In this class I'll teach you how to think like a designer. You'll learn what designers do, how they do it, and how to do some of the things they do. We'll focus on the design of user interfaces and information systems. By the end of the course you won't be a great designer, but you'll learn what you need to practice to become a great designer. This will empower you to learn more about design by engaging more deeply in the Puget Sound UX design community.
The structure of this course is simple:
Sound good? Let's get started!
I'm available to talk about jobs, careers, graduate school, research, class, and anything else. My office hours this quarter are Wednesdays 3:30-4:30, right after class, though occasionally I need to schedule things over it. To guarantee I'll be around, write me in advance to secure a time.
We will use smartphones and laptops throughout the quarter to facilitate activities and project work in-class. However, research and student feedback clearly shows that using devices on non-class related activities not only harms your own learning, but other students' learning as well. Therefore, I only allow device usage during activities that require devices. At all other times, you should not be using your device. I'll help you remember this by announcing when to bring devices out and when to put them away.
|Week 1 — Introductions|
|Week 2 — Design|
|Week 3 — User Research|
|Week 4 — Ideation and Prototyping|
|Week 5 — User Interfaces and Critique|
|Week 6 — Evaluation|
|Week 7 — Define your Problem|
|Week 8 — Build Your Low-Fidelity Prototype|
|Week 9 — Build Your High-Fidelity Prototype|
|Week 10 — Make Your Video Prototype|
|3/13, time 6 pm|
|3/15, time 6 pm|
There are 100 points you can earn in this class:
After mathematically rounding your points to the nearest point, I'll map your points to a 4.0 scale using the table below.
Note that 70% of your grade is individual and 30% is team. If you do perfectly on the individual parts of the class and contribute nothing to the project, you can't pass the class. So be a good design partner!
Late work receives no credit. There are some exceptions:
Each day in class we'll practice some skill. You'll get 1 point if you engage in and complete the activity. How to get credit for the activity will depend on the activity; sometimes being present will be enough, sometimes being to class on time will be enough, and sometimes you'll have to turn something in. Because there aren't exactly 30 class periods in class, the total number of points you receive will be scaled to 30 points as follows:
(30 x (# activity points earned) / (# of activity points possible)).
Readings are due twice a week, and each time, involve reading two things: 1) the chapter I wrote and 2) something related to the chapter I wrote, selected from links in my chapter, or from anything else in the world (but you have to find it).
The day that each reading is due, we'll do the following:
If your answer is correct, you'll receive 1 point. I will give partial credit for partially correct answers, at my discretion.
Your selected reading assignment is your choice. Before class, read one of the articles linked in the reading or choosing something design-related book, blog post, magazine article, newspaper article, or online video that that is relevant to the topic of the chapter. If you choose a book, it's okay to just read the first chapter of the book. For your additional 1 point of reading credit, submit to Canvas a summary of no more than 500 words that:
In class, after we discuss the assigned reading, we will:
The midterm will be the same exam that I gave you on the first day of class. It will cover every topic in the assigned readings and every skill practiced in class. The midterm score will not be curved or scaled; however, any questions that more than 80% of students in the class get wrong will be excluded from the final score as they were likely confusing or concerned material that I poorly taught.
The purpose of the midterm is to find out what you know, not to penalize you for not knowing something. To this end, for every question you get wrong on the midterm, you can earn half the credit you lost by submitting to Canvas, for each problem:
If your explanation is correct, you'll receive half of your points back. You'll submit these on Canvas no later than 2 weeks after the midterm.
When choosing a problem to solve, it's temping to choose something incremental and familiar. Make a better Facebook. Make choosing dinner easier. Fine-tune students' task management. While these are all worthwhile problems, they all tackle relatively minor inconveniences. This quarter, I want you to tackle big, wicked problems with simple designs.
Therefore, the project theme for this quarter is:
That's a big phrase, but it actually refers to something quite simple: sometimes, our institutions are built in a way that leads some people in society have unequal status, opportunities, and resources. Some structural inequalities are just unintended side effects of society evolving over time (e.g., English is the single dominant language in America, which creates barriers for non-English speakers). Other structural inequalities are intentional (e.g., creating a law that prohibits public signs from being in languages other than English).
Because this is a class about the design of information, information technology, and information systems, we'll be focusing on structural inequalities that arise from information gaps. Here are some examples of information gaps, and how they result in structural inequalities:
For the project, you will form a team two or three classmates and:
This process has elements of human-centered design (in that it studies problems to inform design).
What counts as good design? Anything that actually addresses the problem your classmate has is acceptable. As I've noted, I think good design is relative to values, so make your values explicit, perhaps adopting the values that your classmate expresses about what would make a good design to them.
