CS 344
Interaction Design Laboratory


Learning outcomes




Latest additions

September 2005: Welcome to this year's round of Interaction Design Lab. Most permanent information will be available here but be sure to check back and forth between this site and studentcentral.  Changes and announcements tend to be made first on studentcentral. There are also some interesting links there.

Feb 2005: article from the Guardian about an interesting piece of persuasive technology (see mini-task 4) aimed at acting as a deterrent to people with unhealthy lifestyles. All done by mirrors.

Jan 2005: an interesting article about Kodak's design policy for their new EasyShare digital cameras.

  • Here's a very interesting site, from  an Australian development company, WetPC, with loads of information about interfaces for all sorts of difficult situations, particularly underwater uses.
  • Many of you are interested in developing products for people who are disabled in various ways. Take a look at the papers in this series of conferences if you are stuck for ideas or need some background reading - ERCIM Workshops on User Interfaces for All.
  • More inspiration. Here's a description of a digital glove (similar to a regular VR input device) that captures the movements of American Sign Language and send them to an ASL to English text translator, so that deaf people can communicate more easit. Here's the link.


Take a look at the internet kettle developed by Japan's Zojirushi Corp and described by Jakob Nielsen. Think about exploring this technology (not necessarily in a teabag-related way) in your own project…

  • Here's something to give inspiration for a project: a translation device for helping understand your dog's mood. Didn't Homer Simpson's smarter brother invent something similar for babies?
  • And here's another interesting use of the technology, park bench that's wired for the Internet:

Here's how it's done:
(from Guardian web site)




Aims and Approach 

The aim of this course is to give students extensive practice in the processes involved in designing novel highly interactive systems and to introduce them to new developments in design methodology. Computers are a ubiquitous part of practically every interaction in our lives, from light switches and vending machines to entertainment and education to sophisticated instruments  and complex defence systems. In this course, students will work with the existing conventions of graphical user interfaces, while also searching  for new styles and paradigms for interaction to suit this wide range of applications.

The course is based on the view that design is a skill best learned through actual experience and through reflection on that experience. We base the teaching in the course on the studio approach common in other design disciplines such as graphic design, fine art and architecture.  We will introduce basic design skills such as brain-storming, synectics and quick mock-ups, together with more focused interaction design methods such as scenarios and rapid prototyping. Students will apply these techniques to a set of design problems and present their resulting designs to their peers and teachers in formal presentation sessions.

This is a studio-based course with a minimum of lecturing.  Students are encouraged to read widely in the design literature. Some approaches will be introduced via short workshop exercises. However, the bulk of the course will be spent on four group and individual design projects to which students will apply the methods they have learned, presenting their resulting designs to their peers and teachers in formal presentation sessions.


Learning outcomes 

By the end of the module the students should be able to:

  • describe a range of methods used in product and interaction design
  • frame design problems and discover solutions
  • reason about potential solutions in a structured way
  • defend design decisions to peers and teachers
  • have an informed opinion on the current debates in the area


Content and teaching approach 

·  The module is structured around the design of four artefacts:

  • an interface to an intelligent agent currently named Info@home, to provide information to members of a family about their daily lives. It should be able to issue reminders based on a diary, on people's usual activities and on common knowledge. For instance, it might warn about the last post for Christmas and so on.
  • an interactive television service of your choice. This must be designed using an investigation of TV watching behaviour in the home.
  • a response to the 2005 ICT student design competition. This is about designing an ICT product to help older people - the guidelines are here. 

We will try to do as little "chalk and talk" teaching as possible. Instead, we intend to take a "spiral" approach, essentially repeating the design process for each of the four briefs, but each time concentrating on different aspects. For instance, the info@home  project will be based on creative brainstorming techniques, the iTV project suggests a real need for an ethnographic approach to requirements construction,  while the persuasive device might test physical modelling capabilities. When necessary, we will dip into more general topics via lectures and readings. Topics covered during the module will probably include:

  • design theory
  • creative design techniques
  • design rationale
  • rapid prototyping
  • representation in design
  • design languages and patterns
  • communication in the design process



The course textbook is Lawson, Bryan. 1997. How Designers Think: The Design Process Demystified. Butterworth. This may seem to be about architecture, but don't be fooled. We'll be reading through this a few chapters a week.

