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An intense discussion moves around the room, each student sharing their aspirations for the year. When Sergio starts his thesis research on Peru that week, he discovers countrywide protests on violence against women. Drawing on inquiry lessons from his Design Research course, he asks for stories on Snapchat, and in under two weeks has gathered more than stories from women, and a few men, about their experience with violence.

Sergio quickly prototypes a site offering advice and support, and reaches out to a Peruvian politician he met through his research. Together they discover the greater need is a site to aggregate all the existing information services. Two years later, Sergio is a full-time designer at LinkedIn, and also working with Peruvian feminist leaders to secure funding for the site with plans to launch at scale in For Sergio, the project represents a powerful opportunity to transform the lives of the more than , Peruvian women annually who report domestic violence.

I believe every interaction designer can create social impact if they are taught to ask not just what and how they design, but why. In , Mark Breitenberg, then provost of California College of the Arts CCA , alongside president Steve Beale, commissioned me to establish an innovative interaction design curriculum. The intention was to reinvigorate the century-old institution with deeper technological relevance and to position the college as a leader in this new field. We knew we wanted to create something different—a potent combination of our small, socially engaged San Francisco art college and the technological design culture of Silicon Valley.

CCA was already known for excellent craft and for curricular engagement with the local community, making it seem natural to offer students an experience combining the best of art-college training with the teaching potential of local professional designers. Not many programs get to start from scratch, but this greenfield approach gave me the latitude to work as a human-centered startup inside the college.

A design process to create a design curriculum. While developing the curricular vision, I quickly learned that most successful interaction designers followed idiosyncratic paths. There was no obvious curriculum to emulate, and no singular faculty or designer who could simply reteach what they had learned.

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Design historian Barry Katz reminded me that the Bauhaus created the contemporary discipline of design by bringing together an ensemble faculty that united formal elements of art with practical hands-on craft. Our aim, too, became bringing together a diverse specialist faculty to create something larger and newer than the sum of its parts—but first, we had to better define the discipline and the curriculum. I convened several sessions with dozens of leaders from the corporate, academic, and nonprofit worlds to strategically map out the most challenging problems of today, the most significant problems of tomorrow, who the most successful designers were, and what industry would need from the next generation of interaction designers.

Some were group sessions, others one-on-one to understand their paths and perspectives. My curricular goal was to combine creative, technology-shaping practices from film, animation, graphic design, industrial design, HCI, and architecture, while also identifying and defining new skills not yet taught in any of those programs. We structured the program around four elements: context, curriculum, classroom , and culture.

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In we used a similar process to establish the Master of Interaction Design program, learning from the successes of the BFA program, with a goal of craft-shifting studio-based designers, and a few engineers, from legacy disciplines into interaction design Table 1.

A curriculum is derived from an understanding of context, and from setting the intention for real-world impact. Today technology increasingly shapes our experience of the world, including how we communicate, govern, learn, travel, trade, and manage vital parts of our lives. The implications of decisions made by engineers, technologists, and designers are all around us at an unprecedented scale.

At Facebook alone, design decisions made by the interaction team will be experienced by more than 2 billion users every month. Given this critical intersection of technology and impact, it has never been more important that designers understand their power and both their intended and unintended potential consequences. In his book Grunch of Giants , Buckminster Fuller wrote that real transformation comes not from political innovation but rather from technological innovation.

That is because political change is too slow and is often only a response to disruptive technological change, which implied to me that the capacity to humanize technology is primary. And there is increasing urgency not only in the issues we need to address but also in the speed with which technology is impacting society. The industry faces increasingly complex ethical challenges in its decision making, whether over the use of personal data and machine learning, the implementation of self-driving vehicles, or the consequences of businesses built around the attention economy that, we now know, impact both our family relationships and even our democracies [ 1 ].

Advancing into the next decade with so-called exponential platforms such as robotics, machine learning, virtual reality, and blockchain will open up vast new business opportunities, displace millions of jobs, affect culture, and ultimately change policy. Many engineering schools, including MIT and Stanford, are still debating whether technology education needs to accommodate ethical concerns [ 2 ].

Curriculum: Designing From Scratch. After defining our intention to humanize technology, we just needed a working definition for the discipline. In we could not find a formal definition of interaction design that could help us create the curriculum, and there were only a few exemplary studio-based interaction design programs in existence. Thus we created our own definition from the research we did on successful designers: Interaction design is a new human-centered collaborative design discipline with deep skills in systems and behavior, with just enough technical skills to demonstrate and just enough visual skills to communicate.

This definition helped to distinctively map out our new curriculum. We are not graphic designers but need some of those skills to communicate. We are not engineers, but we need enough coding knowledge to prototype and demonstrate. Our deeper skills are design for technical and social systems, and for human and machine behavior. No other traditional design discipline laid claim to that, and the definition has served us well.

