Prof. Steven Dow
Spring 2017, 
T/Th 3:30-4:50 pm
Location:  HSS 1346

This studio course introduces students to the basic practices of interaction design. We follow a human-centered design process that includes research, concept generation, prototyping, and refinement. Students must work effectively as individuals and in small teams to create visual designs, information systems, 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, prototyping, 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:
  • interpret content in order to meet the needs of multiple stakeholders
  • use visual hierarchy to prioritize information and optimize interactions
  • give form to design ideas through prototyping
  • make decisions that build on existing design patterns
  • sketch as a means of visual exploration and ideation
  • select appropriate methodologies for engaging in a human-centered design process
  • understand how designers think in order to collaborate on interdisciplinary teams
  • give and receive feedback in a constructive way during critiques
  • 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 semester, 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 Assistant 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 three 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.


Seth Ferris is 3rd Year MFA Candidate in the Visual Arts. He is an artist and designer working across disciplines to critique power visible in urban infrastructure, finance, and cultural production. Seeking to create artifacts and objects which embody resistance he uses a variety of mediums which form a constellation comprised of photography, writing, media installation, software development, publishing and typography.

Hyeonsu (Shawn) Kang is currently pursuing his Master's degree in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego, and is advised by Philip Guo. His current research aims to develop a system that assists novice programmers' ability to diagnose problems through visualization. He's also interested in designing systems that enhance work quality and productivity as well as learning experience in the context of Crowdsourcing. This past Summer, he was a Software Developer Intern at Tableau Software and worked as part of their visualization team in designing and implementing a small language for augmenting the tooltip visualization feature.  Hyeonsu graduated from Seoul National University with a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering and was a recipient of National Science and Engineering Scholarship of South Korea.


Natalie Tongprasearth is a fourth year student majoring in Cognitive Science, Human-Computer Interaction. She’ is intrigued by the way thoughtful design can reveal creative approaches to solving people’'s needs as well as its ability to communicate and shape interactions with people. In the future, she hopes to apply UX design and create meaningful experiences in the field of health, education, or technology.

Emilie Shen is a fourth year Cognitive Science student specializing in Human-Computer Interaction, with experience in graphic and visual design. Some of my hobbies include eating, napping, running, hiking, and hand lettering.

Madeline Hsia is a third year Cog Sci major specializing in HCI and minoring in Computer Science. Mad loves creative writing, heights, and everything design (fashion, interior, graphic), but her favorite is interaction design. She owns 6 shark pillow pets. She's very excited to be an IA for the first DSGN100 class!