Final Project

Throughout the course, we studied design theory and methods that help us think through how technology shapes our relationships to people, politics, and the environment. Each reading was translated into practice (or an exercise) that was intended to reflect on the reading. Each practice highlighted different kinds of relationships and different ways of studying those relationships.

In your final project you are going to be asking a question and using the techniques we learned in class to investigate that question. Questions should concern technology and may take the form of:

  •       how does social media shape my relationship to my friends?
  •       how can design encourage participation in political debates?
  •       how to new fabrication technologies shape our relationships with food in the future?
  •       how can my headphones encourage awareness of my environment?

The final project will function like the game “telephone” for design research and will evolve over the last six weeks of class in three two-week phases. 

11/1 – 11/15: Phase 1
Each student will do the following: Come up with a question about the relationship of technology, culture, and/or the environment. Apply a design method or idea presented in the course to investigate that question. Document your process and findings in the form of artifacts and a written workbook. The written workbook should present your question, and use the relevant readings from class to articulate why you have chosen a particular method or idea to understand that question and what unique insights that method will help you gain about your question. At the end, offer three new questions based on your experience. Bring your workbook and artifacts to class on the Phase 1 due date (Wednesday, 11/15) and we will discuss each project.

11/16 – 11/29: Phase 2
Phase 2 will begin with students swapping workbooks and artifacts with each other. Read the workbook you receive and study the questions presented at the end. Select one of these questions and apply a design method or idea presented in the course to investigate that question. Document your process and findings in the form of artifacts (either adding to the original artifact or creating a new one) and a written workbook (by, adding to the end of the original workbook). Again, the written workbook should present the question you chose to investigate, and use the relevant readings from class to articulate why you have chosen a particular method to understand that question and what unique insights that method will help you gain about your question. At the end of your workbook additions, offer three new questions based on your experience. Bring the workbook and artifact(s) to class on the Phase 2 due date and we will discuss each project.

11/30 – 12/13: Phase 3
Phase 3 will begin by giving the workbook back to the person who originally started it. Then that student (the original author) will repeat step 2. We will present the final outcomes of each workbook on Wednesday 12/13. You will be submitting your physical workbook on that day for grading. 

What should I produce in each project phase?

  1. a physical workbook describing and documenting the research you did during that phase
  2. (optional) a physical or digital artifact that emerged from your research

What should I Include in my physical workbook?

Your workbook will provide proof of the time you spent working, document as much as possible and include all documentation in the workbook. No detail is too small. While writing may vary by project, you should be able to write at least 1000 words about what you did, why you did it, and what you learned, in each phase. Your workbook must contain the following:

  • The research question you are investigating
  • A written section describing your motivation – Why you were motivated to ask this particular question and what you expected to learn.
  • A written section describing your findings – What did you learn from your design process? If you interviewed other people, this is the place to describe those interviews and what you learned. Including quotes from your participants will help describe your findings.
  • A written section describing your research design – This is perhaps the most important section of your project! In this section, describe which readings from class you engaged to study your question and why that reading what interesting

    as well as appropriate for the question you are asking. You should include citations from the readings you are talking about in this section.

  •  A written section describing you research process – the steps you took to investigate your research question as well as a description of how much time you spent on each step (to ensure full credit). This could be complimented by a visual schedule of your research.
  • three new research questions that emerged after this phase of research.
  • a works cited section that describes any literature you referenced.
  • images/media/graphics that depict the design objects you created in this research

Can I make changes in Phase 3 to what I wrote in Phase 1?

Yes, if there are changes you want to make to what you prepared in phase 1 later in the project, you are welcome to make those changes. I will take the changes into account in the final grade (based on the photos of each project presented at the Phase 1 turn in date).

On the phase 3 deadline, you will turn in your final project into the instructor. I will use the photos captured at each phase deadline to determine what was turned in and by whom at each stage. Your grade will account for the work you put in on each phase. The workbooks will be promptly graded with written feedback offered to you by email. I intend to create digital scans of each workbook to share on the course webpage and my personal teaching portfolio. If you would prefer that I do not use your work, please notify me in writing. If you would like your physical workbook back, please also let me know and we can find a time to arrange the return.

Grading Rubric

The final project will comprise 30% of your course grade. I expect students to spend at least 6 hours per week working on their final project. Evidence of this work should be recorded in the documentation. At the end of phase 3, each “project” will feature the work of two different students. Grades will be assigned based on the individual contributions of each student to each project with the following rubric:

  • (5%) did the student provide strong argument for their choice of methods or ideas to engage to explore their question?
  • (5%) did the student demonstrate their understandings of the strengths and limitations of their approach for investigating their question?
  • (5%) did they engage their approach in an appropriate and thoughtful way?
  • (5%) did the student demonstrate a deep engagement with the relevant reading in describing their process and reflections?
  • (5%) did the documentation effectively describe their process and findings?
  •  Resources


Students who need access to physical tools and materials are welcome to work in my lab, the Unstable Design Lab, in ATLAS 207. The lab is not always unlocked and I would need to be present while you are in the space so please email to be sure that someone will be around to let you in.

The Resources folder of the Google Drive has a file called “Final Project Overview and resources” Which provides a cheat sheet of the different methods we covered in class.


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