Syllabus

51.265 Environments Studio I: Understanding Form & Context
Instructor: Peter Scupelli

51.267 Prototyping Lab I: Environments
Instructor: Austin S. Lee

Teaching Assistant: Tracy Potter
Architecture Assistant: Lia Tamanini

Please note the courses: 51.265 Environments Studio I: Understanding Form & Context and 51.267 Prototyping Lab I: Environments, were developed as deeply integrated courses. All assignments and projects have both studio and a prototyping components. Students receive a studio and a prototyping grade for each assignment.

1. General Description

In the Environments Studio I and Prototyping Lab I, students approach environments from the perspective of human-centered design, interaction design, and service design. Broadly speaking, in the Products and Communication tracks the focus of making is based on shaping and crafting of “products” and “communications.” One of the driving principles behind the Environments Track is the idea that all products and communications are situated within a broader context. The focus of the environments track is in crafting, shaping of “environments” that people can enter into and experience.

Environments for human experiences range from purely physical environments (e.g., a walk through the woods) to purely digital environments (e.g., a video conference call), and hybrid environments are a mix of both (e.g., a smart home).

Typically human experiences in designed environments require seamless integration across different design practices. For example, an experience in an Apple retail store requires deep integration across multiple disciplines: Architecture, Communication Design, Branding, Industrial Design, Interaction Design, Service Design, Engineering, and so forth. The value to the customer is provided by the deep integration across components (and expertise silos) and the inherent quality of the components.

In the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon, the Environments Track emerges as a complementary perspective to the Products and Communications Tracks. Products and communications are often conceived of as the result of making “things.” An environment instead is the empty space that people can enter into shaped by things. Students are expected to go deep in each track but also explore the complementary connections and overlaps between products, communications, and environments.

Meaningful designed experiences, such as an interactive museum exhibit, a technologically enhanced retail experience,  and so forth require a broader design approach that explores the integration of products, communications, interfaces, and the role of space around such components.

To design “environments” is to design empty spaces, voids stages, places for people to inhabit. For example, an interior environment is shaped by things such as walls, doors, furniture, windows, ceiling, floor, and forth.  What makes an interior environment valuable is the empty space defined by the surrounding things, not the materials themselves shaping the space. For example, advertisements for an apartment mention the square surface of the empty space and not the volume of walls, ceiling, and floors.

Likewise, an online environment is shaped by interfaces, interactions, and so forth. The value of an online environment isn’t in the elements of the interface, the colored pixels, information architectures, the affordances, the computational power; the value resides in the human action that experiences with such items afford a person, family, community, nation, the planet, and so forth. The materiality of boundaries is necessary to define environments, but the value in environments derives from the perception of, experiences in, and actions of people.

Through the studio and lab sessions, students will learn ways to design environments related to the following three areas:

  1. PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENTS  Learn methods to visually represent the experiences of an environment where people dwell.
  2. DIGITAL ENVIRONMENTS  Investigate the spatial aspects of the digital environment and learn ways to visualize how it is interlinked with the physical world.
  3. HYBRID ENVIRONMENTS  Investigate existing and the future of digitally enabled environments and propose innovative ideas through rapid prototyping and Computer Aided Design programs (CAD).

The focus of the Environments Studio and Lab is to help the students build the skills and insights for designing human experiences within environments rather than only the form factors of a built structure. Students explore a range of environments

Students will (class activities)…

Go experience research sites and report what you’ve learn 

attend to lectures to gain new information related to environmental prototyping

engage in hands-on activities to learn through hacking/making

work on a team to learn to make with others

be introduced to CAD programs to visually express ideas

participate in critiques to verbalize your views

build ideas through drawing and low-fi prototype

give demos to communicate your thinking

…in order to (learning goals)…

establish and apply interaction design principles to environments design

make various prototypes to conduct research;  understanding the problem space through making

visually communicate ideas in spatial context;  through both analog and digital methods (e.g. drawing, CAD, etc)

understand built environments  by experiencing, analyzing and visualizing the physical surroundings

understand digital environments  and learn ways to integrate the digital information in space

understand hybrid environments; look into state of art examples of actuated, digitally embedded, responsive environments and explore ways to express a hybrid environment 

ideate many preferred futures through visual thinking and making

sketch with narrative; generate scenarios to invent how people behave in the three types of environments (i.e., physical, online, hybrid)

wireframe to resolve issues of navigation and task hierarchy in context of space

identify user design patterns to simplify wireframes

learn ways to ideate environments through  UX framework to provide details on how dwellers might experience the space

effectively pitch a design concept in order through presentations and proof of concept prototype demos

document/prototype a design to enable collaboration with artists, architects, interior designers, and engineers. 

make a concept video to communicate both the user experience and the technical requirements of intelligent environments. 