Verbs, not nouns. It is important to question what is. Design is about deliberate change, often of systems; a capacity to reflect is critical. Reflection helps us handle ambiguity and see connections. It also helps to keep us from accepting the power limitations granted by those who commission our work. Beyond the research findings and advice, the curriculum is heavily influenced by my own path in design leadership—a humanist technical education rooted in Scandinavian cooperative design [ 3 ]—and my full-bodied design explorations pioneered at IDEO [ 4 ].

Combined together with the hard-craft-based foundation of art college, where students spend nearly all their time working with their hands, I call this whole body learning , which consists of three parts: hands, head, and heart Figure 1. Faculty follows curriculum. My physics class was led by a well-known physicist from the Eastern Bloc who would read aloud from a textbook in his impenetrably thick accent, deriving equations for two hours on nine blackboards, chalk splintering under his heavy hand. I gathered 80 signatures from students who agreed the course did not meet our expectations for one of the best universities in the world.

Having worked in it, I now know that academia moves slowly and often has a longer-term mission.

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But while I understand, I never wanted to subject my students to that kind of experience. The most inspiring teachers are those with not just the experience, credibility, and energy to engage their students but also the compassion to inspire and support them. With curriculum in hand, I just needed to find the right people with both a vibrant professional practice and a growth mindset to bring the curriculum to life—teachers who were up for taking a shared learning journey with their students. Fortunately, many of the designers defining interaction design today live within a few miles of our CCA campus in San Francisco.

Through close connections to industry, our program has been able to attract and hire more than 75 design leaders as adjunct faculty since the program began in , many of them with experience at Google, Facebook, Apple, IDEO, Frog, and smaller agencies and startups. Art college as a making-based education is inherently constructivist, and nearly all courses are project based.

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While most potential teachers had decades of studio-based practice and industrial workshop experience, few had formal teaching experience, and in many ways, that was a better fit for our model. Classroom: How and Where we Teach. Art colleges and design studios have always understood the importance of a rich and stimulating physical workspace.

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We teach in spaces that encourage flexible, uninhibited practical work, which means movable furniture, writable walls, sticky notes, and the ever present foamcore boards for pin-ups, collaboration, and sharing. It is not uncommon to find sawdust alongside trimmed insulated wire on the studio floor. There are few tests in art college but lots of critiques and discussion. Critical thinking is one of the most powerful, transferable disciplines of a robust art-college education.

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Students also receive individual attention from their teachers each week, often benefiting directly from faculty with 20 years of professional practice in class sizes of a dozen or so. Teachers can know each student and their backgrounds, aspirations, successes, and struggles. In this way, art college is more intimate and personal than research-based universities, attracting different learning objectives from different kinds of students.

Students are largely international female people of color and include significant over 30 percent first-generation college attendees. Nearly all report wanting to change the world for the better and favor meaning over money. My colleague Haakon Faste often refers to his goal of creating a compassionate classroom. Indeed, teaching a growth mindset and working with complex social challenges often require individualized student support from skillful teachers in a small group setting.

In this form of service learning, students see homelessness and mental health problems firsthand.

Workshop: What is the material of interaction design? Each discipline in an art college has traditionally had its own physical workshop—a place of physical tools and making. Accordingly, we were invited to build one for our program. We knew it would not be a computer lab. We met this need by creating the Hybrid Lab.

The lab offers generous operating hours and has large, welcoming doors and bright lights that invite students in. Curated shelves of projects, drawers of electronic parts, 3D printers, soldering stations, and helpful student assistants create an atmosphere of experimentation and exploration. The project brought together faculty from all four college divisions: architecture, fine arts, humanities and science, and design.

Adjust conducted exhaustive research with potential users to determine goals for accessing these types of content. We employed a solution architecture method to define a common taxonomy and model to use throughout the platform, and the greater HIMSS web properties.

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Analytics provides backup in the form of data to these opinions—the Value Suite has astronomically higher statistics when compared to the rest of himss. Adjust was brought on to design a fresh user experience for the Digital Divas learning platform. The Digital Divas is a division of DePaul's Digital Youth Network that focuses on exposing girls to "nontraditional" learning pathways, encouraging them to explore STEM skills, challenge stereotypes, and continue to explore these subjects in high school and beyond.

Through user interviews and observations of students and mentors, we defined a core set of features that would support a blended learning environment. Adjust worked in tandem with the Digital Youth Network to create the component based interface through an agile development process. Before Adjust was engaged, the user interface was overly complex and presented disjointed information architecture. During the UX design and development iterations, we focused on streamlining the workflow and cultivating a content delivery platform that was simple and fun.


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Adjust jumped into a very fast-paced iterative development process and was able to get up-to-speed while still modifying the design based on prioritization in order to deliver the platform for a summer pilot of the program. Adjust delivered well-researched, thoroughly tested designs as well as augmented the development team to help bring those designs to life. More about Digital Divas.