Course syllabus

Design Methodology Preparatory Course



Link to the syllabus on Studieportalen: Study plan



Competition will continually force companies to reduce development and product costs while the product value as seen by the customer has to increase. Furthermore, in a market flooded with similar products, innovation and product renewal are great opportunities and might be of vital importance for the long-term survival of existing operations. Given these conditions, it is highly desirable to support the development of attractive and innovative products, adequately considering relevant requirements and user needs. Moreover, modern development work is typically characterised by cross-functional teamwork, and efforts to simultaneously consider several aspects related to the product and its life cycle. Hence, there is also a need for supporting problem-solving in a complex context.
Thus, it is easy to understand the value of having knowledge of structured work procedures, such as systematic design methodology. Many such work procedures exist; the best known originated in Germany (Pahl and Beitz, 1996), with a focus on engineering design (VDI Guideline 2221), and in the US (Blanchard and Fabrycky, 1998), with a focus on complex aerospace and defence systems (“Systems Engineering”). Recent variants (Ulrich and Eppinger, 2008/2012/2020) emphasise support for the design of consumer products, e.g., by considering industrial design aspects, as well as services. The aforementioned methods have their differences but also have a common core; they all represent a requirements-driven perspective on design and a step-by-step design procedure.
Justified by research and industrial practice, systematic design methodology supports the planning of a development project including associated activities, and can generally be argued to increase the chances of successfully solving a complex development problem. It provides a framework for a way forward and facilitates co-ordination among team members. Typically, systematic design methodology supports a continual consideration of requirements and other central issues for the development, as well as a parallel consideration of alternative solutions. Specifically, the notion of abstraction in systematic design, for instance through “function analysis”, can support a more unbiased idea generation for the benefit of new, innovative solutions.



The aim of the course is to support the student in acquiring a general overview of design methodology. The overview will have a twofold nature: The student will acquire knowledge about design methodology in theory as well as in practice. Specific objectives include:

  • The student shall acquire understanding of design methodology, and become able to distinguish between different activities and approaches within product development. This objective includes:
    - Technical system theory, which aims to support the description and categorisation of phenomena in technical systems and processes.
    - Methods, thus approaches that support the management of a certain class of problems.
    - Methodology, a situation-adapted system of methods to solve a complex problem.
  • Besides, the student shall become familiar to use design methodology to define and solve a product development task – thus, obtain an applicable “tool box” for product development.
  • In addition, the student shall describe and demonstrate the acquired knowledge in a written report, which serves as the basis for examination.

Another, specific, purpose of the course is to ensure that students following the Product Development Master Programme at Chalmers have adequate knowledge in design methodology. The background is that Chalmers has a tradition of supporting learning of design methodology already during the first three years of the (Bachelor’s) programme. Besides, knowledge in design methodology is a precondition to be able to actively contribute to the team work in the Product Development Project course (MPP126). Still, the course is also open for other interested students



The course will focus on key notions within design methodology, while having the focus on the concept development phase. The course contents include:

  • Product development processes and design methodology – a general view.
  • Requirements specifications – guidelines and methods.
  • Function analysis – definitions and methods.
  • Idea generation – methods and representations.
  • Synthesis of product concepts – methods and mindsets.
  • Evaluation and decision-making – methods and mindsets.
  • Refinement of product concepts.
  • Discussion of potential benefits and drawbacks of design methodology in practical use.



The course is organised through seven seminars for conceiving design theory and methodology, and seven exercises for applying design methodology for managing a product development task. Beyond scheduled classes, the student is expected to spend about 5 hours homework every week (35 hours homework in total). Completion of the course is worth 3 credits (hp/ECTS).

The seminars will introduce design theory and methodology while basically following the structure of the Course contents (Section 3). Examples from industry will also be presented. In addition, there will be room for discussion.

Project work is a central part of the course. The project work is managed by the student, and supervised by the teacher, in particular during the exercises. Thus, the student applies design methodology to solve a practical product development task. At the exercises all students will be given feed-back on their method applications. Feedback will be given by both the teacher and the other students involved. Additional feedback (between scheduled lectures) is given on demand.

The location is ES51 for both seminars and exercises, throughout the course. Location may be updated, so consult the schedule in TimeEdit.

Project set-up
The learning is supported by method applications in mini-projects. Initially, the student freely selects and defines a proposal for a product development task, and subsequently the teacher supports the formation and definition of mini-projects. The project work is preferably run in co-operation with another student (1 to 3 students in each mini-project). For each mini-project, the project work shall end up in a written report and a CAD, paper sketch, or physical representation of the resulted product concept.



For completion of the course, the student(s) must submit a written report describing the application of design methodology as well as the resulting design prerequisites and product concepts. Additional media or objects are appreciated for representation of product concepts. The content of the report shall reflect Course contents (Section 3). Expected length of the report is 8-15 pages, including illustrations.

In addition, each student should attend at least five of seven seminars and five of seven exercises.

Grades are given according to the scale Fail, 3, 4, or 5. The grade reflects:

  • How well the student has applied and reported the design methodology focused in the course (75%), and
  • how effective the student has been in demonstrating the resulting product concept (25%).



Recommended course literature is (this book is also recommended for the MPP126 course):

Ulrich, K.T., Eppinger, S.D., Yang, M.C. (2020) “Product Design and Development”, 7th edition, McGraw-Hill, New York.

You can also use earlier editions of “Product Design and Development”, 4th edition or newer.

Lecture notes and some other course materials will be provided in connection to the seminars, including putting key contents on Canvas. At the end of the course the student will have collected a “cookery book” for development of product concepts.



Examiner and teacher
Dr. Lars Almefelt (LA), Department of Industrial and Materials Science
phone: 031-772 1374, e-mail:



See schedule in TimeEdit

There is also a summarised "one pager" course schedule in the end of the course memo found in Modules/Course information.


Course summary:

Date Details Due