Project time boxing and milestones as drivers for open design projects

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2 Citations (Scopus)


The Curriculums and programs in Problem Based Learning (PBL) utilizes the project-format in a team based setting for rehearsing the competencies of applying the design-oriented skills and knowledge learned in courses and workshops. If the project period is self-organised, there is a tendency to start out with low speed and push the workload forward because the deadline is far out in the future. When approaching deadline the workload intensity increase creating an asymmetric effort over the project period (nine to eleven weeks).
Brainstorming and ideation sessions in a workshop setting use the mechanisms of time boxing to create a sense of urgency that may spark creativity and speed up the process. The time framing adds pressure in the sense that the participants must perform at this instant. At the same time the limited time allows for participants to just let go and focus on the task at hand, because of the facilitated format where ‘disturbances’ are eliminated. If successful the state of creative flow is achieved.
So how can we create a sense of urgency in longer project periods, not just workshop format, that would help a team of design students to engage and drive the project from the start to achieve more and get further in developing their projects? - Without interfering with the content and development of the project it self, but helping the team to move forward and become focused in their project development. This paper discusses the effect from students participating in a time-boxed project module with five milestones for 2nd.MSc semester in an Industrial Design Engineering program.
The project period is broken down into six phases that follow a prediction of the expected process, following the key learning objectives for the project module. The students need to demonstrate the navigate and execute a rapid design and development process where they elicit and identify user needs and transform these into a market description, from which potential key stakeholders can be identified and a design brief created. A concept for a coherent solution is developed, and key aspects are developed further in details including manufacturing, construction and production aspects, always with a clear link to the essential insight into the user needs.
The forecast is contradictory to the unpredictable nature of an open-ended process with multiple iteration, thus it only serves as a guideline, not a strict and fixed format. The content of a Milestone that describes the expected outcome and current state of the knowledge build in the project at the current stage. The project is pitched and presented at the end of each phase
The semester evaluation, the process reports and supervisor perspective is very positive and that the structure, strict enforcement and rolling project management responsibility in a group work setting really helps them drive the project forward with high motivation. The main challenge lies in the balance between loading the teams with too many challenges and just providing them with enough structure to create the sense of urgency that fuels motivation and sparks ideas.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGreat Expectations: Design Teaching, Research & Enterprise : Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education
EditorsGuy Bingham, Darren Southee, John McCardle, Ahmed Kovacevic, Erik Bohemia, Brian Parkinson
Number of pages6
PublisherDesign Society
Publication date3 Sep 2015
ISBN (Print)978-1-904670-62-9
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sep 2015
EventThe 17th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education: Great Expectations: Design Teaching, Research & Enterprise - Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Sep 20154 Sep 2015


ConferenceThe 17th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education
LocationLoughborough University
CountryUnited Kingdom



  • Milestones
  • time boxing
  • sense of urgency
  • open projects
  • PBL

Cite this

Tollestrup, C. H. T. (2015). Project time boxing and milestones as drivers for open design projects. In G. Bingham, D. Southee, J. McCardle, A. Kovacevic, E. Bohemia, & B. Parkinson (Eds.), Great Expectations: Design Teaching, Research & Enterprise: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (pp. 506-511). Design Society.