Final Project – Phase 3

Phase 3 is the final phase of the project and I would like each student to prepare the following to share with the class:

  1. Bring their complete workbook.
  2. A short (3-4 minute presentation) about the project using the template in the Resources Folder in Google Drive (the file name is Final Presentation Template). Copy that file, change the file name to your first and last name, and replace the content with your own content.  The presentation should not recap every detail of the project, but just give the key highlights of your process and what you learned, much like you would present it to someone who was not in the class.

After this class, I will collect all of the project workbooks. I plan to digitally scan them and add them, with your name attached, to the course webpage as a record of the work we did. I may add some projects to my teaching portfolio and share them with classes in years to come. If you would not like me to share your work publicly, please let me know in writing via email.

I will promptly grade the workbooks and send you an email with your final project grade as well as the totals for your grade overall.




Project Phase 1 Workbooks Due

Bring your completed physical workbooks and any other associated design objects that you used to complete your project to class! We will use the class time to review each other’s work in a “show and tell” format. You do not need to prepare a formal presentation but you will be asked to show your book to the group and talk about the work you completed in Phase 1.  At the end of the class, we’ll swap projects for the next phase of work.



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.

Documentation Studies

To Bring on 11/3:
I am asking you to document your final project in the form of a physical workbook. Please bring whatever you are using to make this workbook to class on Wednesday.

Think about how you are documenting your project and what kind of visual assists are going to be part of your workbook (images, text, diagrams, storyboards, etc.). Create physical templates or placeholders of these materials and bring them to class.

Final Project Proposal: Phase 1

Please submit your proposal of your final project by Friday 11/3. Your proposal should include the following:

  1. The question that you would like to study
  2. The method/idea that you will engage to study that question
  3. Your plan for the two weeks
  4. Short description of how you plan to document the work

You will not be graded on this proposal like you were on other assignments. I will review each proposal and provide feedback to help direct your final project and make sure that your project can be successful.

8.30 Discussion References

the following resources relate to topics that came up in discussion today:

Ann Hamilton – The Event of the Tread Documentation


On Beat matching with the environment:


An interesting reflection on Jackson Pollock and his place within Art History can be found in Allan Kaprow’s Essays on the Blurring of Art and Social Life under the title The Legacy of Jackson Pollock

An interesting reflection on the difference between art and Art (with a capital A) and the social production of artwork is offered by Howard Becker in Art Worlds and Social Types

The Shadows study came from Corita Kent and Jan Seward’s Learning By Heart 

Course Probes

This week we are going to experiment with cultural probes that will help us learn about our fellow classmates. For more information and inspiration, please refer to Bill Gaver’s “Design: Cultural Probes” article (linked here and in the course Google drive).

A cultural probe consists of a series of artful prompts and provocations that are used to learn more about a population of study or topic of interest. While interviews are one way of learning about people, probes allow a researcher to gather a different sense of a person that may be difficult to convey in words alone. At a very basic level, it is a series of objects or props that you can ask someone to do something with in order to learn more about their life and everyday experiences. A probe typically consists of a collection of materials and written instruction that direct someone to take a particular action with those materials. The person will perform those actions and give the probe back to you. Upon receiving it, you will learn something about that person.

A good probe balances specificity with interpretation, allowing respondents to respond in a wide range of ways while still producing responses that are interesting to the researcher. To scope the project for the time we have available, I would like you to each create 3 probes that you can give to someone else that will allow you to learn something about their childhood. A good probe will allow someone to interpret the instructions in an open-ended way while providing you with some sense of their childhood that they may not otherwise describe. Some ideas for possible probes that you could do for class:

  • bring a collection of garments and/or fabrics, ask someone to select the one that most reminds them of their mother.
  • print out a map of the world, ask someone to map every location they lived growing up.
  • bring in a collection of odds and ends, ask someone to arrange them in a way that represents their feelings about living away from home
  • bring a paper and pencil and ask someone to draw a picture of their home.
  • bring a book of poetry and ask then to mark a passage that represents how they feel about growing up.
  • Print out a series of pictures of toys and ask someone to rank them from most to least interesting.
  • Bring a series of blue and grey paint swatches and ask someone to pick the one that most resembles the color of the sky where they grew up.

You might find more inspiration at:

To Bring to Class on 10/25
Three probes. You can use one of the ideas I listed above but please come up with the other 2 ideas on your own. Bring all materials necessary for someone to complete your probe.

In Class on 10/25:
We are going spend a bit refining our probes at the beginning of class. Then, we are going to exchange probes with our classmates and each person will spend some time responding to the probes. Then we will give the probes back to their creators and design, reflect on which probes were most effective at eliciting useful responses and we’ll design something based on their response.

