Framing User Experiences

Faculty: Jason Severs 




Products are not just products anymore; they live within complex business and technological ecosystems that designers must navigate in order to understand, and ultimately define, user experiences. Whether it’s in the design of a kidney dialysis machine, a mobile phone app that tells you where the nearest coffee shop is located, or a water filtration system for the developing world, design is as much about framing user experiences as it is about the creation of new artifacts. This course focuses on the relationships between objects and their contexts, and on how human behaviors and needs converge to create user experiences.



User experience is as transient as the products and services that populate the global marketplace. Understanding it requires a new form of design cognition and a shift in the standard design practice of “designer as formalist.” This means that designers must become highly flexible communicators, facilitators, mediators, and thinkers. To support students in learning how to practice this style of design, we will begin with an introduction to the practices of Design Research and Behavioral Economics and their roles in the design process. Students will arrive at an understanding of design cognition (how do designers think) and general behavioral biases (common traps and mistakes) to provide them with reasoning skills that foster accurate and decisive points of view.



The class will consist of a mix of lectures, workshops, fieldwork, and collaborative studio activities that emulate the real world practice of design. Students will be randomly divided into teams and asked to outline a project, beginning with the creation of a design hypothesis. They will collaboratively shape this hypothesis using the methods and theories covered in the course. Finally, each team will create a mixed media presentation to be presented to a panel of designers and relevant industry experts. 



Students in this course will come away with a set of tools to:

  • Identify and frame human behaviors and needs
  • Use critical industry standard frameworks for communications and data collection
  • Understand the basics of qualitative research and its role in the design process, and how they differ from those used in market research and the social sciences
  • Practice observation and interview techniques that can be applied in controlled and uncontrolled situations
  • Recruit for research and how to define the appropriate people for user experience research
  • Bring ideas to life through modeling, prototyping, and testing of solutions to balance thinking and reasoning