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Quick Jump

First Year

Fall Semester

Histories of Design

Design evolves through the acceptance and rejection of historical practices. This course focuses on a review of critical movements in design from the second half of the 20th century to the present. We will consider how much of the craft designers have historically valued is essential for what we do today. Students will use historical insights and case studies to evaluate what and who defines “good” design. With a critical lens, the course will explore why certain products, companies and designers have risen triumphant over others. Students will visit design centers across New York City to gather inspiration and resources for research, exploration, and experimentation.

Research Methods

People-centered design begins, by definition, with an understanding of people. In this course, students will learn how to model interactions by conducting qualitative and quantitative research into people’s behaviors, attitudes and expectations. By exploring diary studies, landscape analyses, usability testing,  survey design and other research methods, students will learn how to effectively engage people’s feedback at every design stage..  We will place a particular emphasis on designing ethical research studies that engage people and communities in ways that are respectful and reciprocal.

Hello World: The Logic of Interaction

Hello World is traditionally the very first program people write when they are new to a programming language. It’s used to test programming syntax, implementation and sanity. The goal of this course is to provide students with a primer into understanding the world of computer hardware, software and designing with code. Students develop the tools they need to read and understand source code, critically think about software applications and write their very own programs. They start with a foundation in programming and build applications of increasing complexity as the course progresses. By the end of the semester, students will have the skills to speak the language of (almost) any machine using fundamentals from Python, JavaScript, and C.

The Fundamentals of Physical Computing

Take a deep dive into a  practical, hands-on exploration of physically interactive technology. Students will examine how to interface objects and installations with the viewer’s body and ambient stimuli, such as motion, light, sound and intangible data. Starting with the basics of the open-source Arduino platform, the class will move through electrical theory, circuit design, microcontroller programming and sensors, as well as complex outputs, including motors, video and intercommunication between objects.

Service Design and Transformation

Service design is about crafting the biggest picture — the total context, conditions, and cultures in which people engage in digital and physical experiences. In designing services, our work may focus on individuals in the experiences  they encounter, or businesses in the structures they build to support service delivery, or may have a more significant impact beyond the confines of one organization. Designers need to be equipped with tools and approaches that work best in this service-oriented world. Students will acquire a rich understanding of service design—what it is, when and where it is applicable, how to practice it, and why it is a valuable approach—and will gain experience using service design tools to identify opportunities, define and frame problem spaces, develop innovative directions, and deliver and communicate solutions.

Instructors Marshall Sitten

Electives, First Year

(Optional) Students can choose to audit one elective per semester from SVA’s Continuing Education course offerings. Some classes may require approval from department staff and/or the department Chair.

First Year

Spring Semester

Intellectual Property and the Law

The general concepts of law and intellectual property law as they apply to the practice of design will be examined, including basic legal issues of contract and property law, within the creative context. Among the topics explored will be the work-for-hire agreement, the consignment agreement and the agency agreement. The law of copyright, trademark and patents will also be explored. Issues such as registering a copyright, copyright infringement, registering a trademark and trade dress infringement and patents (in particular, design patents) will be examined from the perspective of the professional designer. In addition, design and information issues presented by new technology, such as the web, will be included throughout the course.

Instructors Frank Martinez

Inclusive Design I

To build a more equitable and fair world, designing for inclusion is essential. We will delve into the process of inclusive design by building fluency in its foundational concepts, such as identity and positionality, co-design, and intersectionalities. Throughout the course, we will take time to reflect on our own individualities and the mental and physical states that accompany them, while expanding our capacity to engage in deep listening and observation. We will examine prevailing case studies of inclusive design, formulate community-centered methods in research, engage in-depth reflections and adapt inclusion frameworks that activate our life-long inclusive design journeys.

Advanced Fundamentals of UX

In this course students explore concepts fundamental to the user experience (UX) practice; how to frame design problems through synthesis of research and various project inputs, problem-solving through mapping, sketching, and wire-framing, and problem sharing through constructing narratives of our work. Students work to become better practitioners and strategists by seeking to understand and respond to influences, both inside the project and outside of it, that might impact its outcome. Students work to think both broadly and deeply about a problem and communicate its solution via mixed-fidelity artifacts that they evolve through multiple iterations. Finally, students learn to shape artifacts as well as conversations to appeal to varied audiences, including clients, project stakeholders, designers, and developers, in order to influence how a project takes shape over time.

Instructors Matthew Raw

Framing User Experiences

Products are no longer simply products; they live within complex business and technological ecosystems. To fully understand the user experience, designers must be highly flexible communicators, facilitators, mediators and thinkers. Whether designing a dialysis machine, a mobile phone app, or a water filtration system for the developing world, design is as much about framing user experi- ences as it is about the creation of new artifacts. This course focuses on the relationships between objects and their contexts, how to identify human behaviors and needs, and how those behaviors and needs converge to create user experiences.

