Course Description & Learning Objectives:

From mobile phones to augmented and ubiquitous technologies embedded into our everyday spaces, society has become increasingly mediated by technologies that influence human relationships and behavior. As such, designers have an opportunity to develop a sense of cultural sensitivity to the ways in which we navigate our everyday lives not only using devices but in the public spaces we inhabit. Cultivating an effective comprehension of user experience requires nuanced observation and analysis of human behavior.

The course will develop an introductory awareness of user behavior and usability testing thorough methods combining design thinking, cultural anthropology, urban and ethnographic studies. Through analysis of everyday public spaces such as public transportation, hawker centers and others, as well as through group discussions and exercises, students will gain an ability to evaluate how user centered design will help build comfort, convenience and ease of use without compromising the performance of designed products and experiences. Students will have learned how to research, develop and critique a product or service as well as create an original proposal and proof of concept for a product or service applying the concepts and techniques introduced in the class.

Grading & Assessment

Students will be assessed based on the following criteria: critical and interdisciplinary thinking; participation in class and discussion/activities and collaborative sharing/learning; ability to convey project clarity both visually and in writing; thoughtful originality; depth of research; self-driven learning.

40% final project
30% readings, exercises and assignments
30% class participation

Students are expected to produce the following during the course:

1. A digital journal/sketchbook that documents observations taken during field trips. Students will be using the OSS (Open Source Studio) online platform to document assignments and the journal/sketchbook throughout the term. The journal can include images, texts, and drawings (hand drawn images or sketches should be scanned).

2. Responses to assigned readings (minimum one paragraph to be emailed no later than midnight Saturday before the next class). In addition to the responses, each student must also write TWO questions on the writing.

3. An original proposal and proof of concept for a final project that is screen-based. This final project should be presented as a short movie (no more than 10 minutes) that explains and visualizes the project’s proof of concept clearly and thoughtfully. Project conceptualization, research, process and development will be turned in as part of the documentation.

Week 1

(Aug 8)   Intro to User Experience

In class discussion and introduction to course: What is user experience? What does it mean to create user centered experiences? Why do some products satisfy customers while others are frustrating? How can you create more empathetic user experiences?

• In Class assignment: Students will analyze the user experience of ADM building. Carefully observe and document with photos the way finding of the building (location, entrances/exits, signage, spatial organization etc.). Look at its ease of use. Observe how the design of the building affects behavior. Be thoughtful and critical about what works and doesn’t work. Be prepared to share findings in class and discuss observations.

• Map a sketch of your experience above pointing out areas that are confusing and areas that are not confusing.

Assignment Part 1: Find two maps of a building or place you have visited – one map is badly designed and the other is well designed. Be prepared to explain your examples and bring maps to class.

1) Think of a time you were lost in a place and write in your journal how and why you got lost. What about the user experience didn’t work for you?

Assignment Part 2: Choose two objects that you use every day (you cannot pick mobile phones or laptop/computer) and analyze their design using the principles described in Chapter 1 of The Design of Everyday Things. Imagine describing what the object is and what it’s designed to do to someone who has never seen it before. Is it intuitive or frustrating? Come up with three ways to alternate the design for that object and see how it changes its function. Make drawings and notes in your journal.

Reading: CH 1 Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things (1988)

Week 2

(Aug 15) Public Space as User Experience (special guest lecture TBA)

  • In class Assignment: 1) Discuss Norman reading & 2) Share observations from mapping assignment

Field Trip 1: Navigating Public Transportation + location TBD

  • In class Assignment: Managing how people move through public spaces is a very carefully designed user experience. Make sketches, notes and document with photos to carefully analyze the user experience during this field trip. Make observations on how other people move through public space. What are some unusual things that you notice?

Assignment: Organize your documentation and notes from the field trip and create a slide-show presentation that you’ll share in class Week 3.

Reading: CH 5 Jan Chipchase, Hidden In Plain Sight: How To Create Extraordinary Products For Tomorrow’s Customers. (2013)

Week 3

(Aug 22) Group Discussion/Presentation + Intro to OSS


  • In class Assignment:
    1) Group discussion of Ch 5 Jan Chipchase reading
    2) Share observations from week 2 field trip in class
    3) Share observations from mapping assignment
  • 3-4pm: Introduction to Open Source Studio (OSS)

Assignment: Think of a way in which you could develop an experimental map using images, sounds and stories. Some ideas… What else would we use if we didn’t use maps to find our sense of place? How would you map the sounds you hear every day? How would you map emotions? How would you map the overlooked peoples or places of Singapore?

