Interaction Design Studio

05-650 A
Steven Dow
T/Th 9-11:50p
GHC 4301
Beka Gulotta


05-650 B
Haakon Faste
M/W 1:30-4:20p
GHC 4301


05-650 C
Haakon Faste
M/W 4:30-7:20p
GHC 4301

Designers give form to products, to communication, to services, and to environments. Interaction designers give form to the behavior of products and services. Their expertise is in conceiving of a world of actions, and they work with narrative to help them explore and refine what the behaviors can and should be. In this course we will approach interaction design from the perspective of user-centered design. Students will follow a three-step design process:

1. Exploratory Phase: Investigate the needs of a target set of users and relevant stakeholders. Synthesize findings to produce a set of design insights, implications, and opportunities.
2. Generative Phase: Investigate the solution space by ideating many possible preferred futures working with the narrative as a design material. Reframe the problem you are trying to solve with each new idea.
3. Refinement Phase: Select the best problem framing and systematically refine the concept into a detailed design. Prepare design for transfer to next stakeholder in the product development process.

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Conduct a rapid needfinding investigation with a target set of users and relevant stakeholder to identify relevant processes, needs, desires, and fears to guide their design.
  • Synthesize research findings into a set of design insights, implications, and opportunities using diagramming, personas, and mood boards.
  • Ideate many possible preferred states and problem framings using scenario-based design.
  • Conduct a speed dating session using needs validation to re-assess what needs are best fulfilled.
  • Generate wireframes to investigate the navigation and task-flow of a screen-based design.
  • Refine the look and feel of a screen-based design including the design of animated transitions.
  • Produce a video sketch that effectively communicates the interaction design of a proposed UbiComp system.
  • Document a screen-based design including the visual design, detailed widget behaviors, design rationale, and design language in support of software development and system extensibility.
  • Present design work at different stages of evolution and to different audiences; from reports on progress to internal teammates to pitches intended to get financial commitment from clients.
  • Confidently guide an interaction design project from exploratory, through generative, through refinement and communication.
  • Work effectively as a member of a design team to bring out the best quality work from your teammates. Be a responsible team player who is aware of their individual strengths and can collaborate effectively on team-based projects.

This is a studio/seminar class with time devoted to lecture, discussion, practice activities, design work sessions, and criticism of student work. The class consists of the following three projects.

Project 1: Control
Students will design a new control that greatly improves the interaction of a selected product.

Design Issues:
  • Selection of a problem worth solving (problem framing)
  • Advance the state of the art
  • Static communication of design idea
  • Mounted single page poster that communicates the design solution
  • The deliverable file for Project 1, uploaded to the class dropbox

Project 2: Mobile App
Students will design an information service for use on a mobile phone. This project will take students through an entire design process and address issues of communicating design ideas and delivery of a visual design for software development.

Design Issues:
  • Match between user and stakeholder needs and desires and the importance of the mobile context (problem framing)
  • Use of scenarios and personas to investigate a design space
  • Challenges of resolving interaction and transitions on a small screens
  • Design insights, implications and opportunities from user/stakeholder research
  • Persona
  • Wireframes and navigational flow
  • Refined visual design including animated transitions
  • Design documentation specifying interaction flows for key scenarios, visual description, design rationale, and detailed rules for user actions based on mode/state.
  • Pitch to management that makes a case for advancing this design from concept to development
  • All process and deliverable files for Project 2, uploaded to the class dropbox

Project 3: UbiComp System
Students will identify a product opportunity for a target set of users and conceive of a novel ubicomp system that meets their needs and that advances beyond GUI style interaction.

