course syllabus pdf

The goal of this course is to engage you in the integrated reality of the professional design world through a semester-long project. You will explore three interrelated aspects of professional design practice on a semester-long team project (i.e., design methods, design research, communication). Design for Interaction are highly dynamic and collaborative activities that require a wide range of skills, knowledge, and attitudes.

In this course you will:

  • Collaborate with a team of design professionals, academics, and generally smart people to explore the theme “The Future of Learning, Teaching, and Education” as described in the design brief.
  • Integrate rigorous design process and design research.
  • Conduct exploratory, generative and evaluative research, throughout the design process.
  • Use the Heuristic Design Framework to inform your design process.
  • Situate your design exploration within a broader context that incorporates the challenges of a sustainable world by 2050.
  • Explore the pathways and forces that are likely to shape the future.
  • Create design artifacts that demonstrate your understanding of a five-stage design process: (a) definition, (b) discovery, (c) concept, (d) refinement, and (e) reflecting and communicating your design results.
  • For each step of the design process, you will demonstrate mastery of design methods, design research, and project communication.
  • Learn prototyping methods and then leverage evaluation methods to identify and refine grounded and innovative solutions.
  • Work and learn from and with each other, in small teams, and as an entire class.

Typically, people use designed products to get something done, achieve a goal, or achieve lofty goals like transforming one’s life. The designer’s role in developing interactive products, services, and opportunity for transformations is to create the potential for their ‘doing’ in the most appropriate manner possible. You cannot actually design someone’s experience (or transformation for that matter) but you can create resources (artifacts, constructs, dialogs, and systems) that will facilitate their interactions and processes. Services are created with the participation of the customer; likewise, transformations require user engagement and prolonged participation.

In this course, teams develop resources that resonate with their chosen audience and help them achieve their goals. Success will come through the combination of doing your design process and research correctly (applying best practices in your design process and integrating design research appropriately throughout your design process), and creating the correct thing for the audience (e.g., developing a product / service / experience / transformation that people want to engage with).

4. Approach

In the first weeks of the semester, we’ll analyze the design problem. You will be placed in interdisciplinary teams to design and perform user research, identify product opportunity areas, generate concepts, rough prototypes and walk through scenarios of use, refine your concepts, prototype and communicate a final solution. The final deliverables will be produced in accordance with feedback. Each team will be required to produce a short presentation in addition to the artifacts of the process such as research findings and iterative rounds of prototypes.

We’ll divide the project | course into five sub-projects or stages, as follows:

Jan 17 – 24 (7 days)
Stage 1 territory definition

During this initial week, the class explores ideas about the context, the users and the technologies that might be used to support the interaction. Based on common interests expressed, teams will be assigned.

The point is to develop a going-in map of the territory that is shared by your team and to explore what kind of research you’ll need to conduct in the next stage. It is an exercise to help you make explicit what you don’t know—not lock you into a design direction. It is also an exercise in teambuilding—for you to identify team member’s strengths and potential roles going forward.

What will it take to make people go—Wow, that’s wonderful? Can we find new ways to ‘go through’ the technology and bring the experience to the foreground?

At the end of this seven-day assignment, your deliverable will be a presentation that details your plan for your exploratory research (with examples) and a territory map and project definition that illustrates your current understanding of what you are working on.

Please be as specific and brave with your ideas. Your goal for each presentation is to learn as much as possible. Being vague or timid makes it very difficult  to understand what you are suggesting and respond in a way that informs you. From a design perspective, it is much better to propose a strong idea that creates a strong response than a vague idea that needs more focus and detail and people ask you for more detail. Your job is to create materials and ideas that will create a response so that you know what to do next (or conversely what to avoid next time).

Jan 25-Feb 14 (22 days)
Stage 2 discovery and exploratory research synthesis

The class will work in teams to conduct their research according to the plan developed in stage 1. Each team will be expected to conduct immersive field research.

  • You’ll explore alternative contexts or situations.
  • You’ll live in other people’s shoes.
  • We will discuss a range of possible alternatives in class.
  • At the same time, you’ll need to understand the technologies, materials and solutions companies like Microsoft see on the 3 to 7-year horizon.
  • You’ll understand peer and competitive systems.
  • You will look at lifestyle trends. For example, Pepsi’s Social Vending Machine lets people “gift” a drink to a friend and the option to record a video message; the receiver redeems the gift at a vending machine with an SMS code. Are there other lifestyle trends just as surprising?
  • Your next step will be to frame the areas of product opportunity from a mapping of your research findings. Then, based on your findings, you will develop a set of design implications or framework that will drive your development going forward.

