Course Syllabus

Final project presentations

Final presentations will be held on Tuesday, December 6, 2022. You can find the assignments of teams and the presentation order here.

Enrollment is closed

We are not able to accept new students into the course.


Studios meet as follows:

  • Allston, Fridays 11:15am - 12:30pm with Ethan in SEC 1.316
  • Cambridge, Thursdays 10:30 - 11:45am with Daniel in Maxwell-Dworkin 123
  • Cambridge, Thursdays 1:30 - 2:45pm with Austin in Maxwell-Dworkin 221
  • Cambridge, Thursdays 3:00 - 4:15pm with Yooni in Maxwell-Dworkin 123
  • Cambridge, Fridays 10:30 - 11:45 with Aqdas in Maxwell-Dworkin 123

Got questions?

We will use Ed as our primary tool for asking and responding to questions. If you have a question that you don't think belongs on a public forum, your studio leader is your first point of contact (except for logistics questions such as studio assignments, where Yooni is the best person to write to). If you have a confidential issue, you are welcome to speak to whichever member of the teaching team you feel most comfortable with. 

  • Yooni Park -- course logistics, studio assignments, etc
  • Daniel Feist-Alexandrov -- technology (A/V, web tools, etc)
  • Aqdas Kamal -- assignments
  • Austin Ledzian -- studio planning
  • Ethan Taotafa -- studio planning
  • Krzysztof Gajos -- instructor; office hour signup

Learning Goals

  • Design useful interactive systems. Learn how to discover real and valuable needs and aspirations of people who might be very different from yourselves. Make design decisions that appropriately support those needs and aspirations. Articulate and validate your design hypotheses. Identify all relevant stakeholders and design your solutions such that all of them will advocate in favor of your solution. Begin to recognize that technological solutions exist as part of complex sociotechnical systems. 
  • Design usable interactive systems. Recognize that designers and users often have different mental models of interactive systems. Uncover users' mental models of relevant tasks and make design decisions consistent with those models. Analyze existing solutions and design new ones using contemporary knowledge of human perception, cognition, and motor performance. Design for diverse abilities. Appropriately use existing design principles. Create interactive prototypes. Design, conduct, and analyze results from usability studies.
  • Be intentional about and accountable for societal consequences of your solutions. Recognize that design decisions (what problem to solve, for whom, and how) impact the distribution of power and resources in a society. That is, design inevitably has moral and political consequences. Articulate and explain your moral and political stance. Make design decisions consistent with your stance. Analyze your designs for likely indirect and "unanticipated" consequences.
  • Be ready to be part of or lead design organizations. Contribute to effective teamwork. Lead teams with or without authority. Understand the benefits and challenges of diverse organizations. Effectively communicate design research and design decisions. Provide systematic design critique. Productively receive design critique. Use effective team-based creative processes.


None. We will teach you all the skills required for the course. 

What CS Concentration Requirements Does This Course Satisfy?

  • 2020 concentration: tech elective, breadth area 7 (same as 179)
  • 2021 concentration: core cs (179 minus the "advancedcs" tag)
    • Special note: any students who had CS 179 on an approved plan of study for the 2021 requirements can count CS 79 as advancedcs
  • secondary: counts as one of the 4, but no more than two of them can be from the set 20, 32/50, 51, 61, 79.
  • Contact the CS DUS team with any further questions.

Course Format

Besides the two lectures each week, students will also meet every week in studios. Each studio will comprise of up to 15 students and a TF. Each studio will have its own meeting time of one standard class period on either Thursdays or Fridays (exact times and locations TBD). The studio time will be used primarily by the teams to present their work and to solicit critique. 

There will be three team-based projects. The first two will take three weeks each, and the topics for those projects will be provided by the course staff. The third project will take six weeks and it will be a chance for the teams to pursue a topic of their own choice. 

If you cannot attend in person...

The course will be taught in-person but we will do our best to provide hybrid options for students who have to self-isolate or otherwise cannot attend in person. Please notify your studio leader ahead of any lecture or studio that you need to attend remotely. 

Course Policies

  • Studio attendance is mandatory. If you have to miss a studio, you must let your team and your studio leader know in advance and receive an acknowledgement from both. You are allowed one excused (i.e., reported and acknowledged) absence for the semester without penalty. To receive credit for attendance, you must arrive on time. Note that if you have a mild illness you can still attend via Zoom (see below).
  • Lecture attendance is expected and contributes to the grade. Note that if you have a mild illness, you can still receive attendance credit by attending via Zoom. If you have a more serious medical/family/life situation, please reach out to your studio leader with appropriate documentation (e.g., doctor's note) if appropriate. If you are very uncomfortable sharing details of a particular situation with your studio leader, you can contact the instructor instead.
  • Attend remotely if you are not feeling well. If you are feeling a little sick, it's best if you stay in your dorm/home. However, unless you are feeling really bad, you should still participate synchronously via Zoom. We will design the lectures and the studios such that people attending remotely can meaningfully participate. If you plan to attend a studio via Zoom, make sure to notify your team and your studio leader as early as possible.
  • Active participation is essential particularly in the studios and will contribute to the final grade.
  • You are welcome to knit, sketch, etc,  as long as you do it in a way that does not distract those around you.
  • Take your own notes, even though the slides will be made available. We recommend notebooks with dotted paper — the dots provide just enough of a guide so that you can draw neat sketches, but they do not get in the way of your drawings.
  • Simultaneous enrollment is not allowed. 
  • Visitors are OK in lectures, but please introduce them. It’s OK for a class member to bring a guest to a lecture. But if you do so, please alert an instructor prior to the start of the class so that your guest can be introduced to the rest of the class. Also, please make a name tag for your guest at the beginning of the class so that they can be integrated into our community.
  • All students’ first point of contact is their section TF. All students’ second point of contact is the logistics TF. All TFs have been instructed to respond within one day. 