Design Issues:
  • Discovery of a problem/opportunity worth solving
  • Conceiving of interaction in a design space well beyond current interaction design conventions
  • Communication of a design concept via video
  • Design insights, implications and opportunities from user/stakeholder research
  • Evidence of synthesis
  • Evidence of ideation (50+ concepts)
  • Materials used for and results of speed dating using needs validation
  • Finalized UbiComp design including a description of the interaction, evidence that it is technically possible, and rationale for design choices
  • Video sketch documenting the concept and the user experience
  • Pitch to management for seed funding to further investigate the viability of this design concept.
  • All process and deliverable files for Project 3, uploaded to the class dropbox

Grading guidelines:

Project 1
Project 2
Project 3
Class Participation

Class Participation
Students are expected to attend class, arrive on time, participate effectively on a team, and offer comments on readings. Most critically, students are expected to offer criticism of their classmates’ work that helps the design team improve their design. If students need to miss a class, they should email the instructor ahead of time and be sure to inform their teammates they will not be attending.

Rules of the Road
No student may record or tape any classroom activity without the instructor’s express written consent. If a student believes that he/she is disabled and needs to record or tape classroom activities, he/she should contact the Office of Disability Resources to request an appropriate accommodation.

Students need to respect the time and efforts of their classmates. When student teams are presenting their work, it is expected that everyone’s laptop will be closed, phone will be off, and that all students will be giving their full attention to their classmates.

In the land of design consultancies, designers never have enough time or resources to do their work. If you feel a bit overwhelmed by the pace of the class and the amount of worked assigned, then you are right where we want you. A big part of this class is to gain a visceral feeling for what designers experience everyday. We want to you to work fast and to bring an attitude of play and playfulness to your design actions. The more you make the work fun, the better the design work you will produce.

Readings are available as a downloadable file or a link. If for some reason a link fails, please search for the article using Goolge Scholar. You will need to be on campus or running VPN to download most of the linked files.

This course has many articles. To cut down on the amount of individual reading we are using reading groups, teams of 2 students who will read and present the material to the class. The group readings are marked in the syllabus and each student will be assigned to a group. Each group should prepare a few slides and be prepared to present the material to the class.

Group reading presentations should:
  • NEVER be more than 5 minutes.
  • NOT be a summary of the material. Instead, presenting teams need to identify key issues relevant to the current design assignment and communicate these in a way that makes the information operational.
  • Detail who the author is and why they are writing this article; detail the author’s goal.
  • Provide students with an opportunity to critically disagree with an author. When presenting the work, you can state your disagreement.

Individual and group work
A1 is an individual assignment. A2 and A3 will be in groups assigned by the instructor.

Team grading
At the end of each project, students will be asked to evaluate their own and their teammates performance. These evaluations can influence a grade by up to 10%.

Deadlines manage the process for any organization. Students are expected to post all assignments on time. For each day late, the student’s grade will be reduced by 10%.

One of the main learning exercises in this course is the design critique. The goal of design critiques is to learn to present design work, learn to view design work, and engage in a critical conversation. To participate in a design critique, one must pay attention to what is being presented, and verbalize questions and comments. We will be building this skill throughout the semester with zip.crits, in-progress critiques, and final critiques. Assignments are critiqued in process and with a final critique. For all final critiques the following rules will be enforced.
  • Be there: Project 1, Project 2, and Project 3 critique days are mandatory attendance. Please do not book a plane ticket home that does not allow you to attend Project 3’s final critique.
  • Be respectful: Please close all laptops and put away all tablets and mobile phones. Give the attention to your classmates you expect them to give to you and your work. Everyone is expected to participate in the discussion.

Most classes will begin with a zip.crit. A zip.crit is a rapid critique of an interface, object, design, environment etc. Each person in the class is assigned to lead one zip.crit. The presenter posts a picture, brief description and if available a link to the item before class onto the zip.crit discussion group. At the beginning of class that person will introduce the object, interface, design to the class. The class will critique the piece until 5 pro and 5 con arguments have been raised. The presenter then adds the pro/con list to the zip.crit discussion list. The goal of the zip.crits is to integrate common designerly behaviors (e.g., noticing and commenting on interaction design in the world) into the classroom.


January 14/15

Lecture: Course Introduction and things you love, things you hate

Assignment: Bring an interactive product you love and an interactive product you hate to class.

Class Activities:
  • Introduce class and set goals for the semester.
  • Discuss example products students bring to class.
  • Assign readings and Project 1.

