Introduction to Service Design

This course introduces students to the basics of Service Design, by taking a few services from within the university as projects that they apply all the various service-design methodologies to propose interventions that help improve these services. Example services include the library, the cafeteria, career services etc. Throughout the course of the project, students learn a methodology in class each week, apply it to their assigned service in groups, and then share the results with the rest of the class. The practice-based research approach for this course where actual services are analyzed is extremely important for students to learn about business goals, the complexity of a service, how various stakeholders have various needs, and how different departments/ sections within a service function. The reason for them being assigned services from within the university is that they are already familiar with those services as an end-user already, but they will be able to learn behind the scenes workings of these services and be able to design recommendations that optimize these services. The university services will also benefit from the research and design done by the students.

Peer to peer learning is an important aspect of the course, as each group will be working on a different service. There will be reviews at different stages, where students present their work to the rest of the class. Guest lecturers and guest jurors may also be brought in at various stages.

This course also teaches students collaboration as an important skill, as they not only work in conjunction with their group members (who may be from various disciplines) but also the various stakeholders of their assigned service. This course aligns with the Playground’s aims of promoting design thinking and human-centered design as well as creative prototyping within the students at Habib University.

Through this course the students will learn service design and its application, especially in the context of Pakistan. They’ll be able to use the concepts, tools and methodologies learnt in this course in their professional or academic careers, no matter which field they are practicing in; as service design and design research provide a lens to analyze people and their interactions with products/services.

Research in Design

Course Description

Design Research is the foundation on which many facets of contemporary design practice (both professional and academic) currently stand. Some examples include UX & interaction design, service design, systemic design, and speculative design, among others. This course serves as an introduction to the vast and evolving field of design research, and covers the various types of design research, its relationship with the practice of design, its contextual importance, and the various methods and techniques used to conduct such research and synthesize the resulting findings. This is a practice-based studio course which offers students the opportunity to learn about the various methods of design research, and to understand how to discern between the numerous methodologies to analyze a given problem, situation or theme.  

Designing Sustainable Artifacts

“Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.” –Robert L. Peters

No matter which discipline we belong to, we are often designing products (both tangible and digital) and services around those products. The objects we design are aiding in creating the values for the future, hence it is imperative to consider social, cultural and environmental sustainability when designing artefacts. This course covers the process of designing a tangible product, from the lens of sustainability. It covers both the theoretical understanding of design and sustainability combined with practical skills of product design.

The initial part of the course focuses more on theoretical grounding, as it is imperative for students to know what design and product design entails and where it is stemming from (the history). This is the “Understanding” module of the course. Here, the course also focuses on not only the worldwide history of product design, but contextual history as well, ranging from pottery in Mohenjodaro to other cotemporary products and craft designed in the sub-continent and Pakistan. The course also introduces in detail to the students the concept of sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN.

The later modules of the course are more studio-activity based, where students apply the process of designing a sustainable product from scratch. The importance of design research is covered as it is imperative to know the audience the product is being designed for. Then classes are dedicated towards specific skills such as sketching and ideating, prototyping, choosing the right materials etc. This covers the second and third modules of the course, namely, “Exploring” and “Making”.

Peer to peer learning is an important aspect of the course, as each student will be designing a different product (responding to the same brief). There will be reviews at different stages, where students present their work to the rest of the class. Guest lecturers and guest jurors may also be brought in at various stages.

This course aligns with the Playground’s aims of promoting design thinking and human-centered design as well as creative prototyping and making within the students at Habib. .

Conceptual Drawing

This course approaches drawing as an expanded field of experimental and investigative practice. It explores questions about the purpose of drawing beyond a mere representation of the visible world, and about developing drawing practices that allow us to see the unseen, represent movement, time and sound and that explore problems, ask questions, and make interventions. It pushes the boundaries of traditional drawing, and explores it as a process, with poetics and polemics. Through experimental and gestural drawing exercises, students acquaint themselves with the nature of drawing media on a deeper level. The course covers the Conceptual Art movement and the changing role of drawing, with the emergence of new visualization technologies. Drawing practices from various art movements and traditions are explored to provide a more expansive idea of what drawing practice looks like.

Design Thinking for Sustainability



This course provides an introduction to the principles of design thinking and allows an opportunity to deploy these principles to solve a sustainability challenge. Design thinking offers a systematic approach to unleash the innovative and creative forces of individuals in a collaborative space, and applies methodologies of design to solve challenges to the environment and society, while simultaneously providing a more engaged and practical learning opportunity. The course involves a human-centered design process through which students work on a community project throughout the semester. Students spend a significant amount of time observing, listening, analyzing, discussing, reflecting and engaging with their classmates as they design, develop and implement meaningful and innovative projects on sustainability.

Parks & Recreation

Course Description

What comprises a public space? Why are they particularly important in the urban context? What are Karachi’s public spaces? How are they being encroached upon, and by whom? How, and, should they be (re)claimed? This course looks at the history and theory of public spaces, while investigating issues of provision, access, quality and sustainability of public spaces in present-day Karachi. Each week of readings and discussion are alternated with a week of field visits to public spaces throughout the semester, with the aim to understanding their dynamics and on-ground realities.

Introduction to Sustainability

Course Description

This course is designed to introduce essential concepts of sustainability, which is of vital importance, as it seeks to uncover the principles of the long-term survival and welfare of all the inhabitants of our planet. The course is useful both as an introductory class on sustainability and as a useful supplement to specialist courses that review the sustainability dimensions of their areas of study. Students are exposed to concepts of sustainability, sustainable development, and the biogeochemical cycle, as well as the role of the major controls on the Earth’s climate, using concepts like global energy balance, albedo, greenhouse effect and feedback loops. The course identifies human influences on the environment and threats to biodiversity, and explores the causes and effects of anthropogenic climate change.

Illustration: Visualizing the Everyday City

Course Description

Illustrations show, communicate, tell, exemplify, reveal, demonstrate, anticipate, conceal, persuade, and, on occasion, even lie. This studio course consists of a series of discussions, guided exercises and thematically linked group critiques that allow students to touch upon the illustrative skills required for the Everyday City – form, scale, perspective, texture, emotion and intention in a spatial context. Both the early illustrations in cave paintings and the photojournalism and animations of today offer far more than an objective representation of a stable reality. This course inculcates visual, observational, and communicative skill sets and teaches students to translate conceptual thinking using illustrations as a tool to put forward visual and communication solutions. It also cultivates their vision, authorial voice, creative problem-solving abilities, and curiosity while translating ideas into forms.

Food! Food Security, Urban Farming & Appropriate Technology

Course Description

This course aims to make the connection between the politics of environmental conservation; food security; the market and the social determinants of health through a hands on practice based pedagogical approach. This course is taught in a workshop format and includes field visits; designing appropriate technology solutions; composting; making organic pesticides; and sustaining demo plots for urban farming. It aims to inculcate an understanding of the impact of climate change, particularly in rural areas, and explores innovative policies, practices and organizations that promote sustainable livelihoods and environments.

Housing in Karachi

Course Description

Urbanization presents several obstacles in the overall distribution of people, resources and consumption of land. This is particularly relevant in Karachi, where, as a horizontally sprawling city, it is more challenging to handle the rapidly increasing population as well as the negative externalities associated with it. It is fundamental to critically discuss and sensitively identify effective housing strategies and solutions beneficial to Karachi’s context. This course looks at different housing schemes within Karachi and zooms into squatter settlements, slums, etc. Students look at housing projects all over the world, and explore various methods of making self-sufficient and sustainable neighborhoods, and the students get to implement their learnings by identifying a low income neighbourhood and providing a development proposal.