Temasek Poly Course Info – UiUX: Human-Centered Design for Digital Experience

UiUX, Temasek Poly, Review, Course, Human-Centered Design, info

UiUX, Human Centered Design, Lin Chou Cheng

Recently, I have been given the opportunity to design and deliver a UX course, which offered through Temasek SkillsFuture Academy. The course entitled – UiUX: HUMAN-CENTERED DESIGN for DIGITAL EXPERIENCE, is a 4-week part-time course that introduces the concepts of human-centered design and how this approach can be used to create useful, and functional digital product and services that have great user experience (UX).

This course has been developed to reach those who are brand new to human-centered design, and Visual Designers looking to add user research skills to their repertoire while others are Product Managers seeking to improve their design thinking skills. Often, the learners are technopreneurs trying to improve the UX of their minimal viable product (MVP). No prior experience or coding skills required.

As the course has also been listed in the portal recently, I have been receiving quite a numbers of email queries about the nature of the course. Therefore, I decided to setup a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) here so that general publics can make a better-informed decision before signing up for the course.

Last updated: June 13, 2017.

1.  I would also like confirm with you if there is any specific entry requirements (e.g. HTML/programming knowledge?) for the course other than what is stated on the web page below: Webpage states that the target audience are the Visual Designers, Developers, Software Engineer, Project/Product Manager, Technopreneurs, and Creative Practitioners who are seeking to transition into a UX career.

Our course: UiUx: Human-Centered Design (HCD) for Digital Experience, is the fusion of the rise of HCD, lean startup thinking, customer experience (CX) design.

The course aims to facilitate the applied practice of UX to address How Might We leverage on a lean resource to perform user & digital product research, usability model, and design thinking to make a better digital product that is human-centered.

Students who take this course is expected to do user research, design, and validate ideas as efficiently as possible.  No coding skills are required to join this course, as off-the-shelf prototyping tools will be used to develop your ideas for testability!”


2. May I know what are the software or tools required for the course? Any programming languages involve?

Due to the hands-on nature of this course for “validating things”, you are expected to create prototypes for approximating a simulated experience for what it is like for the users to use your design (be it a digital product or service). In other words, the intent of the prototype is to serve as Minimum Viable Product (MVP) so that you can solicit meaningful feedback from your audience to validate your design.

As a general knowledge, there are 4 kinds of frequently used MVP for a screen-based product, and they are:

A) Paper Prototype
B) Low-Fidelity On-Screen Mockup
C) Middle & High-Fidelity On-Screen Prototype
D) Coded & Live-Data Prototype

By referring to the above Q1, there is no coding component involved for this introductory course. Rather, you shall be facilitated to pick up prototyping tool like Axure and develop a clickable prototype that set in-between the standard of B & C of the above.


3. Does the course focus more on websites or mobile apps?

The current landscape or the trend for digital transformation is still centered on screen-based products, for it is the window for the service providers to serve something of value that the segmented users want or need at a fair price (aka business).

So by parsing from the above understanding and placing it into this context: What are the channels that you use to find out about this course or check out this FAQ? The answer could be varied, but we are quite certain that it will be either through a web browser of a desktop system or mobile devices. In such scenario, to a UX-ers, which is more important now: the design for the web or the mobile channel? Or, should the focus be “How might we enable both the service provider and the interested party to reach out to each other at anytime and anywhere (think efficiency), in the hopeful of achieving mutual value exchanged (effectiveness & satisfaction)?

The tenet of human-centered design is always technology agnostic. In other words, we are unbiased towards the use of different technologies or tools to solve problem. And, the answer here is Yes & No; it is up to you as the owner of a design problem that bugged you at the workplace or a startup assignment that you set yourself to accomplish throughout this course.


4. Does the course cover the techniques for responsive web design?

No. To implement Responsive Web Design (RWD), I would advise you to look at courses that related to Front End Development. This is because RWD is a web development techniques that creates dynamic changes to the appearance of a website, so that it can adapt to the screen size of a device that used to access it. Please refer to the following responses about Responsive Design.