January 16/17

Lecture: Controls, context, and expression of intent


[ALL] Konrad Baumann (2001): Controls. In Konrad Baumann and Bruce Thomas (eds.) User Interface Design for Electronic Appliances. Taylor and Francis. 131-161.

[ALL] Don Norman (1988): The Design of Everyday Things. (From Chapter 4) The Problem with Doors. 87-92.

[ALL] Tom Djajadiningrat, Kees Overbeeke, Stephan Wensveen. (2002). But how, Donald, tell us how?: On the creation of meaning in interaction design through feedforward and inherent feedback. Proceedings of DIS 2002.

Class Activities:
  • Discuss readings: controls, feedforward, feedback, affordance.
  • Discuss project 1 and strategy.
  • Elevator design exercise.

January 21/22

FINAL CRITIQUE: Present control designs

Note: January 21st is Martin Luther King Day and classes are canceled, so the critique for sections B and C will take place on Wednesday, January 23rd.

Assignment: Bring boards with control designs. Be prepared to discuss both your classmates designs based on the grading criteria.

Class Activities:
  • Critique each others’ control redesigns.
  • Assign readings and project 2.

January 23/24

Lecture: Personas and scenarios

In class: reading discussion, activities on analyzing social media and interviewing


[ALL] Tom Erickson (1995): Notes on Design Practice: Stories and Prototypes as a Catalyst for Communication. In John M. Carroll (eds.) Scenario Based Design. Wiley and Sons: 37-58.

[Grp A] John Carroll (2000): Chapter 3: Scenario-based design. Making Use: Scenario-based design of human-computer interactions. MIT Press.

[ALL] Alan Cooper and Robert Reimann (2003): Chapter 5: Modeling Users: Personas and Goals. About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design. Wiley: 55-74.

[Grp B] Jonathon Grudin, John Pruitt (2002): Personas, Participatory Design and Product Development: An Infrastructure for Engagement. Proceedings of PDC. 144-161.

[ALL] Patnaik, D. & Becker, R. (1999). Needfinding: The why and how of uncovering people’s needs. Design Management Journal, 10(2), 37–43.

[ALL] Kolko, J. (2011). Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner's Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis. Oxford University Press.

[Grp C] Bill Buxton (2007): Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design. Morgan Kaufmann—Selected section.

[Grp D] Schön, D., Bennett, J. (1996): Reflective Conversation with Materials. Bringing Design to Software. ACM Press, New York, NY, USA.

Class Activities:
  • Discuss personas and design process of synthesis.
  • Reading group presentations.
  • Discuss project 2: mobile.
  • Form project teams based on skillsets.

January 28/29

INTERIM CRITIQUE: Research findings

Class Activities:
  • Each team shares a 15-minute presentation on what they have learned about their target user group and context(s) of use. Presentations should include rationale for choice of target, overall research plan, and findings based on initial actions. Teams should all have a preliminary name for their project.
  • Assign readings.

January 30/31

Lecture: Working with wireframes


[ALL] Holtzblatt, K. Customer-Centered Design for Mobile Applications. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 9, 4 (2005), 227-237.

[ALL] Brown, Dan. (2007). Wireframes, Chapter 10, in Communicating Design. New Riders, Berkeley, CA. pp 265-310.

[ALL] Suzanne Ginsburg (2011). Designing the iPhone User Experience: A User-Centered Approach to Sketching and Prototyping iPhone Apps. Chapter 6 : Exploring App Concepts and Chapter 7: Prototyping App Concepts.

iOS Human Interface Guidelines
iOS Human Interface Guidelines from the iOS Developer Library

Other useful iPhone prototyping links and tools and another tutorial can be found here:
21 Prototyping, Mockup, and Wireframing Tools for iPhone App Development Touch Application Prototypes

Class Activities:

  • Discuss readings
  • Demo of how to wireframe with scenarios
  • Work session: teams work on personas and wireframes


February 4/5

INTERIM CRITIQUE: personas and scenarios

Class Activity:
Teams present their research findings and preliminary personas and preliminary scenarios of use. Personas need a rationale. Why are these the right personas based on your research findings and on your insights for what would motivate developers/managers. Scenarios need to include triggering events, description of action, and outcome from experience of use.

