My Master Thesis in Strategic Design — Part I

I describe my way to my master’s degree in the field of Strategic Design, which steps I have already taken and which I will take in this project.

What I did before

I successfully graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Interaction Design and then gained my first professional experience as a UX designer. During my years of study, I mainly took over the operative tasks in the creation of digital products. Last year in October, I decided to expand my competences and soft skills in the field of design. So I went back to the university and now I want to complete my master’s degree in the field of Strategic Design.

Application design project

Why Strategic Design?
The students come from a wide variety of disciplines and universities. Therefore, a lively exchange takes place in interdisciplinary teams during the projects, which in my opinion is very demanding for the quality of projects.

The key factor for me was that the design was combined with management and research. Methods from other disciplines such as economics, sociology, rhetoric and future foresight are integrated for this purpose. Furthermore, coaching sessions on personality development, introduction to operative management and intercultural management are offered.

Processes are optimized, new services invented and various business models developed in an interdisciplinary team.
Impressions during the master’s programme

The way to the topic

During the second semester, my focus was on finding a suitable topic for my master thesis. I took plenty of time for this and followed various topics.

Identification of problem areas

cluster research of the topic mobility

The identification of mega trends is a good starting point to get attention on various topics for the first time. At the beginning, together with fellow students, I conducted cluster research on mega trends such as mobility and connectivity to discuss problem areas. The more researches in blogs, documentations and scientific papers I did, the more confusing the finding process became. But in my opinion, this is very important in order to obtain the big picture and to focus on individual topics. After the cluster research and the typical desk research I wrote different one-pagers about topics such as digitization in the senior day care (a similar topic I had already during my bachelor thesis), design methods in the industrial vocational training and private mobility sharing in off spaces. These one-pagers were the basis for discussions with fellow students, professors and cooperation partners in order to gain feedback and further insights.

Discover, Feedback, Define, Discover, Feedback, …

After further elaboration and defining the topics, I created posters to exhibit them at a poster pitch at my university to enter into dialogue with experts, professors and other students. Here I had, amongst others, the topic “Idea management in enterprises”, which we developed in a short workshop during the term. The second topic was “Trust and acceptance in autonomous transport systems”.

Poster pitch

Presenting the poster at the pitch, my fellow student and I were able to gain our first cooperation partners for the topic of autonomous transport systems. Together with various companies we have further expanded and defined our favorite topics. Finally, we have our appropriate topic (after about four months) of Automated Valet Parking — trust and acceptance in autonomous systems in cooperation with Bosch.

Way of finding the right topic

Automated Valet Parking

“The use of intelligent parking garage infrastructure and its connectivity with vehicles has allowed us to make driverless parking a reality much earlier than expected”
— Gerhard Steiger, president of Bosch Chassis Systems Control

In Stuttgart, Germany, at the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage, Bosch (our cooperation partner) and Daimler have made automated valet parking a reality. The Automated Valet Parking is currently being tested during an Experience Tour.

In future, with a command from a smartphone, drivers can automatically park cars in their assigned spots without having to monitor the vehicles’ movements. Automated valet parking (AVP) is an important milestone on the road to autonomous driving. The pilot solution at the Mercedes-Benz Museum parking garage is the world’s first-ever solution for a fully automated valet parking service in real conditions, with and without drivers at the wheel.

It has not yet been explored how human-vehicle interaction is ideally transmitted in this context. In the process of the master’s thesis, we want to gain insights into this, among other things.


The (current) aim

The aim of this thesis is to gain important insights for the further development of autonomous transport systems. AVP is a great opportunity to gain experience in a well observed field and to generate knowledge for autonomous transport systems of the future.

A case study will be used to investigate how acceptance of autonomous vehicles can be improved. The AVP area offers a wide range of design points of contact. Visual, auditory and haptic solutions are conceivable, which can be implemented in the form of a product, interface or service. Social, psychological or legal factors that have a decisive influence on the design are decisive here.

Further sub-goals we have defined so far:

  • Insights into the problems and fears of users
  • Insights into the problems and fears of inactive users or stakeholders
  • Visual representation of sample scenarios
  • Guidelines for the design of autonomous systems
  • Development and design of strategies to expand the business models of the AVP

A documentation of the entire process of the project is created. This is supplemented by prototypical representations which show the results of the work and the theoretical findings. Furthermore, depending on the progression of the project work, physical prototypes can be created which can be tested in a real environment. The master’s thesis ends with a final presentation, colloquium and an exhibition by the university.


Way of working

The official beginning is in September. During the five months we follow the user-centered design process of the Double Diamond Method. At the moment we are in the problem zone and are discussing this in more detail. It is very important for us to gain as many insights as possible through interviews and observations. As part of the cooperation, we can conduct a UX study for this.

The Double Diamond Method

Possible methods we want to work with during the steps of the project

  1. Discover
    Desk Research, Interviews, Benchmarking, Focus Groups, Shadowing, 5-Why-Method, SWOT, KANO,…
  2. Define
    Stakeholder Map, Persona, User Profile Canvas, Empathy Map, Human-Robot-Team Canvas, AEIOU, Service Blueprint Map, Customer Journey, Use Cases, Flowcharts, Storyboard, HMW-Questions,…
  3. Develop
    Card Sorting, Brainstorming, MVPs, Ideation Workshops, Low-fidelity Prototyping, A/B Prototyping, User Testing,…
  4. Deliver
    High-fidelity Prototyping, Interactive Prototypes, Criteria Catalog, Visual Voting, Usability Testing,…

In the next weeks I will share my experiences and the further steps of the project. And hopefully complete my master’s degree successfully 🙌.