5. Will the course be teaching on responsive design, or will it will mainly on theory?

First, responsive design, a popular trend rises from web design, is the use of proportional, fluid layouts that adapt and fit perfectly to any screen of any size.  To develop a responsive website that adapts its layout to the viewing device, and user agent, the practice would start with the incorporation of CSS3, media queries, and fluid grids, etc., which use percentile to create a flexible foundation. You are advice to consider Front End Web Development courses if you would like to grasp the technical know-how to engineer a responsive product.

To design a digital product that will span across various devices, there is always a trade-off like this: to maintain consistency of the brand and UI, or developing to follow the guidelines of that particular device (e.g. Android Design Pattern vs. iOS Human Interface Guideline)?

In our course – UiUx : Human-Centered Design for Digital Experience, we would leverage on Adaptive Design, (you can think of it as a precursor to responsive design, which the technique involve the use of set breakpoints to determine the best version of a design to show based on the size of the screen and the assumed capabilities of the device). The course is intended to pitch the tenet of mobile-first-design to all fellow practitioners, and be hands-on to produce a portfolio that demonstrates your attainment of practicing the lean cycle of User Experience Design. You will be facilitated to build a clickable digital prototype that has been validated and pitch-ready.


6. I am a print designer that is keen to learn about UX design, is this course suitable for me?

First, let’s take a look at the two different streams of design that might be familiar to you:

Visual/Graphic Design
The role of a visual/graphic designer is to help to communicate information in the most effective way with the right look and feel that based on the context of a product’s brand and its purpose. The techniques for trade in this disciplines have often involved the use of typography, form, color, images, layout, etc. to direct people’s attention before creating the conversation for the projected content.

User Experience (UX) Designer

Unlike visual/graphic designer, who focuses on aesthetics and communication, UX designers are concerned about people and how they interact with a product or service. In other words, UX is different from graphic and even UI or web design; UX focuses on the logic and structure (the flow) behind the touch points that a user would see and actually interact with it. The practice is mainly grounded in research and validation, and there are a variety of techniques & tools to better understand the intended users before we develop a solution.

UX is an emerging field, which stemmed out from the disciplines of usability engineering, interaction design, user research, information architecture, content strategy, visual design, etc. Good designers aren’t born, but they are made through continuous learning and practice. In fact, having a background in print design would definitely give you an edge to pick up some basic UX skills through this introductory course.


7. May I know what the delivery mode of this course is? Would it be partly lecture and partly working on projects (or one single project)?

This course is structured in a blended studio approach, whereby the trainer shall facilitate the participants into a certain domain knowledge, and then prolong their practical understanding of the subject through some mini exercises subsequently. All these structures are in place to help the participants to then immediately apply it to a project that they chose to work on.

At the end of course, there will be only 1 delivery, which it is the outcome of your project, and you would need to document it into a set of slide deck and present to your peers. For more info about the coverage of this introductory course, please check out the course outline that published on TP’s website.


8. What is the typical/expected number of students in the class?
The size of the class is usually between 10-16 participants.




Design Thinking: A Practice that Worth Sharing

Design Thinking, Process, convergent, divergent, insights, post-it notes, notes, vid, verbatim, insights, data, lin chou cheng

Design Thinking, Process, convergent, divergent, insights, post-it notes, notes, vid, verbatim, insights, data, lin chou cheng

A few years ago, the hype in design thinking (DT) had a lot more fueling than what the method itself promises; many senior corporate executives thought DT is the catalyst of change and perhaps a new way of running a company. Yes, there was evidence that suggested DT can up the ante of competition when part of the organization has come to a near end of the scaling runway. Especially in the current VUCA world, it is either you innovate or “die”.

As such, I have seen a fair amount of managerial people enrolled themselves into DT-related courses and workshops. Some of them have brought their team of hands and legs to attend the training, and use it as a form of “retreat” for incepting more KPI, which already preconceived in their mind. In the end, nothing has changed.

When DT fails to deliver the magic of change that people expected, DT had become a useless connotation or merely another puff for IDEO to sell more of their stuff. (P/s: I heard this from a design lead who commented it, strongly.) Well, no design methods would work when an organization has a culture of keep disempowering the well-intentioned talents with internal politics, and not accepting failure or ideas at the same time (Moore, 2016).

