Discovery & Invention

To lay a foundation for understanding design and research methods as related to media design and criticism.

It is generally accepted that process and evaluation are important aspect of design. But what exactly is the process of design and how can we explain the plurality of approaches, justifications, and claims to accountability? Can this plurality be the grounds for creativity and innovation and a more nuanced understanding and criticism?

The purpose of this course is to lay a foundation for better understanding of design and research methods. To this end, we will begin with a brief introduction to the basic methods of design such as ideation, prototyping, and criticism. This overview and the accompanying project will also allow us to interrogate the nature of data in design practice and research. Building on this basic understanding, we will explore several approaches to design with fundamentally different assumptions inclusive of the scientific, reflexive, and pragmatic paradigms. We will wrap up with a discussion of ethics and politics of design practice and research.

The general theme of the class is transition spaces and border-crossings. For more details please refer to the class discussion and project descriptions.

  • Understand philosophic foundations of design and research methodologies
  • Understand information design artifacts as reasoned and persuasive arguments that are audience specific and situated
  • Use the theories and topics presented in this course to identify the problems and craft methodologies to address them
  • Create digital artifacts with an awareness of history, respect and sensitivity to multiple and diverse audiences

MS Students: Hanington, Bruce, and Bella Martin. Universal methods of design: 100 ways to research complex problems, develop innovative ideas, and design effective solutions. Rockport Publishers, 2012.
PhD Students: Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, and Joseph M. Williams. The craft of research. University of Chicago press, 2003.

MS Students: Lupton, Ellen. Thinking with type. Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors & Students. Chronicle Books, 2014.
PhD Students: Graff, Gerald, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst. They say, I say: The Moves That Matters in Academic Writing. 2006.

Supplementary Readings
This course is inspired and informed by the following:
Dewey, John. Logic, The Theory of Inquiry. 1938.
Nelson, George. How to See: A Guide to Reading Our Man-Made Environment. Design Within Reach, 2003.
hooks, bell. Teaching to Transgress. Routledge, 2014.
Levine, Donald N. Powers of the Mind: The Reinvention of Liberal Learning in America. University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Listening and Viewing Assignments
In addition to reading, you will be assigned to watch videos or listen to podcasts. These materials an essential part of the course that will be drawn upon in class discussions.

Blog Entries
To engender class discussion, students will write short entries on the readings ahead of each session so that we all come prepared with opinions. When assigned, blogs are due at 7pm on Monday. The main readings will be summarized through an in-class presentation and/or student-led discussion.


Class Design: Ideation and Prototyping
(Aug 21)
  • Class Introduction
  • Short Assignment 1 Introduced: Design Hats (Due August 23)
  • Short Assignment 2 Introduced: Toy Cars (Due Sep 4)
(Aug 23)
Tutorial Creativity and Play
(Aug 24)
Class Data of Experience
(Aug 28)
  • Buchanan, Richard. "Design research and the new learning." Design Issues 17, no. 4 (2001): 3-23.
  • Activity: Drawing Lines
  • Due: Short Assignment 3 (100 uses for a paperclip)
(Aug 30)
  • Project 1: Crit #1
Tutorial Processbook
(Aug 31)
  • Tutorial: Processbook
  • Project 1: Studio Time #1
Class Conversation and Criticism
(Sep 4)
  • Booth, Wayne C. "The Peculiar ‘Logic’ of Evaluative Criticism." The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction. [Emphasis on the following subsection, "How we come to the act of judging: Coduction"]
  • Short Assignment 4 Introduced: Subscribe/Unsubscribe (Due Sep 10)
  • Due: Short Assignment 2 (Toy Cars)
(Sep 6)
  • Project 1: Crit #2
Tutorial Photoshop
(Sep 7)
  • Tutorial: Photoshop
  • Project 1: Studio Time #2


Class Design Research: Scientific Strategies
(Sep 11)
    • Miller, George A. "The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information." Psychological Review 63, no. 2 (1956): 81.
    • Due: Short Assignment 4 (Subscribe/Unsubscribe)