February 6/7

Work Session

Class Activities:
  • Teams prepare their materials for upcoming paper prototyping session.
  • Assign readings.

February 11/12

Lecture: Design languages and think alouds


[ALL] Rheinfrank, J. and Evenson, S. Interaction Design Language. In Bringing Software to Design. T. Winograd (eds). ACM Press, 1996, 63-85.

[ALL] Skim the following to understand the difference between design languages and design patterns.

Design Patterns:
Welie Pattern Library
Designing Interfaces Patterns

Design Languages:
Snow White Design Language
Global Visual Language

Class Activities:
  • Discuss design languages and extensibility, and view examples.
  • Teams perform rapid think aloud tests on their wireframes with classmates.

February 13/14

Lecture: Animated Transitions

Class Activities:
  • Lecture: animation and transitions.
  • Work session.

February 18/19


Class Activity:
Teams present their improved wireframes, preliminary design languages, and ideas for how they will employ animated transitions.

February 20/21

Lecture: The Pitch

Class Activities:
Lecture on how to pitch a design, work session.

February 25/26

Lecture: Design Specifications

Class Activities:
  • Lecture: interaction design specifications.
  • Work session.

February 27/28


Class Activity:
Teams practice their project pitch, and class critiques details of the design.

March 4/5

Work Session

Class Activity:
Work session.

March 6/7

FINAL CRITIQUE: Present Mobile Designs

Class Activities:
  • Critique each others’ mobile application designs
  • Assign readings to complete during Spring break.

March 11

Spring Break

March 15

Spring Break


March 18/19

Lecture: Smart Environments


[ALL] Djajadiningrat, J.P., Gaver, W.W., Frens, J.W. (2000). Interaction Relabelling and Extreme Characters: Methods for Exploring Aesthetic Interactions. Proceedings of DIS 2000.

[ALL] Gaver, W. W., Bowers, J., Boucher, A., Gellerson, H., Pennington, S., Schmidt, A., Steed, A., Villars, N. and Walker, B. The Drift Table: Designing for Ludic Engagement. Extended Abstracts of CHI, 2004, 885-900.

[Grp E] Barry Brown, Alex S. Taylor, Shahram Izadi, Abigail Sellen Joseph ‘Jofish’ Kaye, and Rachel Eardley (2007): Locating Family Value: A field trial of the WhereAbouts clock. In Proceedings of UbiComp. Springer: 885-900.

[Grp F] Tolmie, P., Pycock, J., Diggins, T., MacLean, A. and Karsenty, A. Unremarkable Computing. Proc. CHI, 2002, 399-406.

Class Activities:

  • Discussion: what is UbiComp and why is this an IxD design challenge?
  • Discuss Project three and process: bodystorming, speed dating, and video sketches.
  • Form teams and have each team choose a topic.
  • Hand out Project 3

March 20/21

Lecture: Extreme Users

Class Activity:
Work session. Teams identify and interview 4-6 “extreme users” and begin research and synthesis for next week’s interim critique.

March 25/26

INTERIM CRITIQUE: Research Findings

Class Activities:
  • Each team shares a 15-minute presentation on what they have learned about their target user group and problem space. Presentations should include a plan for rapidly completing the upfront research and transition into making.
  • Assign readings.

March 27/28

Lecture: Generative Design Research


[ALL] Davidoff, Scott, Anind Dey, and John Zimmerman (2007): Rapidly Exploring Application Design through Speed Dating. Proc. Ubicomp, Springer: 429-446.

[Grp G] Stacey Kuznetsov, William Odom, James Pierce, Eric Paulos. (2011). Nurturing natural sensors. Proceedings of the 13th international conference on Ubiquitous computing, September 17-21, 2011.

[Grp H] C. A. Le Dantec. Participation and Publics: Supporting Community Engagement. In CHI ’12: Proceedings of the 2012 ACM annual conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pages 1351–1360, New York, NY, USA, 2012. ACM.

