Archive for the ‘Curriculum’ Category

Explore Interaction Design at the High Line

July 19th, 2011 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Discovery, Teaching

We’re teaching a three-day workshop this week at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. We’re excited to lead 25 NYC high school students on an adventure to discover why and how we share our experiences in a digital world. We’ll be investigating technology from the past and present, and dreaming up new ways to use lo-fi solutions and mobile technology to design experiences for the future.

The Challenge

Your friends are visiting from out of town and they really want to go to the High Line. Too bad you’re stuck at your summer job and can’t go with them. Create an interactive experience that makes them feel like you’re right there with them.

We’re taking a field trip to the High Line tomorrow so the students can better understand the experience of visiting such a place. More to come this week!

For more, check out the Cooper-Hewitt’s write up and our story over at SVA’s Visual Briefs.

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The Home Stretch

December 6th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Teaching

Final Project Assignment

After 8 weeks of small lessons we wanted to set up a lengthier final project that would last during our remaining two classes. We sat down and reflected on what we’d already taught the students, and thought about what we wanted them to get out of the final lessons. We came up with a short project description and created a project packet that would help guide them through the work we had planned, while also explicitly outlining the design process that we wanted them to learn.

Project: Interaction Design Challenge

In a team of 3-4 people, choose a problem you’ve observed or experienced in New York City. You may choose from our list of suggestions, or think of your own ideas.

• Long lines…everywhere!
• Getting students and teachers to use the school’s green space courtyard
• Signage, or lack thereof
• Classroom of the Future
• Access to fresh fruits and vegetables
• Something else?


Create a poster and narrative in a format that best tells the story of your problem and solution. Consider the use of writing, comics, photos, video and more in your plan. While finding a solution to the problem is ideal, the most important thing is to fully investigate the problem and be able to clearly communicate your findings to the group.

We simplified it as much as possible, breaking it down into Discover, Design Concepts, Solutions and Refined Sketches, and a section called Tell the Story. Our goal was to have them thinking about some research, sketching a lot of solutions, talking to each other a lot, and coming up with a couple directions to pursue.

What Actually Happened

When we arrived in class we learned that the tenth graders were on a field trip that day, and we were left with only seven of our students. We were very sad with half of our favorite students being absent! It turned out to be just fine in the end. We were able to split the girls up into two groups and Carmen and I each worked with a group. It worked out really well for each of us to guide them through the process we’d outlined, and in our short time frame for the work, I’m not sure it would have been as successful without our one-on-one leadership.

Tiny class!

The Projects

Not surprisingly, both groups of students chose the topic “Classroom of the Future.” It’s something they’re familiar with, and something they can see and touch in front of them so it’s easier for them to imagine how it might be different.

My group decided to focus on re-imagining the blackboard. They identified a wide list of problems with the existing set up, including the teachers’ bad handwriting, the lack of organization and cleanliness around the board, and the general lack of optimization around its usage. They felt like it could be better.

Dominique with post-its

After we listed out all the problems we came to the board and wrote on post-it notes to identify who our users were, and also the objects and spaces that are used around the blackboard. From that launching point we sketched out about 10 ideas for possible features that a “better blackboard” could have. They ended up imagining a homework exchange system that allows students to submit homework to the board, which sends it to a centralized collection and organization area, where teachers can grade it and return it through the board. They even got to do a quick interview with one of their teachers to learn about her collecting and organizing habits.


At the end of the session I was so so pleased that they had thought about and designed a whole system for homework. They weren’t just thinking about the input, but also the output of the system and how everything would get back to the beginning. I asked them to construct a system map to articulate what they’d come up with. Of course I got blank stares. I explained to them that a system map is an important piece of the puzzle. It helps people understand what they’re talking about, and also helps them understand all of the pieces of the system they’ve designed. Almost like a test for their idea; if all the pieces fit into the loop then it’s a complete system. (Just like in a chemical equation!)

System map

I can’t pretend that I played it cool. My little design teacher heart was beaming when they ended the first day with their first pass at a systems diagram.

For This Week

I’m really excited to see these project ideas finished, and I can’t wait to have the 9th graders from last week present their work to their peers. I think the final critique will be a nice reflection about where we’ve come this semester and for some students it may be a launching point for where they will take it next.

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“I Never Knew I Could Get A Job Doing Design”

October 22nd, 2010 by Carmen Dukes | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Inspirations, Sketching, Teaching

On week 4, we left the classroom and entered the design studio. 13 students from Project: Interaction visited R/GA to learn about what it’s like to work as a designer from five amazing and inspiring Interaction Designers, Copywriters and Visual Designers.