Turn in on Friday, 10/27:
Please submit a blog post with the following:

  • an image and description of each of your probes
  • an image and description of each of the responses to your probe
  • an image and description of your design sketch
  • reflect on each of the following questions:
    • Was the response to your probe what you expected? if yes, why do you think that is? if no, what was different?
    • Which of your three probes would you say was the best at revealing something about that person who completed it that you may not have otherwise learned through conversation? Why do you think so?


Material Studies

Following Ingold’s call to follow the materials and attend to what a material does over what we think it is, we are going to do an exercise in materials driven design.

Prior to 10/18
Collect one kind of material throughout your daily life. You do not need to purchase anything, but you may want to collect enough to allow yourself to experiment with or destroy some of it.

On 10/18
We will begin class by writing about the materials, studying their forms, properties, and behaviors in detail. We will then subject the material to various tests to see how they behave. Drawing from these observations we will design sensors and actuators that tease their form and function from the materials.

On 10/20
Please turn in a blog post with the following information:

  • descriptions of your material sensors and/or actuators
  • a reflection on the following:
    • while experimenting with the materials and designing your sensor and actuator,  would you say the “life” or “flow” of the material ever became perceptible to you. If so, in what ways? If not, why not?
    • what would you say are the benefits and limitations of starting design by working with particular materials?

Perception Studies

This week, we will be taking inspiration from the situationist practice of dérive to shape our perception on familiar places. Using a slight adaptation, we will be doing algorithmic walks. One student will create a set of rules for another student to walk.

Prior to 10/11:
Prepare an algorithm for walking. Your algorithm should focus on the most basic directions for walking and not have any specified ending point. For example, you’re algorithm could be:

walk straight
when you hit an obstacle, flip a coin
  if heads: turn right
if tails: turn left

walk 20 steps
if you hit an obstacle before you reach 20 steps, turn left
otherwise, turn right

 Please don’t use these specific directions, make your own. Feel free to involve other props like dice, cards, poems, things, etc. 

Bring to Class on 10/11:
Your walking algorithm, printed or written on paper, and any necessary props

In Class on 10/11:
We’ll swap walking algorithms with classmates and then spend 15 minutes following the algorithms and 15 minutes returning to the classroom. Along the way, we’ll take photos or take note of what we notice. When you arrive back, we’ll discuss your experiences. Drawing from those experiences, we’ll do design sketches for technologies that disrupt our habits and flows, prompting new reflections on the world.

Turn in on Friday, 10/13:
Please submit a blog post with the following:

  • your walking algorithm (the one you wrote)
  • your photos or description of your design sketch
  • a paragraph reflecting on the following:
    • What were your intentions with the walking algorithm you designed? Did you have any particular goals or desires that would come about in the way you designed it?
    • What did you notice on your walk that you would not have noticed otherwise? Why do you think the instructions you followed allowed you to notice those things?
    • what aspects of the users lifeworld does  your design “amplify” and how does it do that?
    • what “script” might describe how people would use your technology (e.g. how do the materials and overall design suggest particular actions and relationships)


Future Product Catalog

Inspired by the TBD catalog and the Ikea Catalog from the near future this exercise is going to focus on creating a design fiction that imagines and communicates the products of the near future. The goal of this exercise is to examine not only our ideas of the future and their implications but how we might “craft” those ideas for others to build upon.

Before Oct 4:
Please select a catalog to modify. I will bring a selection into class for you to choose from if you don’t have anything at home. The ideal catalog features a list of products and services. Most of what you would find in “junk mail” would suffice. Once you have a selected catalog, do at least 30 minutes of research on new technologies related to the kinds of goods and/or services offered in your catalog. For instance, if you have a clothing catalog, search the web for new innovations in fashion and clothing. Some places you might look for these innovations are Gizmodo, Wired Magazine, Science, but searching Google “new technology in [your topic]” or “new innovations in [your topic]” could also be helpful. Bring you catalog and a list of the kind of technologies you find that might shape the “near future” of your catalog and bring it to class on Wednesday, Oct 4.

In Class on Oct 4:
We’re going to iterate on potential products for the future and evaluate their potential as design fictions. First, you’re going to come up with three “future world” scenarios for your catalog, examining what kinds of technologies exist, who sell them, how might they use them, etc. With your partner, you’re going to select the “future world” that is the most compelling to work with further. Then you are going to modify a page of your catalog to represent products from that future world, changing the images and language as necessary to communicate your point. Then we will conduct a group critique in which each person leaves their modified catalog open on the table and students tour the room adding post-its to the design indicating what they find compelling about particular designs. We’ll share and reflect as a group.

Turn in by Friday, Oct 6

  • an image or description of your catalog
  • your list of what the “near future” innovations in the domain of your catalog
  • an image of your modified catalog
  • a paragraph reflecting of your modified catalog:
    • what issues for the future did this exercise help you think about that you hadn’t thought about previously? If none, reflect on why you think it didn’t bring those issues up.
    • if you had more time, what would you do to improve your design fiction and what outcome would you desire from those improvements?