At the end of stage 2, your deliverable will be a short presentation summarizing your research and highlights of specific important details as well as a set of design implications or framework. In short, you will suggest based on what you learned what you learned and propose how to use such insights to inform your design space. You’ll present these findings and your implications.

Feb 15-March 7 (22 days)
Stage 3 concept and generative research—developing breakthrough ideas

Building on the results of stage 2, teams develop a wide range of concepts that respond to your design implications or framework. Teams will explore a variety of break-out development techniques. Personas, scenarios, and sketches will drive your prototyping activity. In addition, you’ll be conducting more generative research during this stage where you can engage your audience in collaborative design experiences. Each team will communicate their ideas through prototypes shared through a series of critiques for class discussion and at the end of stage 3, select one direction for further refinement.

At the end of stage 3, your deliverable will be the user-centered concept direction that your team will refine, evaluate, and document through your prototypes and presentation.

March 8- April 16 (28 days taking spring break off)
Stage 4 refine and evaluative research

Building on the concept developed in stage 3, you will revise and improve the first iteration of the final product concept. “Expert” interviews, paper prototypes and other forms of evaluating the product/service will be conducted with your concepts and real users.

The deliverables from stage 4 are the refinements to your design concept and documentation of the evaluative research you conducted.

April 17-May 9 – 24 days
Stage 5 reflect and communicate

Your team will summarize the project process, the product vision, and provide an overview of the experience, using models, digital prototypes, and scenarios of use.

The deliverables from stage 5 are a product|project brief, an emotional piece that communicates the essence of experience with your product/service and/or demo and the delivery of your short presentation to faculty, the guests, and peers.

  1. Ongoing documentation on the course blog

Team reflection and process. Each team will be expected to document their work in progress on a class blog website or a team blog week. This site will keep your team up to date, provide our sponsors with a view into your progress, and serve as ongoing fodder for your project documentation. Please post a link to your project blog here:

Team process documentation should explain to people outside of your team what it is your team is working on. What decisions have you made and why? What is your plan forward? What research are you doing? What is the synthesis of the research? Pictures of whiteboarding sessions, pictures of team outings, pictures of research sessions, prototypes, etc.

You are expected to document your own design reflections and team process in this course.

Each student is expected to keep a personal blog reflection space on the course blog. If you prefer to use Tumblr or another online platform, please post a link to your reflection space to the course blog under your personal page under the people page.

Personal Reflections. Each designer is expected to document their ongoing reflections on their design process. Some questions that inform your personal reflections on course readings and your experience as a designer include the design agility metacognition framework.

Design agility requires two components: mastery and meta-cognitive processes. Design mastery is present when one demonstrates a high level of competence in a particular area, while heightened awareness and deeper thinking about design in a broad sense indicate an affinity for metacognitive knowledge, regulation, and experience (Flavel 1979).

  • Meta-cognitive knowledge entails three kinds of knowledge:
    • declarative knowledge (know-what; e.g., can articulate knowledge within a domain)
    • procedural knowledge (know-how; e.g., can articulate processes within a domain)
    • conditional knowledge (know when; e.g., when to apply knowledge and procedures).
  • Meta-cognitive regulation involves three skills:
    • planning and strategy (what is your plan, what are the milestones, how are you implementing it?).
    • monitoring performance (how are you doing?)
    • evaluating the products and efficiency of a task (how effective was your design, how efficient was your process?).
  • Meta-cognitive experiences regard three aspects:
    • maintaining motivation (how motivated were you throughout the project? how did you keep yourself motivated through difficult moments).
    • monitoring both internal and external distractions (what internal distractions did you battle? What external distractions did you face?)
    • sustaining effort over time (how did you sustain effort over time? what strategies and tactics were most effective for you?).

Design mastery without metacognition limits the potential of designers in dynamically changing environments where design agility is necessary. In short – agile designers reflect on their practice and can apply what they know to disparate domains through their metacognitive abilities, i.e. knowing about knowing. Craft is linked to design mastery. Metacognition allows design masters to interact with and collaborate with people outside of their domain of expertise on complex problems that require multiple expertise.