Personally, I felt that the term “design” is already an enigma itself even though it is already in the corpus of English language since 1800 (see Appendix A).  Now, by adjoining the phrase of “thinking” behind the word of design, this whole hype of DT has become more elusive than ever. In the end, it had reduced to no more than a bubble of design theories that even the designers would despise it. But, I see DT as the precursor to LEAN UX and a structural way to cultivate a sustainable system-centric thinking that encompasses the environment and all other living things (including human).

By today’s context, the word design has subsumed many meanings, and it had covered a lot of territories that found in human activities.  From the perspective of etymology, the term design is a late Middle English word that originated from the Latin of “designare” (OED, n.d.), which it culminated the sense of doing.  However, this does not tell us much about design as a whole in a universal context.  It would be easier for us to comprehend the notion of design from lexigraphy viewpoint, by segregating it from the natural part of our speech into the form of noun and verb, as illustrated in Figure 1.0.

Design Definition, etymology, meaning, design, craft, words, synonym
Figure 1.0 The notion of design


So, what is DT then?

To answer that question, first, we must accept that to DESIGN is simply having the sense of doing (e.g. having the drive to make/try things first then see the effect later). In other words, it is do-to-see, and not wait-and-see.

Whereas THINKING is the opposite; it is a systematical approach for making sense of things and events that one’s had encountered in a new context. The referred systematical approach is nothing more than drawing on one’s past experience and cultural belief as the basis for reasoning.  For instance, similar to the basic process of Wayfinding (Lindwell et. al., 2010), our minds would go through the following 4 logical stages where each choice is heavily influenced by our past experience.

Orientation; where am I? Where to? What are the landmarks or cues?
Route decision; considering the factors of cost, time, distance, & risk.
Route monitoring; crosschecking with landmark or milestone.
Destination recognition; expectations matched.

According to Kimbell (2011), there are two schools of thoughts in DT, which one represented by Tim Brown (2008; 2009), and the other is by Roger Martin (2009).  Brown version of DT focuses on the cognitive aspect of how designers interpret (involve Thinking) and feel their way (is Designing) when connecting with people, whereas Martin’s version of DT (2009) is about the managerial practice of abductive reasoning within the systems of an organization.

It is believed that Peter Rowe (1987) had started the earliest scholarly discourse about DT as a rational inquiry framework.  Although he enticed the practice of DT in the context of the architecture and urban planning, Rowe has found that his thesis of DT could be a common intellectual framework for all other kinds of problem-solving activities.

With that, the mechanics of DT should frequently be played out at the workplace, for I see it as a collaborative tool for calibrating everyone’s understanding about the stark reality that their organization is facing, and the barriers that are bugging their underserved customers.  However,  such REFRAMING practice in DT seldom happens as it requires an organization-wide of humility.

According to Design Thinking & Innovation Academy (DTIA) of Singapore, there are three (3) main phases to the practice of DT; they are Understand, Explore and Test, as illustrated in Figure 2.0.

Human-Centered Design, diagram, flow, understand, explore, test, sketch, human figure, insights, flow
Figure 2.0 Cycles of Design Thinking

Phase #1 | Understand
The first phase of DT is to uncover users’ needs, wants and desires through contextual observation and inquiry.  The refer contextual observation and inquiry is a search of meaning by digging (laddering) into the users’ immediate physical and situational surroundings, language, character, culture, and belief that shaped their identity.  In order to understand the sample population (the users) better, there are these four (4) methodologies to consider when conducting a contextual inquiry as follow:

● Imagining Users methodology
● Co-operative methodology
● Empathic methodology
● Ethnographic-based methodology

In the practice of contextual inquiry, the main ground rule is always to have empathy.  The inquirer needs to be patient when trying to elicit users’ insights, as often such information is usually tied to the users’ personal life, which sometimes it can be full of emotions and contradictions.  By large, among the four methodologies, the ethnographic-based method is regarded as the most suitable method to uncover users’ truest feelings that concealed behind their needs and wants.  However, the ethnographic methods would require a high level of expertise, as often the required sensibility to interpret people’s saying and doing would need years of field training. Although it is quite challenging to solicit the users’ motivation and goals, there is this AEIOU framework to guide the design research teams during the actual fieldwork. AEIOU is about paying attention to:

Activities of people in the space;
Environmental qualities (sounds, temperature, smells, space layout);
Interaction between people and objects;
Objects (tools, furniture, etc.);
User (characteristics and behaviors of the various stakeholders).

