Document Type

Conference Paper

Version Deposited

Published Version

Publication Date


Conference Name

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


The adoption of canvas tools in entrepreneurship and design education is increasing. The Business Model Canvas (BMC), perhaps one of the best-known canvas tools, is the key element of the Lean LaunchPad methodology – a widely utilized approach to business model development. Importantly, using canvases like the BMC supports student learning through a data-driven and iterative process that actively engages students. Another benefit of the canvas approach in an educational setting is they can be used in a preliminary or conceptual design phase, where students can begin to identify and make associations among the key themes of the more complete underlying models used to represent the physical system being envisioned and developed. Because of these benefits, the use of the canvases has led to the development of other canvases with some expressly created for design courses in engineering education settings. A model-based approach for understanding and developing canvases has recently been developed and presented. This approach notes that canvases are high level representations of underlying complex systems. As alluded to above, these complex systems can be business models, but they can also be products, devices, or manufacturing and delivery systems. Briefly, a canvas is constructed by selecting the key themes of systems models that represent the underlying physical systems. Through this representation, canvases can be developed or characterized by identifying and illustrating 1) the underlying system being conceptualized, 2) the model used to represent the system, and 3) the themes selected from the model to be placed on the canvas. Despite these benefits and new approaches to developing canvases, many of the canvases currently being used are better suited for use by experienced and sophisticated users and may be too complex for use by students in underclass or first-year design courses. Using the model based approach described above, a process for developing a canvas for a first-year design course is illustrated in this paper. The process enables an instructor to develop a canvas for their course by examining the learning objectives for the course and identifying the key themes of their learning system and content. Finally, we utilize this process to propose a canvas for a first-year design course.


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