When we arrived, we were eagerly greeted by Bertha Deshon, a recruiter for R/GA who along with VP, ECD Interaction Design and Friend of SVA IXD, Chloe Gottlieb, helped organized our visit. As we shuttled through the hallways, the girls remarked on everything – from the awards on the walls, to the decorations inside offices, to the well stocked coffee bar.

Waiting for our students when we arrived at the conference room was a table of snacks (Whew!), so as the girls enjoyed pretzels, chips and soda, the panel discussion begin with a few videos showcasing R/GA’s award winning work.

The panel included five talented women from a variety of design backgrounds. They talked about how they discovered design and what their jobs at R/GA. The discussions also touched on the different types of jobs at the agency and what goes into a successful project. I probed the panel on how they valued sketching in the design process, so the girls could understand why it’s so important to sketch.

When the floor was open for questions, the girls had plenty. Many wanted to know where everyone went to college, some were interested in how photography fit in at a digital agency, others had questions about R/GA’s work. One of our students really wanted to know what an algorithm was. I love the curiosity!

Because of the distance between R/GA and UAI, we were only able to stay an hour, but it was an hour of inspiring moments – for Katie, myself and the girls. It was awesome to see the girls hanging on to the words of everyone who spoke about their experiences. We remarked later how we could see sparks coming off of some of the girls in attendance. I think we opened up their eyes with this trip to all the exciting opportunities that come with a career in design.

Katie and I were up for the task of chaperoning our students from school to Times Square and thank goodness it was uneventful. Of course, we had occasional moments of ‘was this a good idea?’ The first was as the subway door started to close on Katie and one of the students at the Borough Hall station prompting us to do exactly what the MTA says not to: hold the closing doors. The other, maybe not surprisingly, also involved the MTA. The MTA pass that I was given allowed us to travel on the subway for free, but what I didn’t realize is that during rush hour the pass is invalid. The MTA official, not so kindly, told me this fact and I guess the concerned look on my face as I was thinking ‘how do I get all of us back to school?’, prompted a change of heart and she let us through. (Whew! x2)

For next week, we’re talking about mobile and bodystorming! Yay!

“It smells like Coney Island!”

October 15th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Sketching, Teaching

Wednesday was our third class at the UA Institute. We saw last week how excited the girls were when we asked them to show off their sketches. This week we were really impressed; almost all of them had drawn something they wanted to share!

The focus of Week 3 was Observation. We wanted to teach our students the difference between their memory of a place and how it actually exists. We started a conversation about the street outside the school, asking them what kinds of things they see there each day. They shouted out the answers we expected: Trees! Buildings! Crazy people!

Then we led them downstairs to the street, armed with a set of open ended questions to guide their observations. We asked them to write each observation on a Post-It note, and most importantly, not to talk while they’re observing.

One of our students, Olivia, was lucky enough to talk to one of the people she had been observing. A woman approached her and asked what the Post-Its were all about. When our student told her she was observing the plaza, the woman (an architect) launched into a tirade about the failure of the space as a public venue. Olivia was totally fascinated by everything the woman said to her, and got a great lesson in why user research can be an exciting and inspiring way to learn about a problem.

When we got back to the room we talked about everything the students observed. This time they were able to give me specific examples of the things they’d seen, including tiny architectural details, sounds and smells. They discovered that a certain part of the plaza smells like steaks and another part smells “like Coney Island.” Yuck!

We talked about ways that we might group our observations and came up with a few significant clusters: Sounds, smells, behavior, nature, outside objects and architecture. Each student placed her Post-Its in the appropriate category, and when we were finished we had a whole board full of observations about the plaza. For each category the students were able to tell a specific story about what they saw. For example, Nia told us about a behavior she saw, a guy illegally riding his bike through the plaza wearing headphones. When we probed, she was able to tell us more and more details, including that they song was an “old school” one. Like from the 90s.

Another student had an exciting observation in the plaza. She bumped into one of the benches and discovered that the pointed corners can be quite painful! She suggested the bench’s design could be improved by rounding the corners to avoid a dangerous interaction in the future.

At the end, we asked them why observation skills might be important for designers. Quickly they could identify that it’s important for designers to know a lot about the things they make, and it’s important for them to really see the details they’re addressing.

We wrapped up class by introducing our expectations for our field trip next week. We’re heading to R/GA for a tour and introduction to the jobs designers perform in a large organization. We can’t wait!

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Wow, That Went Fast

September 30th, 2010 by Katie Koch | 1 Comment | Filed in Curriculum, Teaching

Getting Started, Calming Nerves

We arrived at the UA Institute yesterday at 2:30pm, just moments before we would meet our first group of students. We were mostly prepared, but had spent some of the day texting and emailing each other to coordinate logistics. I was a little nervous heading there, until I ran into the school’s development director, Mara. She was reassuring and helped us get set up in the room before we headed down to the cafeteria to meet the girls.