In addition, the framework of AEIOU is best at use when it is being complemented with the technique of shadowing.  Shadowing is another observational field method whereby the design researcher will follow the users into their daily activities over an extended period.  The purpose of shadowing is to see the actual doing of the users in their living environment, and the method is usually complemented with photographic observation technique (video recording).  Photographic evidence is an important archive for the design research teams when they are trying to decode the human experience that they had previously observed.  Although the process of shadowing is quite time-consuming, the method is comparably more effective than the typical focus group interviews, as shadowing can provide the design research team a much deeper insight into the behaviors of their users.

After the completion of contextual observation and inquiry, the design research team would need to make sense of all the data that they had collected.  To do so, the team has to download all the data onto post-it notes and follow by sorting them out under the head of VID before analyzing it.  The notion of VID stands for:

● Verbatim; it is user blurted subconscious motive through laddering.
● Insights; an inference or thoughts, which summarized by the design researcher after what he/she had learned from a user’s verbatim.
● Data; it is all the factual information such as age, gender, travel time, etc.

In design research, the purpose of segregating the research findings into VID is to provide a better overview for the design research team, so that they can really see whom their target audiences are before defining the personas.  During this process, it is advisable to color-code each user’s dataset with markers or colored Post-it note for the ease of reference.  Also, there is this notable practice for all design researchers to denote their inference with the Post-it note at an angle for better legibility (See Figure 3.0).

Lin Chou Cheng, Post-it Note, treatment, Design Thinking, Notes, insights, Denotation, Technique, Workflow, UX
Figure 3.0 Example of denoted Post-it Note

Occasionally, the design research team might need to reframe their initial research objective after reviewing the discoveries that drawn from the fieldwork.  The action of reframing is necessary for removing any false assumptions or self-referential proposition that can mislead the design research and its outcome.

Next, the design research team would need to create a series of persona profiles, which can reasonably reflect a set of characteristics that found in the collated sample data. Each of the crafted personas should be the summary of mindsets, needs, and goals that held by those same clusters of people that we have studied. Although personas are seen as hypothesized characters in other design disciplines (Chapman, Love, Milham, ElRif, & Alford, 2008), but in DT they are the archetypal representation of an actual user group who share the similar needs and wants. After the process of assembling the persona, the design research team can make use of the technique of Affinity Clustering before moving on to the exploration stage.

Affinity Clustering, Design Thinking, Insights, User Research, Data, Qualitative, Sorting, Post-it Notes
Figure 4.0 Samples of Affinity Clustering

Affinity Clustering is a visual sorting technique that used to classify the patterns of emergent issues, concepts or themes that found in the sample data. In practice, the design team might need to reshuffle or transcribe the data again onto a new set of Post-it note before clustering it through similarity.  It is only then the design team can summarize each cluster of the data by putting on another large piece of Post-it note that known as the summary sheet, as demonstrated in Figure 4.0. This summarization workflow is crucial to help the design research team to build a shared understanding of the design challenge that lies ahead before moving on to the exploration phase of DT.


Phase #2 | Explore
The referred explore phase in DT is actually ideation stage, where the design team will go through a series of creative processes for “going wide” to generate conceptual solutions, which could mend the gaps that users are facing. In this process, the synergy of creative thinking is vital, and there is a need to use priming to prep the design team into problem-solving mode. To do so, the trick is to ask the right questions that started with the phrasing of “How Might We” (HMW). The HMW process is one of the best-known jumpstart techniques that used by Google, Facebook and IDEO for inducing creative confident and freewheeling collaboration among their design teams (Berger, 2012). Besides the HMW process, the design team can consider using Creative Matrix to help them think divergently within a short amount of time. During the HMW process, there will be chunks of interesting ideas being gathered within the team and such ideation process will take as long as the time permit. For the design team to move forward, there is this Dot Voting exercise whereby the members get to vote democratically for ideas that are most likely going to be succeeding, so that the whole design team can better concentrating their efforts in synthesizing their propositions before the prototyping stage.

