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The University of Southampton

HLTH6206 Health By Design

Module Overview

In 1968, Herb Simon published a still influential book called, The Sciences of the Artificial. He wrote, "Everyone designs who devise courses of actions at changing existing situations into preferred ones. The intellectual activity that produces material artifacts is no different fundamentally from the one that prescribes remedies for a sick patient or the one who devises a new sales plan for a company or a social welfare policy for a state." One can therefore think of design as a process of understanding how things in the material world (the artificial according to Simon) might be made to attain goals and functions that are useful for people. Design research applies knowledge to solve practical problems that serve human purposes (as opposed to the natural and social sciences that are meant to understand reality). Design thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems and find solutions to problems for people and/or clients. The skills involved in design thinking include empathy (looking at and reading a scene, hearing the voice and understanding the needs of clients; bringing out the best in collaborators; mentoring yourself and others; compassionate leadership), imagination (being able to see patterns in chaos, thriving when faced with constraints), systematic thinking (a feel for abstraction, modeling, planning, evaluating, and recognizing systematic error in judgments and decisions). This module would therefore builds skills through an introduction to current thinking and practice in design to improve safety, experience and effectiveness in health and social care settings, and by bringing in practitioners with real problems that need to be addressed. Our students would work in small teams with practitioners to construct solutions and to evaluate their fitness. We might imagine that in the first part of the module, we would provide students with an understanding of what design is all about, but then quickly put them in an environment where they learn, experience, and apply design thinking to real problems.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Understand and critically evaluate design theories, including participatory design, action centered design, user centered deisgn, and co-design.
  • Understanding of the uses and limits of design and modeling tools, including the Unified Modeling Language
  • Critically debate the important challenges currently faced by individuals seeking to design improvements in health and/or social care, and how those challenge might be addressed
  • Demonstrate collaborative skills dervied by working with others
  • Construct a design brief


• Theories of design • Design thinking fundamentals • Design Science • Design for individual change • Design to improve health behaviours for patients with chronic conditions • Design to promote long-term health in areas around food and nutrition, physical activity, sleep, and stress.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

There will be two approaches to teaching and learning. (1) The fundamental aspects of design (including representation and modeling) will be taught through guided lectures and classroom-based practical sessions where students solve classroom-based problems. These solutions are not to be assessed, but are meant to give students practice in developing design skills and using design tools. (2) Students will work in teams to design a solution to a real-world practitioner who has a real-world problem. The outcome of this work will be a design specification that addresses the problem.

Independent Study214
Total study time250

Resources & Reading list

Martin Fowler (2004). UML Distilled: A Brief Guide to te Standard Object Modeling Language. 

Aline Dresch, et al (2015). Design Science Research. 

Terry Winograd (1996). Bringing Design to Software. 

Herbert Simon (1999). Sciences of the Artificial. 



Design Exercise


MethodPercentage contribution
Design Proposal  (3500 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Design Proposal  (3500 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Only if students choose to buy textbooks

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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