The students have a scheduled snack time for about 20 minutes between the end of their day and the beginning of after school activities. It was a really great opportunity for us to meet them in an informal setting and get to find out some things about them while they’re still candid and one-on-one. One of our students told me about her old high school, from which she had just transferred, and how one of the best parts about UAI is that the bathrooms are cleaner and there are no boys to stink everything up. I guess it’s the little things!

Warming Up

When we got to class our first challenge was taking attendance. I’ve spent my whole life correcting teachers during this activity (my name shows up on rosters as Kathryn Koch, usually mispronounced as “kotch” instead of “coke”). As I tried to read the first few names on my list I had a fleeting moment of those memories and suddenly empathized with every substitute teacher I’ve ever had.

iPod video

We started our class by talking about a familiar object – an iPod – and the qualities of it that help us know what it’s used for. These girls are sharp!! Right away they were able to identify the two ports as a clue that it has power and connectivity, and could identify the play, pause and headphone icons as indicators of the media associated with the iPod. Many of them pointed to the screen as evidence that we might be able to see a moving image, and the forward and back arrows as indicators that there is more than one thing that the device does, possibly in sequence. They called out the back of the iPod being a mirror for checking their hair and makeup, a function probably not intended by Jonathan Ive.

We then handed out images of objects for them to write about, including scissors, a chess set, a hammer and a digital alarm clock. We gave them some time to write their ideas down and then moved on to introductions, telling them about us, the program and our expectations.

We were so excited to give out notebooks to the girls! For being part of the program each girl has her own Moleskine Folio notebook to sketch, doodle and write in. We encouraged them to use the sketch books as much as possible and for any purpose they see fit. We expect they’ll find ways to capture their thoughts that are beyond our hopes for them.

Lecture: What is design? What is interaction?

For the rest of class we led a group discussion centered around defining the concepts of “design” and “interaction.” I volunteered to lead the lecture, and it was thoroughly exhilarating! The girls started by naming anything they could think of that represents design to them: fashion, clothes, sneakers, art, colors, ideas, computers, creativity, drawing, community, style, entertainment. Then we named the things designers do: sketch, brainstorm, simplify, observe, imagine, research, identify needs, test, record, think, listen. We encouraged them to practice all of these skills during our class and in their other classes.

Defining the idea of “interaction” was surprisingly easy with this group. We first introduced the idea of a feedback loop by demonstrating an action and reaction. I asked them what happens when they swipe their MetroCard. Every girl in the room could shout out a different piece of feedback that comes out of the turn style: a beep, a green light, the word Go, a message telling you how much money is left on the card, and the sound of the turn style unlocking. Through this example they instantly understood what feedback is, and how this experience is defined as an interaction with a machine. It was pretty amazing.

Suddenly class time was almost over! Mara gave us the five minute warning so quickly put the girls in their groups to come up with a team name and logo. They had a lot of fun coming up with a creative name and getting draw and color in their logos. It was a great, familiar way to end class. We gave them all their own INVENT DESIGN CHANGE buttons and sent them home!

Our students working on describing an object


The things that worked really well were having the girls start the class with a quiet, individual activity. It was a great way to reduce the chaos of the first day of class and get them comfortable with talking about some of the stuff we’re teaching. The lecture portion was great, too! We were a little worried about making them sit still for so long, but they seemed entirely engaged in coming up with a definition for interaction design.

Challenges: Questions for Next Week

We quickly discovered that high school girls are more interested in talking about television and music than about the designed characteristics of a chess board. Next week we will be better at keeping side conversation to a minimum.

As with any class, there are a few students who aren’t interested in participating in every activity. It’s okay if those students aren’t shouting out every answer, but we want to make sure they’re still paying attention. How can we engage each and every student on a level that’s appropriate for them, knowing that not every person in our class is enthusiastic and outgoing?

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We have buttons!

September 13th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Teaching

In preparing for our first class this fall we’ve been thinking of creative ways to reward the small things that our students will inevitably accomplish in the course of their interaction design practice. We want to encourage them to incorporate some core ideas into their thinking, and we wanted to give them something that they can physically take away from class and show to their friends.

We decided to create a set of buttons that we can hand out to remind our students about good interaction design practices. They’ll be rewarded for small successes while working individually and in groups.

More good news!

You can score a set of these buttons for yourself! Donate $25 or more to our Kickstarter campaign and we’ll send you your very own set of buttons.

Project: Interaction buttons
(Each button is 1-inch by 1-inch.)

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Announcing Our Fall Partnership

August 30th, 2010 by Katie Koch | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Schools, Teaching

We’re excited to announce our partnership with the Urban Assembly Institute of Math & Science for Young Women! We’ll be starting classes at the end of September, continuing for 10 weeks through December. We’re thrilled about the opportunity to share interaction design with a great group of girls who are already enjoying an accelerated math and science education.