[Grp I] Mynatt, E.D., Rowan, J., Jacobs, A.& Craighill,S. (2001) “Digital Family Portraits: Supporting Peace of Mind for Extended Family Members.” Proc. Conf, UBICOMP, ACM Press, 2004.

[Grp J] Mueller, F., Edge, D., Vetere, F., Gibbs, M. R., Agamanolis, S., Bongers, B., & Sheridan, J. G. (2011). Designing Sports: A Framework for Exertion Games. In CHI '11: Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Vancouver, Canada.

[Grp K] Wyche, S.P., Caine, K.E., Davison, B.K., Patel, S.N., Arteaga, M., and Grinter, R.E. (2009). Sacred Imagery in Techno-Spiritual Design. (CHI '09).

Class Activities:

  • Discuss readings
  • Discuss process of clustering, drawing out themes
  • Lecture on how to speed date, and on details of a good storyboard
  • Work session to reframe and to generate concepts

April 1/2

Lecture: Speed Dating and Needs Validation

Class Activity:
Work on prepping speed dating materials.

April 3/4

INTERIM CRITIQUE: Speed Dating Materials

Class Activities:
  • Each team shares a 15-minute presentation where they discuss the key issues they wish to investigate, a subset of their storyboards, and their plan for holding sessions.
  • Lecture on how to make a video sketch, and examples from previous years.

April 8/9

INTERIM CRITIQUE: Speed Dating Findings

Class Activity:
Each team shares a 15-minute presentation where they discuss what they learned during speed dating and what they think their final design will be.

April 10/11

Work Session

Class Activity:
Work on prepping script and storyboard

April 15/16

INTERIM CRITIQUE: Script and Storyboard

Class Activity:
Each team shares a 15-minute presentation where they read their script while showing their storyboards. Focus is on the narrative structure and effect.

April 17/18

Work Session

Class Activity:
Class Activity: work on finishing script and storyboard, filming, audio.

April 22/23


Class Activity:
Each team shows a rough cut of their video sketch. Focus on final tweaks.

April 24/25

FINAL CRITIQUE: Ubiquitous Computing Presentations

Class Activity:
Each team presents their final work, including the video.

Optional Readings
Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions by Hanington and Martin.

Moggridge, B. Designing interactions, MIT press, (2007). (Chapter "Designing Interactions" pp. 647-662)

As We May Think, Vannevar Bush, The Atlantic Monthly, July 1945

Rich Gold, The Plenitude: Creativity, Innovation, and Making Stuff (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life) (Chapter 2: The Four Creative Hats I've Worn, pp 5-31)

Jon Kolko (2011), Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner's Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis

Jon Kolko (2010), Thoughts on Interaction Design.

Dunne, A, & F Raby, Design Noir: The secret life of electronic objects, Birkhauser, 2001. (Sec 2 "Hertzian Space" pp. 15-43).(Sec 5 "The Secret Life of Electronic Objects" pp. 75-90).

Rittel, Horst, and Melvin Webber; "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning," pp. 155-169, Policy Sciences, Vol. 4, Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Inc., Amsterdam, 1973. [Reprinted in N. Cross (ed.), Developments in Design Methodology, J. Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 1984, pp. 135-144.]

Billinghurst, M., Kato, H. and Poupyrev, I. (2001). MagicBook: Transitioning between Reality and Virtuality.

Kuniavsky, Mike (2010), Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design (Chapter 10)

Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers by Tom Igoe and Dan O'Sullivan (2004). (SELECTIONS)

Past, Present, and Future of User Interface Software Tools , Brad Myers, Scott E. Hudson, Randy Pausch, ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction, March 2000, pp. 3 - 28.

Stacey Kuznetsov and Eric Paulos, Rise of the Expert Amateur: DIY Projects, Communities, and Cultures, ACM NordiCHI, Reykjavík, Iceland, October 2010

Voyagers and Voyeurs: Supporting Asynchronous Collaborative Information Visualization, Jeffrey Heer, Fernanda Viegas, Martin Wattenberg, CHI 2007: ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1029 - 1038.