Reading: CH 1 Annette Kim, Sidewalk City: Remapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City (2015)

Week 4

(Aug 29) Field Trip 2: User Experience of Hawker Centers & Food Courts (location TBD)  

  • In class Assignment:
    1) Continue to share observations from week 2 field trip in class
    2) Continue to share observations from mapping assignment
  • In class assignment: Document your observations using a combination of photographs and/or video, audio recordings and notes in your journal. Observe the following: how do customers find what they want, find a place to sit, save a table, choose, communicate what they want and what languages are spoken, how do vendors advertise their products to customers, how do they compete with other vendors? Why might some places be more popular than others? What else do you observe in terms of user behaviors? Carefully observe both customer and vendor behavior and document them. Notice lighting, sounds, smells and other factors and how they might affect the way people experience their environment.

Assignment: Organize your documentation and notes from the field trip and create a slide-show presentation that you’ll share in class Week 5

Week 5

(Sept 5) Place, Mobility and Ubiquitous Computing + Group Presentations & Discussion

How do we create a sense of place and identity in an increasingly mediated environment? What are some ways in which designers, artists, researchers and organizations have visualized place-making using new media?

How does the presence of information technologies allow for the development of new forms of environmental knowing?

  • In class Assignment:
    1) Share observations from week 5 field trip Hawker Centers and Food Courts in class

Reading: Ch 4 Jan Chipchase, Hidden In Plain Sight.

Week 6

(Sept 12) Public Holiday

Assignment: Over a two-day period, do the following:
DAY 1 – create a diary of when, why and what you use your mobile device for. Observe how others are using their mobile devices. What are the most common uses and where do you see these behaviors?

DAY 2 – Do not use your phone, computer or electronic device for 24 hours. Create a diary documenting and describing the difference in your behavior patterns. How did you do the things you would normally do with your phone? What other alternative behaviors did you develop? What else did you notice about the difference in behavior?

Reading: CH 1 from Jonas Löwgren and Erik Stolterman, Thoughtful Interaction Design

Week 7

(Sept 19) Interactive Environments & Experience Design + Field Trip 3 “Future World” exhibition

What is experience design and what are the possibilities of responsive environments? How might this change the way we think about the world around us and the ways that we communicate with each other?


  • Write a response to the exhibition “Future World”
  • Start to work on final project proposals – prepare three ideas for a screen-based experience that you’d like to create (it can be speculative). Prepare a slide show to illustrate your ideas. The ideas can be based on any of the field trips done so far or can be something completely new.

Reading: CH 1 from Kim Goodwin, Designing for the Digital Age

Week 8

(Sept 26) Recess Week


  • Find 3 examples of a product/project that you think are good examples of thoughtfully designed user experience. Be prepared to support your choices.
  • Continue to develop your three ideas for a screen-based experience and be prepared to discuss them in class.

Week 9

(Oct 3) What is Design Thinking?

Looking at the development of design thinking and how to create design fictions.

In class assignment:

  • Share the three possible ideas for final projects in class and discuss as group
  • Share observations from Week 7 & 8 assignments & Discuss Readings

Assignment: Based on class responses, choose one project then refine and further research it and be prepared to present your final choice in class week 11. Test out the idea to other people outside of class to gain feedback and refine the project.

Week 10

(Oct 10) Midterm Presentations Part 1 – Present your final idea for a screen-based design fiction


1) Create a storyboard or visual outline for your project and start gathering visual materials. Show the storyboard to others as you create it to see if you may have overlooked something or you find useful feedback to consider.

Week 11

(Oct 17) Midterm Presentations Part 2

In class assignment: Show storyboards and visual outlines

  • Individual meetings and critique

Assignment: Continue production of design fiction and create rough edit. Test the idea out with friends or other audiences to see what their response and feedback is. Refine your project based on feedback collected.

Week 12

(Oct 24) In class assignment: Show rough edit. Show project progress.

  • Individual meetings and critique (Submission date and requirements announced)

Assignment: Prepare final project. Test it out again with others.   “Body storming” to assess user experience.

Week 13

(Oct 31) • Individual meetings and critique

Assignment: Continue to further refine your design fiction/proof of concept movie.

Week 14

(Nov 7) Last Individual meetings and critique before final presentations Week 15

Assignment: prepare your work and presentation for the final critique

Week 15

(Nov 14)  Final Project Presentations


  1. Jan Chipchase, Hidden In Plain Sight: How To Create Extraordinary Products For Tomorrow’s Customers, New York: Harper Business, 2013.
  2. Henry Dreyfuss, Designing for People, New York: Allsworth Press, 1955.
  3. Kim Goodwin, Designing for the Digital Age: How to Create Human Centered Products and Services, Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing, 2009.
  4. Jonas Löwgren and Erik Stolterman, Thoughtful Interaction Design: A Design Perspective on Information Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2004.
  5. John Maeda, The Laws of Simplicity, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 2006.
  6. Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things, New York: Basic Books, 1988.


* instructor reserves the right to change the order of subjects thought and content of the course based on their own decisions with the premise that these changes will benefit student learning