PhD scholarship in Developing a Theory of Methods in Design

The Department of Technology, Management and Economics (DTU Management) at DTU invites applications for a 3-year position in Developing a Theory of Methods in Design, starting September 2021 or as soon as possible thereafter. The PhD candidate will be working at the intersection of design research and cognitive science.

The PhD position will be based in the Innovation Division in the research section Engineering Systems Design. The section is characterised by a vibrant and supportive research environment with engaged staff and strong research collaborations with leading universities and industry worldwide. Our research focuses on understanding and improving the design discipline and how it can tackle complex socio-technical challenges. For this project, we have a collaboration with the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands through the EuroTech Alliance network by which the PhD position is funded. We will also collaborate with Professor Claus-Christian Carbon, Department of General Psychology and Methodology, University of Bamberg, Germany.

This is a great opportunity for those who have an academic background in design as well as an interest in methods and cognitive science, or – vice versa – have a background in cognitive science and an interest in design.

Every complex product around us is designed using different methodological approaches and specific methods. This is true for the machine that makes our morning coffee, the car we drive to work, as well as for the services that allow us to get groceries delivered at our doorstep or stream films directly to our screens. More and more, design is also applied to address the complex challenges of tomorrow’s society. In doing so, teams of professionals use design methods to drive, coordinate, organize and manage their work. Design methods capture key procedural knowledge about design and are among the primary means through which design research affects education, industry, and society. Methods inform designers and other stakeholders on how to best work towards producing design outcomes efficiently and effectively and help teams to perform core design tasks. For example, methods support designers with:

  • Decomposing and breaking-down complex innovation projects into manageable tasks for individual designers and teams.
  • Coordinating tasks across multidisciplinary teams, stakeholders and end-users.
  • Communicating about designers’ work to relevant stakeholders and decision-makers.
  • Planning and structuring design processes and making processes manageable for organisations.

Hence, design methods are core for design and central to address the complex challenges of today’s and tomorrow’s world. With the rising complexity of product system solutions and the integration of new technologies like AI, design work requires practitioners and organisations to integrate even more diverse perspectives and deep disciplinary knowledge during design processes.

However, despite the centrality of methods to design, little is known about how and why methods function and what determines their performance: there is no theory of design methods. The focus of this PhD project will be on furthering the development and testing of a Theory of Methods in Design. This constitutes a major step in the development of the design discipline with a particular focus on design methodology.

Key aims of the project are:

  • To identify and operationalize the key variables that define method use across varied contexts and embodiments.
  • To identify and define the relationships between variables that explain how methods function.
  • To synthesize and test a theoretical model of method use in design.
  • To establish how methods affect design work, e.g. through their use and influence on design performance as well as designer’s experience of their work.

Overall, this project aims to develop a Theory of Method Use and related impact measures. In doing so, the project aims to contribute to a paradigm shift in design by offering for the first time a scientific foundation for research into design methods, as well as method development and testing.

Responsibilities and qualifications
You will become part of a multidisciplinary research team with expertise in design methodology and cognitive science.

The candidate’s responsibilities will include:

  • Empirical research into the use of methods in design practice and/or educational context.
  • Scoping the project further together with your research team and based on your interests and competences.
  • You will contribute to the development of the theoretical model on method use in design, building on existing work in the field and more specifically in collaboration with of the Principal Investigator Jaap Daalhuizen on method use in design.
  • Integrating relevant theory from other fields (e.g. cognitive science, implementation science) into your work on design methods.
  • You have the ability to work focused and to achieve ambitious goals.
  • You will be collaborating closely with our research partners and international collaborators and relevant case organisations.
  • You have a strong interest in the field of design in a broad sense and design methodology in particular and would like to contribute to improving these fields through your project.
  • You will engage in teaching as part of the Design and Innovation programme at DTU
  • You are engaged and aim to excel in research dissemination.

Keywords: Design methodology, Theory building, Cognition, Design practice, Impact, Societal challenges. 

You must have a two-year master's degree (120 ECTS points) or a similar degree with an academic level equivalent to a two-year master's degree. A relevant background could be a master’s degree in product-, engineering- or interaction design, applied psychology or other related social science degrees or a degree in other areas with additional qualifications relevant for the responsibilities and tasks.

Approval and Enrolment
The scholarship for the PhD degree is subject to academic approval, and the candidate will be enrolled in one of the general degree programmes at DTU. For information about our enrolment requirements and the general planning of the PhD study programme, please see the DTU PhD Guide

We offer
DTU is a leading technical university globally recognized for the excellence of its research, education, innovation and scientific advice. We offer a rewarding and challenging job in an international environment. We strive for academic excellence in an environment characterized by collegial respect and academic freedom tempered by responsibility.

Salary and appointment terms
The appointment will be based on the collective agreement with the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations. The allowance will be agreed upon with the relevant union. The period of employment is 3 years. 

Workplace: DTU Lynbgy Campus.

You can read more about career paths at DTU here

Further information
Further information may be obtained from Principal Supervisor Associate Professor Jaap Daalhuizen,, +45 4525 1542, and Head of Section Professor Anja Maier,, +45 4525 6045. 

You can read more about the Engineering Systems Design section at   

If you are applying from abroad, you may find useful information on working in Denmark and at DTU at DTU – Moving to Denmark.

Application procedure
Please submit your online application no later than 16 May 2021 (Danish time). Applications must be submitted as one PDF file containing all materials to be given consideration. To apply, please open the link "Apply online", fill out the online application form, and attach all your materials in English in one PDF file. The file must include:

  • A letter motivating the application, including your research activities and ideas for the research project (cover letter, max 3-pages)
  • Curriculum vitae (CV)
  • Grade transcripts and copies of your original BSc/MSc diploma, certificates, and lists of subjects with your results as well as their preferably official translation into English.
  • Excel sheet with translation of grades to the Danish grading system (see guidelines and Excel spreadsheet here)
  • Two reference contacts who may be contacted by the assessment committee

You may apply prior to ob­tai­ning your master's degree but cannot begin before having received it.

All interested candidates irrespective of age, gender, race, disability, religion or ethnic background are encouraged to apply.

DTU Management conducts high-level research and teaching with a focus on sustainability, transport, innovation, and management science. Our goal is to create knowledge on the societal aspects of technology. We explore and create value in the areas of management science, innovation and design thinking, business analytics, systems and risk analyses, human behaviour, regulation, and policy analysis. The department offers teaching from introductory to advanced courses/projects at BSc, MSc, and PhD level. The Department has a staff of approximately 350. Read more here.  

Technology for people
DTU develops technology for people. With our international elite research and study programmes, we are helping to create a better world and to solve the global challenges formulated in the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Hans Christian Ørsted founded DTU in 1829 with a clear vision to develop and create value using science and engineering to benefit society. That vision lives on today. DTU has 12,000 students and 6,000 employees. We work in an international atmosphere and have an inclusive, evolving, and informal working environment. Our main campus is in Kgs. Lyngby north of Copenhagen and we have campuses in Roskilde and Ballerup.

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