Diversity and Inclusion

In an ideal world, science would be objective. However, much of what we know about design is subjective, reflects the behaviors and preferences of a non-representative sample of the world's population, and is historically built on a small subset of privileged voices. In this class, we will make an effort to learn from a diverse group of designers and researchers, but limits still exist on this diversity. We acknowledge that it is possible that there may be both overt and covert biases in the material due to the lens with which it was written or because of how the participants contributing to the research were chosen. Integrating a diverse set of values, abilities, cultures, etc. is important for building design knowledge that equitably benefits everyone. We will discuss issues of diversity in design as part of the course from time to time.

Please contact us if you have any suggestions to improve the quality and diversity of the course materials.

Furthermore, we would like to create a learning environment in our class that supports a diversity of thoughts, perspectives and experiences, and honors your identities (including race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, socioeconomic status, politics, religion, etc.). We (like many people) are still in the process of learning about diverse perspectives and identities. If something is said in class (by anyone) that made you feel uncomfortable, please talk to us about it.

As a concrete step toward creating a civil and supportive environment in our class, we ask everyone to follow the no-dogma rule which states that no position is self-evidently correct.  Because design directly impacts the world, it is inevitable that our discussions will touch on controversial issues. Everyone is welcome to share their positions, but you have to do it in a manner that is respectful toward people who disagree with you. People who support a different position may have good reasons for doing so. You may not pass judgement on people who think differently from you. If you are baffled by what another person says, consider asking Why? Why? Why? until you understand the underlying reason for their stance before jumping to argue your point.

If you feel like your performance in the class is being impacted by your experiences outside of class, please don’t hesitate to come and talk with us.

What to do if some piece of course technology fails

It is unlikely, but possible, that some piece of technology we use in the course breaks or that the course staff make a mistake somewhere. For example, we may forget to upload the paper you are supposed to read, the Canvas site may go dead, etc. If you detect a problem, please follow these steps:

  1. See if you can come up with a quick fix (e.g., can you find the paper elsewhere else on the internet?)
  2. Check the discussion forum (Slack, Piazza, or whatever we pick for the course this year) and if you are the first to notice the problem, create a post to report the problem (and perhaps to share your fix). This will help make sure that everyone is on the same page and that if somebody else has found a solution, they can share it quickly.
  3. Do as much of the work as you can.
  4. Do not panic if the TF or the instructor do not respond immediately — if there is a problem beyond your control, we will accept late work without penalty.


Your course grade will consist of a combination of your grades on your assignments (80%) and professionalism (20%). Professionalism includes class participation, teamwork, adherence to deadlines, collaboration acknowledgements, timely arrival to your studios, etc.

Note that most of the assignments will built toward long-term team-based projects. You will have to do and submit work every week, but we will do major grading only four times during the semester: at the end of the Projects 1 and 2, roughly four weeks into the Final Projects (at the time you pitch your product concepts) and at the end of Final Projects. Each week, however, you will receive prompt comments on your progress from your TFs. There will also be a small amount of points given each week reflecting whether the team made "serious progress" that week (that's to keep you reasonably paced).

Regrade policy

It is very important to us that all assignments are properly graded. If you believe there is an error in your assignment grading, please submit an explanation in writing to your studio leader (Cc-ing the instructor) within 7 days of receiving the grade. No regrade requests will be accepted orally, and no regrade requests will be accepted more than 7 days after receipt of the initial grade.

Academic Integrity

In general, many activities in the class will be collaborative and we will expect you to work with others. In all cases such collaboration has to be acknowledged. Each assignment and quiz will come with a detailed collaboration policy.

Accommodations for students with disabilities

If you have a health condition that affects your learning or classroom experience, please let the instructors know as soon as possible. We will, of course, provide all the accommodations listed in your AEO letter (if you have one), but we find that sometimes we can do even better if a student helps us understand what really matters to them.

Mental health

If you experience significant stress or worry, changes in mood, or problems eating or sleeping this semester, please do not hesitate to reach out to the professor. There are also several free and confidential resources available to you including:

  • Counseling and Mental Health at UHS , 617-495-2042 (during business hours), 617-495-5711 (at all other times)
  • Room 13, 617-495-4969

We recognize that mental health challenges can be intermittent, that a person who is doing great in many aspects of their life may have difficulties with others. We recognize that mental health challenges can be invisible to outsiders making it hard to get the support and understanding you need. We will do everything we can to help.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due