Prof. Steven Dow
Spring 2019   
T/Th 12:30-1:50 pm
Location: HSS 1346
Studio Sections: Weds 2-3p, 3-4p, and 4-5p (all sections in HSS 1346)

This studio course introduces students to the basic practices of interaction design through a focus on visual, physical, and digital prototyping. We follow a human-centered design process that includes research, concept generation, prototyping, testing, and refinement. Students must work effectively as individuals and in small teams to create visual designs, information systems, physical devices, and other interactive experiences. Assignments approach design on three levels: specific user interactions, contexts of use, and larger systems. Students will become familiar with design methodologies such as sketching, storyboarding, wire framing, user-testing etc. No coding is required. This course serves as a requirement for the cross-department Design Minor.

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 you should be. A big part of this class is to gain a visceral feeling for what designers experience everyday. We want you to work fast and to bring an attitude of play and playfulness to the classroom.

Learning Objectives

Students who have successfully completed this course will be able to do the following:
  • give and receive feedback in a constructive way during critiques
  • use visual hierarchy to prioritize information and optimize interactions
  • sketch as a means of visual exploration and ideation
  • give form to design ideas through prototyping
  • realize designs through making with physical materials
  • effectively test, assess, and iterate on designs
  • interpret content in order to meet the needs of multiple stakeholders
  • make decisions that build on existing design patterns
  • select appropriate methodologies for engaging in a human-centered design process
  • understand how designers think in order to collaborate on interdisciplinary teams
  • communicate design ideas to a variety of stakeholders

Critique Guidelines

Critiques are an essential part of the design process, and will be a part of nearly every class period. Verbalizing what you see helps you to learn. You are expected to be an active participant in all critiques. You should not expect to get personal feedback on your work every time. We will do our best to distribute feedback evenly across the quarter, and you can meet with us by appointment if you have specific questions.  Critiques are not beauty contests. When giving criticism, always describe what you are seeing and experiencing, rather than your opinion as it relates to your personal taste. For example, rather than saying, “I don’t like this,” it is more constructive to say, “I’m not sure what you want me to look at first,” or, “I was drawn to this first, but then I got confused about where to go next,”, or, “this was hard for me to read – I had to squint my eyes.”

Do not take what is said about your work personally, no matter how difficult this seems. These assignments require you to take risks and try new things. Your effort and willingness to approach problems with originality is a greater reflection of your potential as a designer than whether your solution is aesthetically perfect. During a critique there may be conflicting thoughts and opinions expressed about your work. It is up to you to determine the best way to use the feedback you've received.


Steven Dow is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego where he researches human-computer interaction, social computing, and creativity. Steven received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2015 for research on "advancing collective innovation." He was co-PI on four other National Science Foundation grants, a Google Faculty Grant, Stanford's Postdoctoral Research Award, and the Hasso Plattner Design Thinking Research Grant. Before UCSD, Steven was an Assistant Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. He holds an MS and PhD in Human-Centered Computing from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from University of Iowa.
Office hours: Friday 4-5pm in SSRB 100


Srishti Palani is a Cognitive Science PhD student excited about research in Human Computer Interaction. Through her research at the Design Lab, she designs systems that facilitate creativity, critical thinking and collaboration. In 2018, she graduated summa cum laude in Computer Science and Psychology from Mount Holyoke College. When she’s not researching, you can find her playing squash, surfing, or petting dogs.
Office Hours:  Thursday 2:00-3:00pm in HSS 1346
email: srpalani (at)

Erika Barbosa is a doctoral student in Art Theory, Criticism and Practice at UCSD. She is a design researcher and digital media artist. Her practice-based research takes interest in the genealogies of emerging technology, and the impact of historical ideologies on forms of contemporary data discrimination. Her MFA thesis explored the technological and tactical landscape of policing in the United States through the lens of design history and practice. She has exhibited locally and internationally.
Office Hours:  Thursday 11:30-12:30pm in HSS 1346
email: ebarbosa (at)


Sumedha Gupta is a fourth year Cognitive Science student specializing in Human-Computer Interaction. Sumedha hopes to continue learning and understanding problems in the world to design solutions that are simple and intuitive to us. When Sumedha isn't designing, she enjoys running, singing and painting.
Studio Section: Weds 2-3pm
email: sbgupta (at) 

Jan De Castro is a fourth year Cognitive Science student specializing in HCI. He is a designer for different types of mediums, including digital (UX/UI), print, and 3D. His interests lies in the intersection of design + technology to build human-centered solutions that enrich our lives. On the side, he enjoys running, sketching, and mocha.
Studio Section: Weds 2-3pm
email: jedecast (at)

Marissa Hing is a fourth year cognitive science with a specialization in computer science major with a minor in computer science. After graduating she will be working full time as a software engineer in the Bay Area. In her free time, you can catch her on UCSD’s ultimate frisbee team :)
Studio Section: Weds 3-4pm
email: mnhing (at)

Jonathan Funes is a third year Communications major with minors in Design and Business. He is a graphic designer and illustrator and is pursuing a career as an art director. When he is not closely looking at color palettes and typography, Jonathan enjoys skating, playing the drums, and going to concerts.
Studio Section: Weds 3-4pm
email: jfunes (at)

Sara Mei-Yuen Wang is a third year International Business major with minors in Design and Photography. She is interested in working in the global non-profit sector, using design to bring awareness to environmental and infrastructure concerns. She can often be found complaining about her lactose intolerance and watching Procreate tutorials online.
Studio Section: Weds 4-5pm
email: smw025 (at)

Ludi Duhay is a fourth year Cognitive Science student specializing in Human-Computer Interaction. Ludi is passionate about interactive experiences that encourage introspection in an ever-growing world. In his free time he can be found on the campus' arcade dance machine.
Studio Section: Weds 4-5pm
email: ludiduhay (at)