In taking this course we expect students to demonstrate…

design thinking as distinct from scientific thinking and engineering thinking

human-centered design

ideation in the studio

a creative learning in studio culture of hacking and making

iterative refinement of a design concept

usage of design tools including: illustrator, photoshop, aftereffect, html 5, and 3d CAD programs

problem reframing

how to hack and prototype with conventional tools

how to work with forms in space

sketching and drawing

storyboarding

sketch modeling (quick 3D form studies)

2. Course Structure

The class will focus on delivering the following projects.

A1. Visually Expressing Environments

Students will be introduced to existing CAD tools that would help communicate environments. Students are encouraged to draw and roughly build mock-ups before working digitally.

Methods

Seeing, thinking, drawing are inextricably interlinked process in visual thinking. When ideating the environments, we encourage the students to not only create rough sketches and story boards but also build and see low-fi structures and share their thoughts with each other.

We encourage the students to start from low-fi renderings and build mock-ups during the creative phase then shift to the phase of design execution with high fidelity outcomes once the ideas are polished and refined. Conventional CAD programs can help present complex ideas effectively to the clients. In the course we’ll focus on using CAD programs to express an idea that can be expensive.

Communicate your design concept as cardboard models, sketches, storyboards, a series of slides (presentation) and 3D mock-ups. Include current state, context design, and story of how this will have an impact.

Deliverables

Rough video sketch of space, environmental sketches, wireframe for the interactions in space.
Process documentation of iterations of wireframes, storyboards, and video sketch.
Photographic documentation of sites explored iteratively.

A2. Sketching Interactions in Environments

Students will investigate ways to communicate the interaction flow of an environment through playing and sketching experiences with prototyping tools in space. We expect students to demonstrate various design iterations by conducting series of  spatial experiments, which include methods of hacking and making. Students will investigate ways to hack existing products such as IFTTT, Phillips Hue and be introduced to design tools related to prototyping space.

Deliverables

Video sketch of space, deliver space with interactive elements
Process documentation of iterations of studio drawings, storyboards for walk through, and video sketch of demo.
Photographic documentation and drawings of studio explored iteratively.

A3. Environments Experience Design Story

Go on a field trip and document your chosen Environment. Use what you learned in A1 and A2 to tell a “design story.” Design stories have two parts: how the world is based on your analysis and how you think the world aught to be based on your analysis. Weeks 1-5.

Deliverables

Photographic/video documentation, sketches, presentation, online process documentation.
Proof of iterative development of ideas.
Proof of physical site visits.
Documentation of online site of analysis.

A4. Prototyping Intelligent Environments For Learning

Students will explore a learning environment and scope their design research into proposing an environment where the digital and physical merge together to enhance the learning experience. Students will conduct a proof of concept demo and communicate their design concept. The final outcome will be a video documentation that includes high-fi design as well as interactive prototype.

Class Participation

Students are expected to attend class, arrive on time, participate effectively on a team (if required), and offer comments on readings. Most critically, students are expected to offer constructive criticism of their classmates’ work that helps the design team improve their design. If students need to miss a class, they should email Peter, Austin, and Tracy ahead of time and be sure to inform their teammates they will not be attending.

For tips on how to prepare for a critique see: http://www.contrib.andrew.cmu.edu/~lelab/?design-critique=critique-roles

Team Grading

If the students work as a team, at the end of each team project, students will be asked to evaluate their own and their teammates’ performance. These evaluations can influence a grade by up to 10%. It is critical that each individual team members should take part in every elements of the design deliverables. (e.g. interaction design, ui design, video shooting/editing, prototype)

3. Grading Breakdown

Here are some criteria for the project evaluation

Environments Studio I

A1. Visually Expressing Environments 15%
•  Are the design deliverables (form + context) communicating the big concept effectively?
•  Are the physical, digital, and hybrid environment components documented online?
•  Are is the process work documented online visually and the process work explained?
•  Is there tangible evidence of exploration multiple versions, iterations, documented site visits (e.g., multiple types of sketches, photographs, annotations, etc)
•  Were the final files submitted?