Instructors Jen Clark

Smart Objects

The ubiquity of embedded computing has redefined the role of form in material culture, leading to the creation of artifacts that communicate well beyond their static physical presence to create ongoing dialogues with both people and each other. This course will explore the rich relationship among people, objects and information through a combination of physical and digital design methods. Beginning with an examination of case studies, students will gain a sense of the breadth of product design practice as it applies to smart objects. Through a combination of lectures and hands-on studio exercises, we will investigate all aspects of smart object design, including expressive behaviors (light, sound and movement), interaction systems, ergonomics, data networks and contexts of use. The course will culminate in a final project that considers all aspects of smart object design within the context of a larger theme.

Crafting Interactions

Interaction design concepts can be hard to describe. And the best way to both communicate and improve your design is to prototype it quickly and often. This course examines how to integrate lightweight prototyping activities, as well as some basic research and testing techniques, into every stage of the interaction design process. A range of methods will be covered, from paper prototyping to participatory design to bodystorming. Students will learn how to choose the appropriate method to suit different dimensions of a design problem at different stages in the process and the pitfalls of each approach. The course is highly collaborative with hands–on prototyping and testing. Working individually and in teams, students will create rapid exercises, with one prototype developed or iterated each week, with the goal of evolving toward more robust ways of expressing ideas in rich interactive form.

Instructors Wenting Zhang

Second Year

Fall Semester

Special Topics in Interaction Design I

We will explore current and emergent themes, tools, theories, and practices of interaction design. Examples of previous and potential course themes are creative practices and ethics in generative AI; deceptive design and shadow data; game design; voice and conversation design; community-centered and civic design; augmented and virtual realities; and trauma-informed design. The course will be taught by leading industry experts and include theoretical explorations, studio work, and site visits.

Thesis I: Development

Design problems emerge from fundamental human needs—the needs of individuals,  communities, and a multitude of contexts and cultures. Guided by industry leaders, technical advisors, and a community of peers, this class is a platform to develop a rigorously researched and implemented body of original and meaningful investigations.  This course creates a strong foundation of intellectual, and pragmatic frameworks to shape the direction of the thesis project in the second semester.

Electives, Second Year

(Optional) Students can choose to audit one elective per semester from SVA’s Continuing Education course offerings. Some classes may require approval from department staff and/or the department Chair.

Digital Accessibility

Creating delightful and user-centered interactions for everyone must start with a foundation in digital accessibility. In this course, students will learn the fundamentals of accessible design, from WCAG criteria to readability. Students will gain direct experience with assistive technology and participate in group projects to reimagine existing technology through an accessible lens. This course uses a broad definition of accessibility beyond just WCAG criteria and will include language access, readability, inclusion, and UX research. Through weekly readings, students will also gain a deeper understanding of the importance and definition of accessibility and will leave the course prepared to advocate for the importance of accessible design in their future work. The ultimate goal of this course is to help students incorporate accessible design into the fundamentals of their practice, and design beautiful, functional, and intuitive digital interfaces with accessibility in mind from the beginning.

Instructors Elyse Voegeli

Second Year

Spring Semester

Professional Practices

Creative business practices, ethical standards and effective networking are the cornerstones of this course. Through studio tours, guest lectures, case studies and small group activities, students will observe and critique examples of successful, flawed and failed practices. Upon completion of this course, students will be equipped to describe and cite examples of creative business practices, ethical standards and effective networking in the business of design management.

Instructors Lee-Sean Huang

Inclusive Design II

To continue building our inclusive design toolkit, we will apply research methods from the foundational course to collaborate with co-creators and develop physical and digital prototypes of inclusive product, service or experience designs. Students will work individually or in small groups to workshop their thesis topics through various inclusive design frameworks, building fluency and confidence in inclusive design methods as they learn how to package and pitch market-ready case studies.

Design for Cities

Interfaces are embedded in nearly every aspect of our daily lives—from grocery shopping to banking to reading books. How can we integrate technology with the physical world to create better interfaces and more useful, playful, and meaningful experiences? This course will explore how interaction design fundamentals apply to physical spaces by surveying branded environments, retail stores, museums, public spaces, and corporate venues with specific user goals and design considerations in mind. The course is led by urban designers and architects and includes qualitative methods for measuring public life and site mapping techniques across multiple sites in New York City.

Storycraft: Prototyping Narratives

Mastering the practical art of storytelling through visual communication and prototyping. In this class, we will learn how to swiftly and effectively communicate our ideas and turn them into concise and engaging concept videos through prototyping and visual storytelling.

Instructors Diamond Ho

Thesis II: Presentation

An interaction design project comes to life when the intended audience interacts with a product, service, or experience. In Thesis Presentation, students will refine  a body of work to include proof of concept, depth of research and application, artifacts, and real-world interactions. Students will define and implement a public engagement strategy to connect with the communities they designed with and for. A team of faculty, technical advisors, and mentors will guide the process and presentation outcomes to be thoughtful and impactful.

UX Writing

Writing is part of every design project—from jotting down notes and questions to summarizing research, instructing users, and presenting work in proposals and marketing pages. In this course, students examine the writing process, collaborate on long and short-form pieces, practice editing, and use language as a strategic tool in the design process.

Instructors Scott Kubie