In DT, the use of prototype is mainly to facilitate a deeper interaction with the users, so that the design research team can perform a reality check whether their proposition matches the users’ want and need. Although the mantra in prototyping is to fail early and cheaply, the entire process would still consume a certain amount of resources and time. Therefore, it is advisable to make use of the Prioritization Matrix to cherry-pick the most feasible ideas to prototype and test (see Figure 5.0).

Design thinking, Process, Divergent, strategy, ux, priority, prioritisation, matrix
Figure 5.0 Samples of Prioritization Matrix

The Prioritization Matrix operates under the criteria of relative importance and difficulties (or scarcity of resource such as time, technology, costing, etc.). All explored ideas needs to be ranked according to the matrix before it gets picked and made into a prototype. In DT, the practice of prototyping is actually quite similar to the discipline of interaction design (Saffer, 2010), whereby the fidelities of the prototype can come in a myriad of forms, as outlined below:

Ø  No-resolution Prototype

Ø  Low-resolution Prototype

Ø  High-resolution Prototype

Ø  Service Prototype

Ø  Interactive Prototype

Ø  3D Prototype

Ø  Video Prototyping

Ø  Paper Prototype

A prototype does not have to be in high fidelity during initial exploration phase; however, the complexity of the prototype needs to be polished before the actual event of the elevator pitch.


Phase #3 | Testing
Testing is the final phase of DT. The process is mainly about performing iterative testing of a prototype with the stakeholders.  It is only through testing that the design research team get to learn more about their users. To achieve the purpose of refinement, the design research team must pay attention to users’ feedback and avoid defending the prototype. Besides having empathy to listen to your users, there are three (3) other techniques to solicit users’ responses, such as the method of Capturing Feedback, Thinking Aloud Testing, and “I like…I wish…”. These techniques are meant to encourage the users to speak out their mind, and it would be best for all the given feedbacks to be clustered and downloaded onto a separate canvas, as demonstrated in Figure 6.0.

feedback, Canvas, findings, UX, design thinking
Figure 6.0 Feedback Canvas


Overall, DT can be summarized as a collaborative human-centered mindset that seeks to understand users through their genuine insights, follow by exploring ideas that could match the users’ needs and wants. Lastly, DT would involve testing whether the proposed concepts are emotionally desirable. To embrace DT effectively, the design research team needs to have an open mind, empathy and the intelligent of fast failure or simply IFF (Matson, 1996), as the foundation to create a real and meaningful design is to learn from each failure progressively.                         

As a practicing designer and educator who apply UX into learning design, I personally felt that this entire DT ideology is resonating well with my mind.  I have been adopting the tools and methods of design thinking (DT) whenever I am doing design research that is pertaining to the user experience. The reason is simply that the validation mechanics in DT is effective, for it helps to guide me to choose meaningful design goals that meet the user’s needs and wants at an emotional level for greater good.

DT had also taught me to see things in an even bigger picture than before.  I have applied this DT mindset whenever I attempt any academic-related research as well. In the domain of research, the hardest thing to do is to ask the right question than finding solutions.  To ask the good question, we need to begin with the right frame of mind, and I believe such sensibility is a kind of DT mindset that we all have should embrace.



Berger, W. (2012, September 17).  The Secret Phrase Top Innovators Use (Harvard Business Review).  Retrieved from

Brown, T. (2008).  Design thinking. Harvard Business Review, 86(6), 84-92.

Brown, T. (2009).  Change by design: how design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation. New York: Harper Business.

Chapman, CN, Love, E, Milham, RP, ElRif, P, & Alford, JL. (2008). Quantitative evaluation of personas as information. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 52nd Annual Meeting, New York, NY, September 2008, pp. 1107-1111.

Design. (n.d.). Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online dictionary. Retrieved from

Kimbell, L. (2011). Rethinking Design Thinking: Part 1. Design and Culture. 3 (3): 285-306.  Retrieved from

Lidwell, W., Holden, K., and Butler, J. (2010). Universal Principles of Design. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers.  p. 260.

Martin, R. (2009). The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage. Cambridge MA: Harvard Business Press.