John Zimmerman, Jodi Forlizzi, and Shelley Evenson. 2007. Research through design as a method for interaction design research in HCI. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI '07). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 493-502.

Tracee Vetting Wolf, Jennifer A. Rode, Jeremy Sussman, and Wendy A. Kellogg. 2006. Dispelling "design" as the black art of CHI. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in computing systems (CHI '06), Rebecca Grinter, Thomas Rodden, Paul Aoki, Ed Cutrell, Robin Jeffries, and Gary Olson (Eds.). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 521-530

Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions, and Teach through Design - William Lidwell (SELECTIONS )

Paul Dourish, Where the Action Is (chapters 1 & 2)

Norman, D. Emotional Design: Why We Love (Or Hate) Everyday Things. Basic Books, 2004. (SELECIONS)

HCII Policy Statement
While there is a university-wide disciplinary committee which handles serious disciplinary matters referred to it, the responsibility for establishing disciplinary guidelines rests with each department. It is felt that the following set of rules can be uniformly and fairly applied in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute. First, cheating in any form is not permitted as an ethical or professional behavior and will not be tolerated. Cheating includes, but is not necessarily limited to:
  • The use of unauthorized materials including computer programs in preparation of an assignment or during an examination.
  • The submission or use of falsified data.
  • The submission of work that is not the student's own.
  • Plagiarism- use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work. (See below)
  • The use of an alternate/stand-in/proxy during an examination.
  • Supplying unauthorized data to another student for the preparation of an assignment or during an examination.
  • Collaboration in the preparation of an assignment, unless specifically required or allowed by the instructor, will usually be viewed as cheating. Each student, therefore, is responsible for understanding the policies of the instructor offering any course as they refer to the amount of help and collaboration permitted in preparation of assignments.

    Should any student be found guilty of cheating on a quiz, exam, homework or project, at minimum a zero grade will be recorded and then averaged in with the other grades (should there be any) for the term. Depending on the circumstances, and at the discretion of the instructor and the Department Head, the student may be failed in the course and may be expelled from the University. In any case, the University will be notified of any case of cheating or plagiarism. A repeated occurrence of cheating will be treated as an automatic failure (R grade) and expulsion from the University.

    A subtler form of cheating arises in the form of plagiarism, which is defined as "passing off as one's own the ideas or works of another." Making use of reference material and failing to note (either at all or properly) the original source constitutes plagiarism. When two or more people work together on an individual project and each then turns in his/her individual report as though no collaboration was involved, this also is plagiarism. Simply rewriting another's words or thoughts, or rearranging another's materials, is in every sense plagiarism - unless the student properly and completely references such material, each and every time it is used and to the full extent of usage. Should a case of plagiarism arise, the initial responsibility for judging the seriousness of the offense will rest with the instructor. If the instructor feels that the student was simply sloppy in referencing the material used and plagiarized, a judgment of sloppy professionalism rather than cheating will be made. The grade for the paper, project or thesis will be lowered by at least one grade point. On the other hand, if the instructor feels that the student plagiarized flagrantly, and intentionally meant to mislead the instructor into thinking that the work was the student's own original work, the grade for the report, project or thesis will be recorded as zero.

    It should be emphasized that any group collaboration that involves individual take-home projects, papers or theses should be carried out only with considerable discretion. That is, students are encouraged to discuss and collaborate among themselves on the various principles which are exposited in class or covered in the reading material, etc.; but any group discussion or collaboration which involves any specifics of take-home projects, papers or theses should be avoided - unless the ideas or efforts of others are properly noted. Put differently, when individual work and thinking is called for, group thinking and/or work is entirely inappropriate and is a form of plagiarism. In any case of cheating or plagiarism, the student may request a review of the instructor's decision by the department head, who will then make the final decision for the department. The student, of course, can appeal any faculty decision to the University Committee on Discipline. In a case of flagrant cheating by a graduate student on a thesis, the matter will be forwarded to the Disciplinary Committee for stronger action.