CPSC 544:  Course Syllabus

Basic Info

Term:  September 2023 – December 2023
Lecture:  M/W 10:00 – 11:20
(First class: Wednesday September 7, 2023)
Lab: Thu 10-11
Place (lec+lab): DFP Classroom, FSC 2300  – University of British Columbia (UBC-V)

5-Minute Video Describing the Course – Youtube

Course Staff

Role Name
Instructor:  Prof. Karon MacLean
TA: Devyani McLaren
TA: Mui Tanprasert


People are increasingly surrounded by interactive computational technology systems that are integral to their everyday life. However, poorly designed systems are common, and can lead to negative outcomes such as frustration, lost time, and errors. The role of design is crucial for crafting appropriate systems that truly meet people’s needs, abilities, and expectations.

CPSC 544 covers the theories and concepts important for all professionals and researchers that design interactive technology for human use. This course will build common ground across students from a range of backgrounds, so they will have a shared vocabulary and methods to bring into other components of the Designing for People (DFP) program.

Designing for People means designing for human experience and abilities, which requires in-depth engagement of people throughout the design process in order to develop interactive technologies that fit human needs and capabilities. The the course adopts teaches an iterative process called design thinking, which draws heavily on human computer interaction (HCI) methods, and employs a team-based project.

Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Gain experience in human-centered design and the design thinking process, including methods for understanding people, exploring the problem area in-depth, identifying the right problem, ideating potential solutions, and creating and evaluating prototypes.
  2. Identify and use appropriate data gathering/design methods when assessing user needs in different stages of the design process.
  3. Become familiar with different frameworks and approaches to design.
  4. Describe HCI techniques, frameworks or processes in the context of their purpose, e.g.,providing structure for understanding tasks, identifying interaction problems, etc.
  5. Collect and analyze information about a specific group of people to appropriately define their activities, experiences, and needs.
  6. Understand the relevance of mental models to usability problems in design.
  7. Gain experience with tools and methods for interface prototyping and in constructing design solutions focused on accounting for human abilities.
  8. Engage with research papers to effectively identify, apply, and propose appropriate design methods and data collection/analysis techniques when investigating a potential research problem.

Audience, Prerequisites and Eligibility
CPSC 544 is the first core course of the Designing for People (DFP) graduate training program  (http://dfp.ubc.ca). Non-DFP graduate students who are curious about how to design effective interactive systems may be admitted with permission of the instructor, with priority given to those in a research-based degree program. Please add yourself to the waitlist and contact the instructor if this describes you.

While there are no formal prerequisites, the ability to do basic computer programming and prior research or design methods experience will be an asset.

General Grading  Scheme (tentative)
Your course mark will be based roughly on the following breakdown.

Researcher Journal (pre-class preparation on readings)    10%
Participation and Attendance (Partcipation is based on meaningful contributions to the class for in-class activities, discussions, peer deliverable review)
Project (approximately 6 milestones/design critiques)    80%

For remainder of syllabus and tentative schedule, see pdf version