A2. Sketching Interactions in Environments  15%
•  Are the mini-prototyping experiments compelling, desirable and meaningful?
•  Are the physical, digital, and hybrid environment components documented online?
•  Are is the process work documented online visually and the process work explained?
•  Is there tangible evidence of exploration multiple versions, iterations, documented site visits (e.g., multiple types of sketches, photographs, annotations, etc)
•  Were the final files submitted?

A3. Environments Experience Design Story 10%
 Did the student visit and appropriately document the site visited?
•  Did the student show regular progress in design critiques (e.g., work steadily on the assignment, not procrastinate until the deadline).
•  Are the physical, digital, and hybrid environment components documented online?
•  Are is the process work documented online visually and the process work explained?
•  Is there tangible evidence of exploration multiple versions, iterations, documented site visits (e.g., multiple types of sketches, photographs, annotations, etc)
•  Were the final files submitted?

A4. Prototyping Intelligent Environments  40%
•  e.g. Is the problem worth solving? Is the student communicating the design concept effectively through his/her design (form+context) and the proof of concept demo?
•  Are the physical, digital, and hybrid environment components documented online?
•  Are is the process work documented online visually and the process work explained?
•  Is there tangible evidence of exploration multiple versions, iterations, documented site visits (e.g., multiple types of sketches, photographs, annotations, etc)
•  Were the final files submitted?

Class Participation  20%
•  e.g. Is the student engaged in the active learning process? Is the student prepared for class (do readings/viewings ahead )? Engaged in the studio environment (as opposed to phone, computer, social media, online shopping, email, etc). Is the student’s online process kept up-to-date during the design process. Process fictions are made up after the fact. I’m interested in seeing the paths you take as you are taking them.

Prototyping Lab I

A1. Visually Expressing Environments 25%
•  Did the student acquire the sufficient skill set for expressing the form, characteristics and idea of an environment?

A2. Sketching Interactions in Environments  25%
•  Did the student iterate their design prototypes enough and demo novel/meaningful/desirable interactive experience?

A4. Prototyping Intelligent Environments  30%
•  Did the student demonstrate design abilities for expressing the form, characteristics, idea of an environment?
• What are the interactive elements in their final demo?

Class Participation  20%
•  Are the students learning through making, and sharing the knowledge they’ve acquired with their peers?
•  Is the online documentation clearly explaining the design process and capturing the highlight moments of the demo?
• Did the students successfully document and share the site from Assignment 3. Environments Experience Design Story in a timely manner?

Intranet submission: All projects are required to be uploaded to the CMU Design intranet, complete with imagery, descriptions, and links as appropriate. This is a requirement for all projects, so make sure you know how to log in, have the correct password, etc.

Grading criteria Work and performance in the course will be evaluated on a weekly basis.

Students will receive a grade mini-term grade. Assignments, timely attendance, and in-class participation are a critical part of the grade. Bringing examples from outside of the class is considered to be an assignment and is also important. In addition, the process of exploration is as important as the final product, so it is important that students manage time well and devote time to visiting, reading, watching,  writing, sketching, and thinking about the content presented each week. Each assignment has a detailed grading criteria sheet.

Attendance Students are expected to attend all classes on time. This is a studio/prototyping lab. There is no way to make up a class discussion or a design critique comment a colleague made in response to another comment. In the case of absence, please inform the instructor before the class if possible, and/or after the missed class.
Arriving late to class, leaving early, and falling asleep during class will affect your grade. Three tardies (e.g., sleeping in class, texting, social media, etc or an early departure) equate to missing class.

Since this is a mini-course, missing more than one class session may significantly affect your grade. Excused absences include documented: medical emergencies, family emergencies, and natural disasters. Unless written documentation is submitted, all absences are unexcused.

Students are expected to be fully present and attentive during class sessions (i.e. no Facebook, Linkedin, texting, tweeting, email, etc.). Three violations equate to missing a day of class.

Work is due at the beginning of class. Work that is late will be decremented 10% for every 24 hours that pass.

Project Deliverables for all assignments:
(1) A 200×200 pixel thumbnail for the project with a 35-word description (e.g., one sentence).
(2) Link to process work. Documented real in-progress process (not process fictions). Document and reflect on your design process as you work.
(3) Self-reflection questions at the end of each assignment.
(4) Submit final files to Box-folder.
(5) Intranet submission: All projects are required to be uploaded to the CMU Design intranet, complete with imagery, descriptions, and links as appropriate. This is a requirement for all projects, so make sure you know how to log in, have the correct password, etc.

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