Another excellent book to look at  is Winograd, Terry. 1996. Bringing Design to SoftwareAddison-Wesley. You can get a good idea of the book from its web site. Terry Winograd runs his own course based around similar ideas: the web site is here.

Other excellent books in the general design and software design areas:

Alexander, Christopher. 1979. The Timeless Way of Building. Oxford University Press.

Cooper, Alan 1995. About Face: the Essentials of User Interface Design. IDG Books. Try also his newer book, The Inmates are Running the Asylum (1999).

Cross, N., Christiaans, H and K. Dorst, Eds. 1996. Analysing Design Activity. Chichester,  John Wiley.

Jones, J.C. 1992. Design Methods. 2nd edition. Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Laurel, Brenda (ed). 1990. The Art of Human Computer Interface Design. Addison Wesley.

Norman, Donald A. 1988. The Design of Everyday Things.  MIT Press.

Preece, J., Y. Rogers and H. Sharp. 2002. Interaction design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction. Wiley.

There are many more readings we could recommend but these make a good set of core references. You'll notice that few of these books were written yesterday. That's deliberate: in this module we're trying to dig down to the enduring foundations of design rather than keeping up with trends.

Web based resources


Creative Thinking

A step by step guide to brainstorming - recommended

Synectics is a structured approach to creative thinking.

An interesting paper from Malmö University, Sweden on Design Methodology and Design Practice

10 good tips for coming up with ideas - not as simplistic as you might first think

A good general thinking-skills site.

 Just ignore the "excellent life" stuff if it's not your style.


Short practical guide to paper prototyping

Saul Greenberg's class on prototyping methods - very full.

Paper prototyping from Serco Ltd.

Good basic ideas from BBC bite-size on making models for product design

Design Rationale

This site from Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute discusses design rationale representations as a way of tracking whether requirements have been met

Argumentation based design rationale site - very relevant

Interaction Design Sources

Terry Winograd's essay on Computing, AI, HCI, the Universe and Everything - an excellent piece of high level analysis from someone who has played a big role in the very movements he's documenting here.

Some inspiration: an article describing a wining entry from the Apple student interface design competition - Designing the PenPal: Blending Hardware and Software in a User-Interface for Children

Beyond the desktop computer

Agents and characters

An interesting article on Emotional Interfaces.

A site dedicated to the notion of the Virtual Companion

The MIT Software Agents site

An interesting course at Stanford looks at agents, guides, teachers etc. You should find this particularly useful for Project 4.

Hand-held  Devices - PDA's to tamagotchis

The Ericsson main site

The Nokia site

The Palm Computing Site

HP Jornada

The Gadgeteer

Yahoo's palmtop and hand-held site

The Compaq Aero

Casio Cassiopeia

Interesting article from Sherry Turkle on digital toys

Yahoo virtual pets site

Speech Technologies

Lernout and Haspie's home page

IBM's Voice software

Dragon Systems site

About.com's speech recognition and generation page

Wearable Computers

This about.com site on wearable computers is developed by wearable computer guru STeve Mann. Excellent resources here.

MIT page on wearable computers,

Carnegie Mellon's Wearable Computer site

 Nomadic Radio has a lot of interesting information on wearable audio computing.

Interactive Television

White Dot is the organisation whose local director is David Burke. He campaigns againts various aspects of iTV - read about his book SpyTV on the WhiteDot site.

Tracy Swedlow's site, iTV Today,  contains an excellent introduction to interactive TV technologies and applications.

Visit Broadbandbananas for a very large treasure trove of examples of iTV  applications.

Hands On TV is another excellent site.

Visions of the Future

Philips vision of the future

Life in 2010 - ideas from the IDEO design group

Philips connected devices with example videos and request for feedback

"Life in the Future" links page



Lyn Pemberton's Home Page
Last edited 24 February 2005