Course Overview

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to human-computer interaction and the design process. Students will learn methods and skills involved in designing and prototyping interactive systems. The course covers the design process from the initial formulation of a design problem to creation of digital prototypes. The class structure is a mix of classroom design activities, lectures, and design critiques of student work by peers and instructor. The course is overwhelmingly organized around a group project, in which students:

Learning Objectives

Project Theme

Social software continues to pervade our daily lives, influencing with whom we connect, the news to which we are exposed and the entertainment with which we amuse ourselves. In addition to our online social networks of friendship and shared interests, everyone also lives in a specific physical community. Each community is a locale with a distinct mix of individuals, resources and needs, with the particular complications of space, awareness and privacy that go along right in hand. Considering both the benefits and challenges of physical proximity, what kinds of applications, interactions or services can we design that support and leverage our communities?

Over the course of the semester, your group project will be to design a system to an activity or relationship within the particular context of a community that is not sufficiently well supported by current tools.

As part of your project, you’ll need to define what the specific community-focused activity is you wish to address and what aspects of it you are trying to support. Think about how that activity is currently supported via technology, what doesn’t work about current ways of supporting it, and how your solution will do this better. The specificity of addressing a particular community allows you to deeply think about what makes the location/community unique and how you would best want to support it. So, dive in and see what you can come up with.

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, 10:30-11:50 JHN 175

Section Times & Locations:

Office Hours:

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

Other meetings by appointment.

Course Staff:

Katharina Reinecke

Katharina Reinecke

Catie Baker

Catie Baker

Alex Fiannaca

Alex Fiannaca

Saba Kawas

Saba Kawas

Kelsey Munsell

Kelsey Munsell


You should do good work in this class because you care about your project and because you want to learn how to design interactive systems. That said, the university makes us use grades, so here is how grades will work in this class:

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.