Thing-Centered Design

IDE Design Master Class for Professionals

A New Approach to Designing with the Internet of Things

As objects around us begin to collect and exchange data, it is possible they may begin to suggest ecosystems and enable designs we could never think of. Thing-Centered Design (TCD) is a new way of researching and designing in partnership with objects, data and algorithms that looks into the creative possibilities of post-industrial design. TCD offers a toolbox of concepts and unconventional design methods that complement human-centered design skills and expand designers’ ability to frame and solve problems.


Contemporary things (from connected products to intelligent personal assistants to smart contracts) can “sense” and “think” in ways that previous industrially produced objects could not. A fresh perspective is needed to fully understand how things will take part in design and use next to us. This fresh perspective is Thing-Centered Design.

Learning Objectives

During this master class you will:

  • understand what is a thing in the post-industrial era;
  • apply thing-centered design in ways that complement human-centered design;
  • select and devise thing-centered tools and techniques for expanding your imagination and capabilities by enlisting things as co-ethnographers and co-designers;
  • select and devise thing-centered tools and techniques in design practice.


  • Thing-centered design theory and methodology;
  • Methods and tools of thing-centered design;
  • Cases and examples of thing-centered design



9:00Registration and welcome drinks
9:30Introduction and overview
Overview of the master class, aims and structure, expectations and background of the participants
10:00Lecture – Fundamentals of Thing-Centered Design
Overview of TCD as a framework to help designers understand complex ecosystems of people, services and products, and to better frame problems that could be solved using the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence. Examples.
11:30Workshop I - Interview with Things
Introduction to Interview with Things - how to frame and reframe a design problem by considering the agency of things
at the Porceleyne Fles
14:00Workshop II – Thing Ethnography
Introduction to Thing Ethnography and related data collection methods – how to gain access to data worlds and trajectories unattainable with traditional design methods.
16:00Workshop II – Thing Ethnography (continued)
17:00Wrap-up and conclusive thoughts
17:30End of the first day
9:30Reflections and adjustments
10:00Demo - Doing Thing Ethnography with sensors
Lecture and demo on how to use sensors for Thing Ethnography
10:30Case Study - Using machine learning for Thing-Centered Design
Discussion of a case study. Benefits and challenges of using machine learning for Thing-Centered Design
11:30Warm-up exercise - Speculative job ads
12:00Workshop III - Mindful Future Work Assistant
Using insights from Thing Ethnography to derive design requirements, ideation and prototyping.
at the Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering
14:00Workshop III - Mindful Future Work Assistant (continued)
Application of main insights to participants' own practice.
17:00Wrap up and conclusive thoughts
17:30Drinks and closing

Practical Information

How to prepare?
No preparation required.

Hand-outs of all lectures will be provided with space for personal notes. All materials provided are included in the course fee.

After the course
After the course, a pre-set consultation timeslot will be offered to all participants to share experiences and ask questions to the IDE Master Class. The format and the timing will be discussed with the participants during the IDE Master Class.