The paper describes and analyses a learning activity conducted on the first day of an undergraduate programme in industrial design. The exercise is intended to induct students and to bring to the fore a number of key messages at a time when students tend to be overwhelmed with their new experience as undergraduates. The activity was evaluated via direct observation by staff, student feedback at the debrief, a questionnaire on individual student responses to a number of issues in relation to their perceived value and difficulty and peer evaluation of outcomes using criteria identified by the student group. The activity is analysed to establish the principles used to overcome other distractions and ensure key messages are internalised by students. The principles centre on novelty effects and use simulation, group working, an outdoor context away from the university and a whole working day rather than more conventional time-table structures. Staff are able to base immediate post-activity group discussion on the shared experience and so focus on the key messages: the nature of design activity, group based design, modelling as a concept, decision making, giving presentations, self evaluation and assessment. The paper, whilst descriptive of one event only, has relevance to colleagues involved with teaching on design based courses.