Matson, J.V. (1996). Innovate or Die! [Kindle Paperwhite Version]. Retrieved from

Moore, S. (2016). The Key to Business Transformation is Culture. Smarter with Gartner. Retrieved June 10, 2017, from

Rowe, P. (1987). Design Thinking. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Saffer, D. (2010). Designing for Interaction (2nd Ed.): Creating Innovative Applications & Devices. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.


Appendix A

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Creative UX Techniques: Business Origami & Ideation Poker

This design note was about my recent attendance to a UX workshop, which offered by Foolproof Singapore, dated 13 March 2017.

It was an intensive workshop, which opened to all UX practitioners during the last Singapore Design Week 2017. It was interesting to see that 83% of the attendees are seasoned design specialists, with some of them holds a leading UX position at their job. I guessed we, UX-ers are avid learners!

In traditional UX practices, contextual inquiry (e.g. in-depth interviews) and brainstorming are standard techniques that deployed in nearly every design assignment. While these methods are very useful, but they are not lean enough, especially when you have to run repeated sessions with the same group of internal stakeholders and keep them engaged and interested.

With that in mind, Foolproof Singapore had introduced their tried and tested UX techniques of modified Business Origami and Ideation Poker that frequently used across their UX design process.

The workshop was facilitated by Kai Seng, David Khoo, and Zigg who had done a good job of demonstrating the mentioned techniques to us in a fresh perspective.

Technique #1 Business Origami

Business Origami (BO) is not a new technique; it is a paper-prototyping method that has been invented by the Hitachi Design Center for system design (Hitachi, n.d.). The essences of BO is about tangibility, whereby everyone can participate to create a shared vision.

The mechanics of BO would require a set of paper cut-outs (that we identify as token or “variables” as I see it), which used to represent of people, groups, channels, and environments that found in the ecosystem of a product or services.

To begin, the mechanics would involve several stakeholders to co-map out a transaction of an existing system before redefining the business value of current trade from the lens of RoI & RoE (Return on Experience).

An improvised version of  BO
In this workshop, we have practiced a modified version of BO, whereby we used the mechanics of BO as real-time insights logging tool during user interview.

This approach would enable the UX researcher to pin down the informants’ task flow and their experience with all the touch points of a current service model that they have been through. As the UX researcher visualizing the information that verbalized by the participants, the informant themselves can help to clarify any misinterpreted responses that arise at times. This participatory approach is practical to learn about the user pain points while generating the user journey map on the fly.

To reliably capture the informants’ pain points, there will be a set of tangible rating tools handed to the participants at the near end of the session. From there, they can help the UX researcher to reassert the pain points in quantitative manners.

Below are some samples of the BO canvas that we had generated during the hands-on practice session.

Pros of Modified BO method
–       Cost-effective (as papers is cheap artifacts);
–       Reliable findings as the informants had co-created the mapping;
–       Reduce the workload for UX Researcher when plotting a journey map;
–       Effective for gaps /problem space sensing & detection.

Cons of Modified BO method
–       Required a deep skill in user-interview (experience in laddering);
–       Space-constraint; require a large table space to spread out the BO canvas;
–       Required detailed planning (research design);

Technique #2 Ideation Poker

The second creative UX techniques that I have learned was Ideation Poker. It is a gamified brainstorming technique, which derived from the card game mechanics of UNO. It is a party-style idea generation approach that required at least two groups of people to play it out.

The deal deck has only 3 different color-coded cards or classes, namely Green for platform/tools, Yellow for constraints, and Red as wild card/disruptor (see Figure above).  The gameplay would require a moderator to distribute the game card, and each group of participants has to generate (or write down) as many ideas as they can onto a post-it note within a given time limit before a new pair of cards being distributed again.

Later, all the participants will review their fragmented ideas and apply clustering technique for rearranging the post-it notes based on similarity.

The primary objective of this exercise is to use force connection approach in a structured manner so that there will be a recalibration of all the “blue sky ideas” with existing “down-to-earth” solutions that are economically viable.

Overall, all the participants and the facilitators agreed that the Ideation Poker technique is a fun but highly brain-draining activity! We were so tired at the end of the day, as the technique needs to play out with a fast pacing, and timing is a crucial factor.

Personally, I have found that the modified Business Origami method is quite useful. As such, I have adapted it into a user research tool, which subsequently I taught it in one of my evening UX course.


#End of Sharing