    • Research Talk: (Aspiring) PhD Students (30 min)
(Sep 13)
  • Project 1 Final Presentations & Crit
  • Project 2 Part 1 Introduced: Transition Spaces & Border Crossings (Due Sep 27)
  • Short Assignment 5 Introduced (Optional): Image Boards – Transition Spaces & Border Crossings (Due Sep 14)
Tutorial Brainstorming
(Sep 14)
  • Due: Short Assignment 5 (Image Boards) (Optional)
  • Project 2 Part 1: Group Formation and Brainstorming
Class Design Research: Scientific Strategies
(Sep 18)
(Sep 20)
  • Project 2 Part 1: Interim Presenation of Observational Analyses
  • Short Assignment 6 Introduced: Autoethnography of learning a new skill (Due Oct 5)
Tutorial Processbook Feedback
(Sep 21)
  • Project 1: Processbook Discussion and Feedback
  • Project 2 Part 1: Studio Time #1
  • Due (PhD Students only): Research Proposal Part 1 (Context and Significance) - 500 words
Class Design Research: Ethnographic and Interpretive Strategies
(Sep 25)
    • Charmaz, Kathy (2013)."Grounded Theory Methods in Social Justice Research." The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research
    • Charmaz, Kathy (2006). Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis.
    • Geertz, Clifford. After the Fact: Two Countries, Four Decades, One Anthropologist. Harvard University Press, 1996. (Chapter 1)
    • Gaver, Bill, Tony Dunne, and Elena Pacenti. "Design: Cultural Probes." Interactions 6, no. 1 (1999): 21-29.

    • Project 2 Part 2 Introduced: Ethnographic Strategies

    • Recommended:
    • Charmaz, Kathy. Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis. Sage, 2006.
    • Emerson, Robert, et al. Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. University of Chicago Press, 2011.
    • Geertz, Clifford. "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight." In Culture and Politics, pp. 175-201. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2000.
    • Miller, Daniel. The Comfort of Things. Polity, 2008.
    • Du Gay, Paul et al. Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman. Sage, 2013.
(Sep 27)
  • Project 2 Part 1: Final Presenation of Observational Analyses
Tutorial Studio Time
(Sep 28)
  • Project 2, Part 2: Identifying Ethnographic Methods
  • Due: Project 1 Processbook

Class Design Research: Speculative Strategies
(Oct 2)
  • Project 2, Part 3: Discuss Ethnographic Strategies Identified by Each Group
  • Project 2 Part 3: Studio Time #1
(Oct 4)
  • Dunne, Anthony. Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical Design (MIT Press). (2005). (Intro+Chapter 1)
  • Gaver, William W., Jacob Beaver, and Steve Benford. "Ambiguity as a Resource for Design." In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , pp. 233-240. ACM, 2003.
  • Buchanan, Richard. "Branzi's Dilemma: Design in Contemporary Culture." Design Issues 14, no. 1 (1998): 3-20.

  • Recommended:
  • Auger, James. "Speculative Design: Crafting the Speculation." Digital Creativity 24, no. 1 (2013): 11-35.
  • DiSalvo, Carl. Adversarial Design. The MIT Press, 2012.
  • Bardzell, Jeffrey, and Shaowen Bardzell. "What is Critical about Critical Design?" In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , pp. 3297-3306. ACM, 2013.
  • Keshavarz, Mahmoud. "Material Practices of power–part I&II: Passports and Passporting." Design Philosophy Papers 13, no. 2 (2015): 97-113.
Tutorial Studio Time
(Oct 5)
  • Project 2 Part 2: Studio Time #2
Class Design Research: Speculative Strategies
(Oct 9)
  • No Class. Fall Break.
(Oct 11)
  • Critique Session (+Groupwork)
  • Research Talk: (Aspiring) PhD Students (30 min)

Tutorial Studio Time
(Oct 12)
  • Critique Session
  • Due (PhD Students): Research Proposal Part 2. (Context, Significance, and Research Question); 1000-1200 Words
Class Design Research: Feminist, Postcolonial, and Reflexive Strategies
(Oct 16)
  • JafariNaimi, Nassim. Seeing through Alexa’s Algorithmic Gaze. Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience. To appear. (2019)
  • Forlano, Laura. "Data Rituals in Intimate Infrastructures: Crip Time and the Disabled Cyborg Body as an Epistemic site of Feminist Science." Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience 3, no. 2 (2017).
  • Chin, Elizabeth. My Life with Things: The Consumer Diaries. Duke University Press, 2016. (Selections)

