Course Overview

Course Description

This course provides an introduction to human-computer interaction and the design process. Students will learn methods and skills for designing and prototyping interactive systems. The course covers a design process from the initial formulation of a design problem to creation of digital prototypes. Importantly, the course does not emphasize development but instead fully focuses on design.

The course structure is a mix of lectures, hands-on activities, and design critiques by peers and course staff. The course 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 Iterate Upon a Design
  • Communicate a Problem and Resulting Design

Learning Objectives

  • Process-Focused Perspective on Interaction Design
  • Design Research Methods and Skills
  • Task-Focused Scenario Development, Sketching, and Storyboarding
  • Rapid Prototyping and Iteration
  • Critical Perspective on Design Solutions

Course Staff

James Fogarty

Photo of James Fogarty.

Lisa Elkin

Photo of Lisa Elkin.

Simona Liao

Photo of Simona Liao.

Ethan Sylvia

Photo of Ethan Sylvia.

Jason Guo

Photo of Jason Guo.

Course Coordination

  • Contact

    Email course staff at <cse440-staff [at]>.

    Please do not email individual course staff. Using the course staff alias promotes both staff coordination and a more prompt response.

  • Class Time & Location

    Tuesdays & Thursdays, 10:00-11:20.

    NAN Room 181

  • Section Times & Locations

    Section A: Fridays, 10:30-11:20 MGH Room 058, with Lisa and Ethan.

    Section B: Fridays, 11:30-12:20 MGH Room 058, with Lisa and Ethan.

    Section C: Fridays, 12:30-1:20 MGH Room 058, with Simona and Jason.

    Section D: Fridays, 1:30-2:20 MGH Room 058, with Simona and Jason.

    The course calendar will provide any non-standard times, locations, or staffing.

  • Office Hours

    • James, by appointment.
    • Lisa, Thursdays 1:00 to 2:00, CSE 624.
    • Simona, Wednesdays 2:30 to 3:30, CSE 3rd Floor Breakout.

    Scheduled office hours require that you email beforehand (i.e., at least one hour beforehand). If nobody has emailed regarding an office hour, course staff may not be available. Hours are scheduled most weeks, but check the course calendar. Other meetings are by appointment.

  • Canvas

    Course information and material will primarily be provided on this website.

    Canvas will be used for submissions and when appropriate for limiting access to course materials.


Strive to do good work because you care about your own opportunities to learn, including the opportunities this course provides working with a group in an intensive project.

The overall course grade will be computed as follows:

  • 65%: Group Project
    • 5%: Assignment 1, Project Brainstorming and Proposal
      • 1a: Individual Brainstorm (1%)
      • 1b: Group Proposals (2%)
      • 1c: Finalized Proposal (2%)
    • 25%: Assignment 2, Getting the Right Design
      • 2b: Design Research Plan (3%)
      • 2c: Design Research Check-In (2%)
      • 2d: Design Research Review (3%)
      • 2e: Task Review (3%)
      • 2f: Design Check-In (4%)
      • 2g: Design Review (2%)
      • 2p: Getting the Right Design Presentation (8%)
    • 20%: Assignment 3, Getting the Design Right
      • 3a: Paper Prototype (3%)
      • 3c: Usability Testing Check-In (3%)
      • 3d: Usability Testing Review (3%)
      • 3e: Digital Mockup (3%)
      • 3p: Getting the Design Right Presentation (8%)
    • 15%: Assignment 4, Communicating the Design
      • 4web: Web Post (8%)
      • 4poster: Poster and Pitch (5%)
      • Individual Presentation Delivery (2%)
  • 10%: Participation
  • 25%: Exam

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. The stated project requirements are the minimum, intended to leave room for groups to earn strong grades through strong 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.

Participation and COVID-19 Safety

Our goal is for this course to provide an opportunity for learning without undermining wellness or safety. Active participation in activities is central to this course, and we all share responsibility for preserving safety of this learning environment. Please review and adhere to related policies, including the UW COVID-19 FAQ for students.

Expectation of In-Person Participation

The course heavily emphasizes a group project and participation in associated in-class activities. In-person participation is expected for both lecture and section, is part of participation grading, and can also impact grading of your contribution to the group project.

Remote Participation and Recordings

There may be reasons you cannot or should not attend in-person (e.g., COVID symptoms, COVID exposure). In these circumstances, contact the course staff for permission to attend remotely. If you are unsure whether you should attend, please reach out and know that we will do our best to be accommodating. Our goal is to encourage and support you in decisions that preserve everybody's safety.

Students with permission may attend via the Zoom link provided in Canvas. A member of the course staff will also aim to monitor the Zoom chat for questions. If class splits into project group activities, the Zoom meeting will end and remote students should join their group via a video call with a member of their group.

We will also use the in-room Panopto system to record lecture components of the course. This can support review of material, but is not a substitute for in-person activities.

Late Policy

We generally expect all assignments will be submitted according to the deadline in Canvas and the assignment description. This is a fast-paced course, with many elements of the project depending on prior elements. The course staff's ability to give feedback also relies on timely submissions (e.g., course staff will often review submissions quickly after they are submitted to be ready for course activities).

If your group feels that you would really benefit from an extension, or if there is some kind of emergency impacting your ability to turn in assignments, please contact the course staff before the submission deadline. We will do our best to be flexible and work with you to so that your group stays on track. Except in extreme circumstances, we will typically not be able to give an extension of more than 1 day.

Accommodations and Additional University Policies

Additional university policies apply (e.g., regarding Academic Integrity, Conduct, Disability Resources, Face Covering, Religious Accommodations):

Please do not hesitate to contact the course staff regarding these or any other accommodations. We are happy that you are here and want to support your engagement in this learning environment.

Course Website

This course website lives on GitHub:

You can submit pull requests to update the website, and you will publish elements of your project to the website via pull request.