Course Overview

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to human-computer interaction and the design process. It is overwhelmingly organized around a group project, in which students:

  • Ideate and Propose Design Problems
  • Study Existing Practices and Challenges
  • Explore Potential Design Opportunities and Tradeoffs
  • Evaluate and Improve a Design
  • Communicate their Problem and Resulting Design

Project Theme

Projects are exploring challenges and opportunities in self-tracking, also known as Personal Informatics:

Personal informatics systems are systems that help people collect personally relevant information for the purpose of self-reflection and gaining self-knowledge.

Li et al., 2010.

Personal informatics relates heavily to the Quantified Self movement, which emphasizes:

Self-knowledge through numbers.

Gary Wolf, 2009

People have long sought to better understand themselves, but recently technology advances are enabling fundamentally new approaches. Students will examine the problems people encounter, then explore how new technology can go beyond the data fetish to help people in reaching their goals.

Project Structure

Projects are organized around four assignments, each consistent of several milestones:

Example project from prior offerings include:

Note that details of assignments may have changed since prior offerings, so their reports may not map to the current project. However, these represent examples of strong work in this course.


A small set of readings are assigned throughout the quarter, with additional resources also made available.

Basic Information

Contact: Email all instructors at cse440-instr [at]

Class Time & Location: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 12:00-1:50 MOR 230

Section Times & Locations:

  • Fridays, 10:30-11:20 MGH 228
  • Fridays, 11:30-12:20 MGH 295
  • Fridays, 1:30-2:20 MGH 254
  • Fridays, 2:30-3:20 MGH 254

Office Hours:

Scheduled hours are held most weeks, but check the calendar:

  • James, Tuesdays, 4:30 - 5:30, CSE 666
  • Lauren, Wednesdays, 1:30 - 2:30, CSE 218
  • Alex, Thursday, 1:30 - 2:30, CSE 218

Other meetings by appointment.

Course Staff:

James Fogarty

James Fogarty

Alex Fiannaca

Alex Fiannaca

Lauren Milne

Lauren Milne

Saba Kawas

Saba Kawas

Kelsey Munsell

Kelsey Munsell


The overall course grade will be computed as follows:

  • Group Project (65%)
    • Assignment 1, Project Proposal (3%)
    • Assignment 2, Getting the Right Design (21%)
      • Milestones (6%)
      • Final Report (15%)
    • Assignment 3, Getting the Design Right (14%)
      • Milestones (4%)
      • Final Report (10%)
    • Assignment 4, Communicating the Design (15%)
      • Milestones (3%)
      • Project Website (4%)
      • Video Prototype (4%)
      • Poster (4%)
    • Presentations (12%)
      • Getting the Right Design Presentation (5%)
      • Getting the Design Right Presentation (5%)
      • Individual Presentation Score (2%)
  • Exam (25%)
  • Individual Readings (5%)
  • Participation (5%)

Each assignment will also provide a point breakdown intended to convey how it will be graded. Design is an inherently subjective practice, and so grading in this course is necessarily subjective. Wow us with your work.

Because the course is designed around feedback on project milestones, grades given to those milestones indicate that you have invested sufficient effort and insight at the time of the milestone. You will get feedback and are expected to continue acting upon that feedback in your design process. The bulk of project grades is therefore attached to the final deliverables, which are evaluated on their quality.


Many assignments are due “the night before class”. We will implement this in Canvas as 4:00am.

In order to be prepared to give you feedback, the course staff must have your submission in the morning. Submitting the day of class, just before class, or in class is therefore unacceptable, risking zero credit.

Submissions should be in PDF format (i.e., not plain text, not Word). The PDF should be ‘printable’, containing everything we need to review and grade the assignment (e.g., your name). The course staff has a large number of submissions to manage, so format and completeness issues are problematic.


This course website lives on GitHub:

You can submit pull requests to update the webpage, and you will publish project webpages via pull request.