DSGN 100: Prototyping

Spring 2020

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.

Prof. Steven Dow:

Lectures: T/Th 12:30-1:50 pm (in HSS 1330)

Studios: Weds 9-9:50p, 10-10:50p, and 11-11:50p (all sections in HSS 1346)

Prof. Haijun Xia:

Lectures: T/Th 9:30-10:50 pm (in HSS 1330)

Studios: Mon 3-3:50p, 4-4:50p, and 5-5:50p (all sections in HSS 1346)

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.

Haijun Xia is an Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science and Design Lab at UC San Diego. His research area is Human-Computer Interaction, in which he focuses on augmenting our productivity and creativity by innovating on fundamental user interface paradigms and interaction techniques. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the DGP Lab at University of Toronto and BA in Computer Science from Tsinghua University.


Lu Sun (l5sun@ucsd.edu) is a first-year Cognitive Science PhD student at UCSD, working at the Design Lab and ProtoLab. Her research area is Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), with focuses on social computing and crowdsourcing. Prior to entering the graduate program, she received her B.Eng degree from China and a master degree from CMU HCII.

Stephanie Sherman (sesherma@ucsd.edu ) is a curator, researcher, and strategist working at the intersection of social and speculative design Her research explores how cultural narratives shape emerging technologies. She develops organizations, stories, and proposals that transform outmoded systems, sites, and surplus into platforms for collaboration, coproduction and cooperation. Stephanie is completing a Phd in Visual Arts practice at UC San Diego. She works with the UC San Diego Design Lab Community and Automation Teams and The Center for Design and Geopolitics.

Hui Xin Ng (hxng@ucsd.edu) is a first-year PhD student in the Cognitive Science department with research interests in visual communication and interaction design.

Jonah Gray (j6gray@ucsd.edu) is a fourth year PhD student in Art History. His dissertation examines critiques of whiteness in contemporary art from the US and Canada during the 1990s. He earned an MA in curatorial studies from University of British Columbia and a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He is originally from Vancouver, Canada, where he worked in art publishing and taught histories of art and design.


Alex Morrow (a1morrow@ucsd.edu) is a fourth-year Cognitive Science major specializing in Design and Interaction, minoring in Business. Alex is a board member on Design for America and is starting a career in product design after graduating. He has an interest in using design thinking to solve challenges in everyday life. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, trying new restaurants, and catching up with friends at coffee shops. Studio section: Mon 3-4pm

Brittany Newton (b1newton@ucsd.edu) is a fourth year Cognitive Science, HCI major with minors in Design and Communication. Brittany currently serves as a board member for Design Co while pursuing a career in product and visual design. In her free time, she enjoys 3D modeling and grabbing boba with friends. Studio Section: Mon 4-5pm

Anuka Zandanshatar (dzandans@ucsd.edu) is a fourth-year Cognitive Science major specializing in Design and Interaction, with a minor in Design. She is currently a board member for Design for America and wants to pursue user researching for community-driven design that can help solve social issues. In her free time, she enjoys attempting to make earrings and acting. Studio Section: Mon 5-6pm

Nancy Nguyen (nan023@ucsd.edu) is a fourth year Cognitive Science student specializing in Human-Computer Interaction. She is a visual and UX designer that is passionate about creating human-centered experiences that aim to empower individuals. In her free time, she can often be found trying to keep her Tamagotchi alive or playing with her dog, Coco. Studio Section: Weds 9-10am

Zachary Nguyen (zdnguyen@ucsd.edu) is a fourth year Cognitive Science major specializing in Design and Interaction. Zach appreciates the problem solving aspect of design and plans to pursue a UX or product design career or even continue his education toward becoming a professor. He’s found joy in teaching and recently held a lesson for a 2nd grade class in Poway to introduce coding and robotics to the children. In his free time you can find him surfing, hiking, or exploring the world. Studio Section: Wed 10-11am

Justin Park (jep067@ucsd.edu) is a fourth year Cognitive Science student specializing in Design and Interaction with minors in Computer Science and Entrepreneurship and Innovation. In addition to front end programming he is interested in virtual and augmented reality as well as building mobile apps and games. Studio Section: Wed 11-12pm