As part of creating the specification and video prototypes below, you'll need to create high-fidelity prototypes of your designs. If you're doing screen-based user interface design, I recommend using some combination the following tools, which are based on decades of HCI research on rapid prototyping:
You shouldn't have to use advanced graphic design tools like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, or Experience Design in this class. If you already know them, feel free to use them, but they have learning curves that are a bit too high to excel with them. That said, if you want a challenge, find someone who can tutor you and dive in!
The point of a design specification is to document all of the decisions you've made about your design, from the high level details about the problem it is solving and how, to the low level details about fonts, colors, and layout. Your audience for a design specification is an engineer whose job it is to build your design. A great specification is unambiguous and carefully argued so that the engineer knows exactly what to make, doesn't have to do any design themselves, and doesn't decide to change any of your design choices.
Here are two examples of specifications that scored higher than a 90%:
Both are simple, clear, concise, and well-argued.
Your design specification must have the following sections:
Throughout, you should include annotated mockups of all of the screens in your design, where appropriate for clarity.
Your specification must satisfy the following formatting constraints:
Write your specification in Google Docs. This simplifies obtaining feedback from peers and from the TA and I.
Your specifications are worth 20 points. We will grade your specifications by deducting a certain number of points for flaws that detract from the completeness, clarity, and convincing qualities of your specification (the words in caps are the shorthand we'll use in final grading):
|-0.5 points||LOGIC||Illogical claim.|
|-0.5 points||SUPPORT||Unsubstantiated claim. Cite research, critique a design critique, or describe user research.|
|-0.5 points||PRIOR||Overlooked existing solution to problem.|
|-0.5 points||DETAIL||Missing detail that engineer would have to design.|
|-0.5 points||AMBIGUITY||Ambiguous design detail.|
|-0.5 points||REASON||Missing or unconvincing rationale for a design detail.|
|-0.5 points||LIMITATION||Missing limitation in design.|
|-0.25 points||ORGANIZATION||Content that can't be understood without reading later parts of the document.|
|-0.25 points||CLUTTER||Visual design clutter in mockup.|
|-0.25 points||TYPO||Spelling or grammar issues.|
|-0.25 points||REDUNDANT||Repetitive content.|
|-0.25 points||LAYOUT||Cluttered document formatting.|
|-0.25 points||FORMAT||Violation of a formatting rule.|
This will be a team grade. I expect your effort to be comparable, but your contributions to be complementary. If for some reason you feel that it should not be a team grade—because efforts were not comparable—you can write me a statement of 500 words or fewer providing background on why a team grade would not be fair. This statement is due at the same time as the specification and should be sent to me via email. If you submit such a statement, I will immediately reach out to your teammate for their response to your statement, to make sure that the grades we do assign accurately reflect contributions.
Any design process, including the design of a document, requires feedback to achieve excellence. There are three ways you can get feedback on your design specification:
Video prototypes use the magic of editing to help someone else understand the problem you are solving and see how your solution would solve it.
The video you upload must be:
Here are several examples of solid video prototypes that clearly convey a problem and solution through a concrete narrative. Note that none of these are framed as advertisements or product walkthroughs. They all focus on a person's problem and how the design helped them address their problem:
We'll grade your team's video as follows:
|2 points||Problem clarity||2 points for a problem that is concretely illustrated|
1 point for a problem that is abstractly illustrated
0 points for a problem that is not illustrated at all
|2 points||Motive realism||2 points for character actions with entirely plausible motives|
1 point for some actions with unclear motivation
0 points for character actions that were almost entirely unrealistic
|2 points||Solution clarity||2 points for no ambiguity about how the solution addresses the problem|
1 point for some clarity about how the solution helps, but some ambiguities
0 points for solution that has no apparent relationship to the problem.
|2 points||Seamless A/V||2 points for flawless A/V that supported communication|
1 point for some A/V issues that disengaged the viewer0 points for a video so full of A/V issues it was hard to focus on the story.
|2 points||Length||0 points for videos over 3 minutes in length.|
To inform the grade we choose, you'll fill out a peer evaluation survey, evaluating each of the videos submitted to class (including your own!). If you don't fill out the survey, you'll get 0 points for your video score. You'll have 48 hours after the video submission deadline to view and evaluate your classmates videos.
This will be a team grade. I expect your effort to be comparable, but your contributions to be complementary. If for some reason you feel that it should not be a team grade—because efforts were not comparable—you can write me a statement of <500 words or fewer providing background on why a team grade would not be fair. This statement is due at the same time as the video and should be sent to me via email. If you submit such a statement, I will immediately reach out to your teammate for their response to your statement, to make sure that the grades we do assign accurately reflect contributions.