Design For Non-Designers: An Introduction to Design Thinking

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Imagining, planning, explaining, representing, and making objects that serve useful goals are among some of our greatest intellectual human attributes. It is human to consider a situation, imagine something better, and act to create and improve what one sees in the mind. Just about 50 years ago a sole practitioner, and an assistant or two, might have solved most design problems; today, we need groups of people with skills across several disciplines, and the additional skills that enable professionals to work with, listen to, and learn from each other as they solve all kinds of design problems. In our interconnected contemporary world, our design environments are complex, products must meet the expectations of many user groups, and there are numerable technical and human demands on the processes of production.

The practice of design predates all human professions. Humans were designing before they even began to walk upright. The most primitive design practices started over 2.5 million years ago when the Homo Habilis manufactured his first tools. Nevertheless, it took a few more years to develop a capacity to live in community and to shelter families or public functions under a safe roof. Urban design and architecture came along about 10000 years ago in the Mesopotamia region and the associated invention of interior architecture and furniture design probably emerged along the same time. It took 5000 years more to conceive graphic design and typography, when Sumerians developed their unique form of cuneiform writing, and about 2500 years more to invent the idea of private property in Rome.

In our current environment, what are the mental and physical processes that take human beings from design considerations to the realization of an object of design? How is a preliminary design idea turned into a physical object? Is the act of design applicable to any human endeavor? What are the values determining the beauty and/or worthiness of any object of design? Does design add economic value to any object of consumption? And, if does, how is it measured? What is the relationship between physical design and social innovation? What are the characteristics of a good design team? What are the state‐of‐the‐ art design trends in contemporary science and culture? What is the future of design?

This course is a step‐by‐step introduction to the language of design. It will familiarize non‐ designers with the minds, professional lexicon, tools, traditions, and everyday practice of design experts. Its basic premise is that everything we do, in either our personal or public life, is an act of design; as a consequence, the life of the non-­‐designer could be much better off, professionally and personally, when attaining a precise understanding of the processes, vocabulary, and actions required across the full range of domains that could turn existing situations into preferred ones.

The ultimate goal of the course is to introduce non‐designers to the professional design world as a means to achieve a greater understanding of the qualities, processes, and human values needed to take any object from idea to realization and to develop greater communication skills in order to facilitate the production of highly specialized team efforts. This is a not a technical course nor is it intended to present an unbalanced or skewed view of the world in which we live; the course is a purely pragmatic option where the development of real design skills and the understanding of its hidden means will be divested as its ultimate target.

The course is recommended for non‐designers. It is also proposed to designers with basic skills and to accomplished designers with years of experience as a means to refresh their memory and to bring themselves up‐to-date on state‐of‐the‐art technical and intellectual professional achievements.

By the end of the one-day session, participants shall:

1. Understand the basic elements of design i.e.: analysis, concept, representation, and construction,

2. Learn to capitalize on design givens i.e.: program, context, and environment,

3. Appreciate the qualities of physical and ephemeral substances i.e.: mass, structure, surface, materials, scale, space, light, and movement,

4. Distinguish the importance of organizational devices i.e.: infrastructure, datum, order, grid, geometry, and proportion,

5. Realize the importance of urbanism and community building i.e.: history, typology, land tenure, and regulations,

6. Deal with conceptual devices i.e.: philosophy/theory, culture, memory, complexity, contradictions, transformations, social innovations, and

7. Develop a relative familiarity with design illustrations i.e.: orthographic projections and perspective, sketching and diagramming, analogue representation, digital renderings, models, and physical fabrication.

The course methodology will be heavily graphic and its visual material will be drawn from some of the best examples, professional practices, and methodological approaches in the field of contemporary design as well as on the historic resources and intellectual achievements of the past 10,000 years.



Jaime Correa, Associate Professor in Practice, UM School of Architecture

Jaime Correa, an associate professor in practice and former MUD director at the University of Miami, focuses his work on the creation of real estate value through morphogenetic disruptions, generative codes, self organization and its interconnection with structured and unstructured information. He is the author of numerous academic articles and book chapters, founding Chair of Academic Papers for the Congress for the New Urbanism, member of the Board of Editors of Cuadernos de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, in Mexico, and is the recipient of many prestigious awards and recognitions. He is currently working on a research series on urban evacuation and adaptation, colossal projects for the forthcoming climate disruption, public space interventions in the City of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, the redevelopment of an Industrial District in Miami, eight mini-skyscrapers in Medellin, urban design advisory for the City of Coral Gables, charrette collaborations in Coral Springs and the North End in West Palm Beach, urban “letterscapes”, various collaborations in Central and South America and the master planning and implementation of “The Wave” - a 50,000 people new town in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman.



Course Tuition

Private Sector

$ 425

Group (3+ from same company)

$ 375

Public Sector/Nonprofit

$ 325

Alumni and Faculty*

$ 225

UM Students*

$ 200

  • Student, faculty and alumni must provide copy of ID or class registration.



Upcoming dates TBD


University of Miami School of Architecture

1223 Dickinson Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33146

Rinker Classroom


Parking Information

The University of Miami now utilizes Pay-by-Phone 7-days a week. Your registration fee includes the cost of parking in the Yellow Zone, however, you must register your license plate in advance. We will send you a link by email the week of the course.

If you choose to park at a meter, please pay as described on the meter. Do not park at an inoperative meter. A citation may be issued to a vehicle parked at an inoperative meter.


Refund Policy

Refund requests must be made in writing seven days prior to the start of the course, and will be made less a $50 processing fee. Refund requests must be made in writing prior to the start of the course. Refund requests will not be accepted seven days prior to the course. You may send a replacement, transfer requests must be made in writing.