About UA Institute:

UA Institute empowers young women through a rich and rigorous math and science education. Through our partners, students have the opportunity to actively participate in a range of internships. Our partners will also connect our students with role models and mentors that will inspire them to not only challenge their self-perceptions but also the stereotypes that currently exist for women in math and science today.

More about UA Institute on their website.

We’ll be working with a class of 15 bright 9th and 10th graders, kicking off the season with a field trip to R/GA. For many of the students this will be their first exposure to a design agency. We’re hoping that seeing design practiced in the real world will get them excited about starting their own projects and jumping into their investigations of the world around them.

Read more about our planned curriculum .

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Great New Designs

July 12th, 2010 by Carmen Dukes | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Inspirations

I am currently reading The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell. Early in the book, Schell talks about the importance of looking at music, architecture, film, science, art, and literature for design principles that one can drawn on to create “great new designs.” While the focus on his book is centered around game design, his message is clear for any design practitioner – design inspiration is everywhere. Our curriculum will be centered around the ever changing environment of New York City, but we will also encourage our students to bring in inspiration, ideas, and examples from any discipline or media. Maybe that will include looking at the laws of nature, like the Bauhaus School, or studying storytelling and pace in the plays of William Shakespeare, or maybe even examining artwork of their favorite artist or sculptor. I think kids will be excited to know that the possibilities for design are in everything they experience, and that they can look to their favorite hobbies and school subjects to find inspiration for their “great new designs.”

For more from Jesse Schell, watch his impressive “Design Outside the Box” Presentation below:

Xbox 360 GamesE3 2010Guitar Hero: Smash Hits

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What is Project: Interaction?

June 9th, 2010 by Carmen Dukes | No Comments | Filed in Curriculum, Videos

Watch the video below to learn more about us!

What is Project: Interaction? from Project: Interaction on Vimeo.


The Project: Interaction Experience Cycle

June 8th, 2010 by Carmen Dukes | No Comments | Filed in Business, Curriculum, Design, Discovery, Inspirations, Research

Education is not exempt from experience design

After weeks of research, interviews, and brainstorming, Katie and I have a designed a curriculum that we believe will appeal to both students, school administrators, and faculty. So what’s our next focus? Besides finding a school to partner with,  I am exploring beyond the curriculum, and thinking about the experience.

The Experience Cycle


On my blog, I recently wrote about iPhone games and Hugh Dubberly and Shelley Evenson’s Experience Cycle. The Experience Cycle is a continuous relationship and conversation between a consumer and a product or service.  Instead of focusing on single interactions with consumers, the Experience Cycle, is a holistic approach to consumer engagement – from awareness to advocating. Successful companies, like Nintendo and Zappos, provide case studies in this method. Their success can be attributed to creating relationships with their consumers as well as continuous interaction at every possible touch point. I believe the Experience Cycle provides an interesting framework for designing how Project: Interaction will engage with high school students and ultimately provide guidelines for measuring the success of our program.

The Project: Interaction Experience Cycle

Project: Interaction Experience Cycle Sketch

The Experience Cycle has five steps. Below, I outline the Project: Interaction experience at each of these points.

1. Connecting (first impression)

We’re connecting with students at a community level. The attraction to our program will be that students will learn that they can design products and services that impact the community around them, which could be their school and/or neighborhood.

2. Becoming oriented (understanding what’s possible)

Each week of our curriculum explores one area of interaction design and relates that concept to New York City. Students immediately began to think as designers, discovering how design influences the environment around them. Students will begin exploring problems and solutions that can be achieved through design.

3. Interacting with the product (direct experience)

Our program isn’t about lecturing the students each week and having them sit still and take notes. We want them to make things. As we explore environments, mobile technology, and services, students will brainstorm, sketch, and design their own solutions to topics we propose.

4. Extending perception or skill and use (mastery)

The program is cumulative – allowing students to demonstrate an understanding of the concepts and themes that we teach while becoming passionate observers of the world. After a seven week primer to interaction design, these designers in training will explore a design solution to a problem that matters to them.

5. Telling others (teaching or spreading activation)

Since Project: Interaction is a new program, our students’ successes (and failures) will determine its success. Their exposure to interaction design should excite them about what’s possible with design and intrigue them to learn more. Ultimately as we recruit future attendees, they’ll help us promote our program among their classmates and peers.

As we talk with students and schools about Project: Interaction, I predict that we will spend more time talking about the experience of the program than the details of our curriculum.  We hope the appeal of both – the tangible and the experiential – will generate interest on both sides and result in a great school partnership.

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