  • Recommended:
  • JafariNaimi, Nassim, and Eric M. Meyers. "Collective intelligence or group think?: Engaging participation patterns in world without oil." In Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing , pp. 1872-1881. ACM, 2015.
  • Khosravi, Shahram. 'Illegal' Traveller: an Auto-Ethnography of Borders. Springer, 2010.
(Oct 18)
  • Project 2 Part 2: Studio Time #3
  • Project 3 Introduced: Design
Class Final Presentations
(Oct 19)
  • Project 2 Part 2: Final Presentations (2 hours)
Class Design Research: Pragmatic and Diologic Strategies
(Oct 23)
  • Buchanan, Richard. "Wicked problems in design thinking." Design Issues 8, no. 2 (1992): 5-21.
  • Schön, Donald A. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Routledge, 2017. (Selections)

  • Recommended:
  • Warr, Andy, and Eamonn O'Neill. "Understanding Design as a Social Creative Process." In Proceedings of the 5th conference on Creativity & Cognition , pp. 118-127. ACM, 2005
  • John Dewey: “The Pattern of Inquiry,” In Logic, the Theory of Inquiry. (1938)
(Oct 18)
  • Project 3: Studio Time #1
  • Research Talk: (Aspiring) PhD Students (30 min)
Tutorial Design Direction
(Oct 26)
  • Project 3: Solidify Design Direction to Follow
  • Oct 27 Withdrawal Deadline
Class Design Research: Participatory Strategies
(Nov 6)
  • Simonsen, Jesper, and Toni Robertson, eds. Routledge international handbook of participatory design. Routledge, 2012. (Selections)

  • Recommended:
  • Dourish, Paul. "Implications for design." In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems , pp. 541-550. ACM, 2006.
(Nov 8)
  • Project 3: Studio Time
Tutorial Studio Time
(Nov 9)
  • Project 3: Studio Time
  • Due (PhD Students): Research Proposal Part 3. (Context, Significance, and Research Question, Literature Review) - 2000 Words
Class Design Research and Ethics
(Oct 30)
  • Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. Zed Books Ltd., 2012. (Intro, Chapters 1 and 6)
  • JafariNaimi, Nassim. "Doing Justice to Stories." To appear in 2018

(Nov 1)
  • Project 3: Studio Time
Tutorial Studio Time
(Nov 2)
  • Due: Project 2 Process book
  • Project 3: Studio Time
Class Mixed & Inventive Methods
(Nov 13
  • Lury, Celia, and Nina Wakeford, eds. Inventive methods: The happening of the social. Routledge, 2012.
  • Friedman, Ken. "Research into, by and for design." Journal of Visual Art Practice 7, no. 2 (2008): 153-160

  • Recommended
  • Frayling, Christopher (1993). “Research in art and design.” Royal College of Art, Research Papers, Volume 1, Number 1, London
(Nov 15)
  • Project 3: Interim Presentations
Tutorial Studio Day
(Nov 16)
  • Project 3: Studio Day
Class From Methods to Principles
(Nov 20)
  • Hargraves, Ian. "Care and Capacities of Human-Centered Design." Design Issues 34, no. 3 (2018): 76-88.
  • Buchanan, Richard. "Human dignity and human rights: Thoughts on the principles of human-centered design." Design Issues 17, no. 3 (2001): 35-39.
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The dangers of a single story” (TED Talk)

  • Recommended:
  • JafariNaimi, Nassim, Lisa Nathan, and Ian Hargraves. "Values as hypotheses: design, inquiry, and the service of values." Design Issues 31, no. 4 (2015): 91-104.
Thanksgiving Break
Class Studio Days
(Nov 27)
  • Project 3: Studio Day
(Nov 29)
  • Project 3: Studio Day
Class Final Presentations
(Nov 30)
  • Project 3: Final Presentations
Research Proposals (PhD Students) and Project Documentations due on Dec 12th