Hasso-Plattner-Institut25 Jahre HPI
Hasso-Plattner-Institut25 Jahre HPI

Design Thinking for Digital Engineering - Tangible Interactions with Nature (Sommersemester 2023)

Dozent: Dr. Julia von Thienen

Allgemeine Information

  • Semesterwochenstunden: 2
  • ECTS: 3
  • Benotet: Ja
  • Einschreibefrist: 01.04.2023 - 30.04.2023
  • Lehrform: VL
  • Belegungsart: Wahlpflichtmodul
  • Lehrsprache: Englisch

Studiengänge, Modulgruppen & Module

IT-Systems Engineering MA
  • Professional Skills
    • HPI-PSK-KO Kommunikation
  • Professional Skills
    • HPI-PSK-DTA Design Thinking Advanced
Data Engineering MA
Digital Health MA
Cybersecurity MA
Software Systems Engineering MA


The first session will be on April 17th, 2023.

When? Mondays, 11:00 am - 12:30 pm.

Where? HPI Main Building, HE-51/52.

The lecture will predominantly be held in person. In addition, the slides of each session are shared on the class's Slack channel.


HPI-MIT Collaboration

This course is a collaborative effort between the HPI Neurodesign and Connected Healthcare groups, in partnership with the MIT Tangible Media group. Taking the lead in organizing this class are Julia von Thienen and Holly McKee from HPI and Jean-Baptiste Labrune from MIT.


Keywords for student projects in class

Sustainable design - innovation - engineering, Designing for different stakeholders in nature, Life-centered design, Designing for empathy, Integration of natural and built environments, Augmented Human-Nature-Interaction, Nature data, Augmented creative practice and remote collaboration…



In this course, you will have the opportunity to practice your skills in designing and executing a creative IT project. You will be provided with extensive theoretical foundations to fuel your creativity, and serving as a framework for reflection.

Design thinking will be explored from both a practical and theoretical perspective. The course will cover the key components of creative work, including Creative Places, Products, People, and Processes, along with insights from bio-neuro-psychology. In your projects you will have the possibility to work with physiological sensors if you like. You can conduct your own studies in the new HPI UX-Lab and will be supported in your research, methodologically and with equipment.

As in all courses offered by the neurodesign group, a significant portion of your coursework will involve a one-semester creative IT project, where you will have ample freedom to chart your own path.

During each session, you will receive 45 minutes of theoretical input followed by 45 minutes dedicated to exploring the relevance of the session topic to your own creative project.

The overarching theme for the semester is thedesign of environments that balance nature and human-made elements, with a focus on creating unprecedented interaction experiences. In your semester project, you can choose to focus on one or more of the following design and research areas:

  • Prototype a new environment for work or creative practice. Explore opportunities of blending nature with traditional room setups. Your design could be directed at developing new technical capabilities or artistic installations.
  • Investigate the impact of nature settings on human thinking and creativity, including the effects on problem-solving abilities, wellbeing, empathy towards other species, and sustainability considerations.
  • Prototype a platform that connects humans with other species in a way that encourages mutual respect and facilitates inter-species collaboration.


How does this course differ from the other design thinking courses (basic track, etc.)?

  • You will get the freedom to dedicate yourself fully to a project of your choosing.
  • There will be a deeper dive into the theoretical foundations of design thinking, from the fields of design thinking research, psychology and neuroscience.
  • It differs from the Human-centered design courses (e.g., for Digital Health) in that the focus is more on creative projects and visionary innovation, not stepwise progress in well-established fields.


What to expect / Outcomes of past courses


There are no prerequisites for attending this class. 


Your major grading-relevant contribution in this class is your own creative project. You can pursue this project alone as well as in teams.

You may pursue one bigger project across this class and the Sonic Thinking Seminar (Mondays, 3:15-4:45 pm).

You can continue to work on a project begun in an earlier neurodesign or sonic thinking class, if it relates in some way to the course theme "designing places and interactions with stakeholders in nature".

The grade is calculated on the following basis:

  • 25% first project presentation.
  • 25% final project presentation.
  • 25% integration of in-class session topics in your project reflections (last 45 min per lecture session)
  • 25% documentation of your project including code (or other digital engineering prototype) due August 31, 2023. The project documentation can be an amended version of your PowerPoint slides from the in-class presentations.

You are welcome to look into the course. In case you decide to step back, you need to resign by contacting the Studienreferat and/or writing an e-mail to Julia.vonThienen [at] hpi.de by July 2nd, 2023. On July 3rd, the first grading-relevant presentations are held in class.



17.04 - Introduction; Experience a One-Hour Design Thinking Sprint

24.04 - Creative products – Overview

01.05 - Public Holiday

08.05 - Prototyping

15.05 - Creative places - Overview

22.05 - The practical side: Designing rooms

29.05 - Public Holiday

05.06 - Measuring and modelling the impact of places

12.06 - Creative people - Overview

19.06 - Synchrony as a basis of collaboration

26.06 - Your turn: First project presentations

03.07 -Factors in creative performance, and IT-solutions for measuring them

10.07 - Creative processes - Overview

17.07 - Design thinking process models

24.07 - Your turn: Final project presentations


31.8. Your turn: Final project submissions