body-related measures that you deem interesting, which you can assess. E.g., you could use your webcam for self-recordings, analysed for emotions or posture and body motion via open source software. You could use your mobile phone to track body motion; maybe the phone even allows you to track your heart rate. You could analyse your own typing behaviour, the impact of sleep, of break times, music, meditation or nutrition on your work and/or wellbeing, or whatever you would like to try out in this field. In addition, this course is supported by several expert neuroscientists, who have ample data available that you can analyse, visualize, sonify etc. 


There are no prerequisites for attending this class. 

To intensify your learnings, you can also take part in the seminar “Ambidextrous Thinking” on Mondays (3:15-4:45 p.m.), but this is not obligatory. As long as the challenging health situation endures, the seminar will also be hosted online in the form of a b.MOOC on openHPI.


  • 1/4 of your grade is based on brief weekly course submissions regarding each session topic (plan ca. 10-15 min per week).
  • 1/4 of your grade is based on your first project presentation.
  • 1/4 of your grade is based on your final project presentation.
  • 1/4 of your grade is based on an academic poster you submit on behalf of your project. The poster is due until August 31, 2020.


Dates (preliminary)

27.4. Introduction to (Neuro-) Design Thinking for Digital Engineering

4.5. Insights from research: Creative processes

11.5. Insights from research: Creative people

18.5. Insights from research: Creative places

25.5. Irene Plank: Key skills “empathy & theory of mind” – and the biological underpinnings

8.6. First project presentations

15.6. Topic hosted by Dr. Shama Rahman on brain data and creative engineering

22.6. Topic hosted by Dr. Marisol Jimenez on music and creative engineering

29.6. Innovation modelling

6.7. Case discussion: Innovation in the automobile industry (by Katharina Dieterich & Verena Kaschub, Universität Stuttgart)

13.7. Key skills “need-finding & prototyping” – and the biological underpinnings

20.7. Final project presentations