Visc404 Kirkland Syllabus v1.0 20170801

VISC 404, 'Design for Social Interaction, Fall 2017
Monday / Wednesday @ 2:30-05:20pm
Matt Kirkland / / Slack @matt


This studio course is an introduction to designing digital products for the screen. We'll follow a human-centered iterative design process that includes research, concepting, prototyping, testing, visualization, and refinement. Some coding is required, but we'll demonstrate everything you need to know.

Over the course of the semester we'll tackle two biggish projects with step-by-step guided processes, and then we will each create a single independent project. Along the way you'll post your work to a single website, and by the end of the semester you'll have a good document showing everything you accomplished.

This syllabus will be updated with more information throughout the semester. I'll let you know in class about updates.

Course Components


Over the semester, we'll tackle three larger projects, which will be made of smaller, discrete tasks. As the semester progresses, you'll have more flexibilty to use the tools appropriate to your project.

Fearless Inventory

In this intro project, you will design a tool for warehouse or store inventory. Your solution will assist a user in reconciling a putative inventory quantity with actual in-person inventory in a physical location. You will design the tool for an imaginary brand of your choice. We'll flesh out the details together.

We will: research the problem and propose solutions. Create workflows and wireframes. Do some lightweight user testing. Develop mockup proposals and prototypes. Test and refine those prototypes.

Desk Reservations

In this project, we will design a tool for on-demand desk assignments at a large company. Your solution will need to accomodate desk reservations, travel, in-person searches, and other user requests. The solution will have two user levels with different functional requirements. Your design will need to complement a large existing brand.

We will follow the same general process as the Inventory project, but this time you'll know what you're doing.

Niche, Please

You will propose and define a software tool that targets a niche audience or subject matter, which you will pitch to the class. If you can't settle on a niche for yourself, I'll have a few projects you can choose from.

We will follow the same general process as above, but with more freedom and flexibility. We will regularly show our work.


About once per week you will have an assigned 'text'. Some of these texts are actual readings, others will be videos and other interactive activities. They will be online and easily accessible. For each text, you'll write a short response, and post it to your site. Consult the reading list below.

Project Submission

You're going to turn everything in by posting it on your own website, and then posting a URL to your submission to the slack team.

You'll be maintaining your site throughout the semester, and making choices about information architecture, design, and layout. It will be a daily tool that you use to submit work, but also a final document showing your work for the semester.

This means: you will need to get some basic HTML under your belt in order to participate. We'll walk you through the basics - you can learn what you need in 15 minutes.

Don't be afraid.


We'll be using Slack as a communication platform. Question for me? Reach out on slack. Questions for everybody? Reach out on Slack.

We're doing this in part for convenience, and in part because it more closely models what real work is going to be like; much of the time you will need to communicate remotely and asynchronously with your clients and colleagues, and you should get good at it now.

We'll have separate channels for a few discussion areas, but you should feel free to create / join / leave channels as you see fit.

nota bene: I probably won't monitor Slack from 9-5.

Teach an Old Person Something

Once per class meeting, I'll randomly select one person to tell me something they think a 36-year-old person doesn't know.

Take a couple of minutes and explain something to me that you think I - a 36-year-old white dude, married, kids, full-time job, mortgage, etc - doesn't know or understand. You don't need to prepare anything besides your idea, just have something ready when you walk in the door. You'll need to do this about twice per semester. No more than three topics can be bands/musicians/djs.

Consider this an exercise in designing for an audience. You'll get better at this as we go.


I'm really invested in the idea that you need to be good writers and readers if you're going to do good work - because that's how design happens in the real world. You have to explain why your solution works, and show us how.

I'll assign some things to read or watch or listen to throughout the semester. They'll all be online. For each 'text', you'll need to write a short response, and post it on your website. Your response can be short or long, but needs to include:

  • NEW: something in the text that was new to you.
  • RIGHT: something in the text that you agreed with.
  • WRONG: something in the text that you disagreed with.

This shouldn't take you more than say, 30 minutes.

List of Texts »

Fall 2017 Schedule

This is a rough plan; we'll go faster if possible! This schedule will be updated as we progress through the semester.

Wk Dates Target
1 Aug 21 / 23 Monday: NO CLASS: Go see the eclipse.
Wednesday: Intro, syllabus, etc. show & tell, talk about niche project.
2 Aug 28 / 30 Everything you need to know to make a site. Claim your niche, presentation.
3 Sep 4 / 6 M. Labor Day - no class / W. Inventory Project Kickoff
4 Sep 11 / 13 Inventory Project - Discovery & Concepts
5 Sep 18 / 20 Inventory Project - Wireframes & Testing
6 Sep 25 / 27 Inventory Project - Mockups & Testing
7 Oct 2 / 4 Desk Project - Kickoff
8 Oct 9 / 11 Desk Project
9 Oct 16 / 18 Fall Break - no class / Desk Project
10 Oct 23 / 25 Wordpress overview and Desk Project
11 Oct 30 / Nov 1 Desk Project / Niche Project Kickoff
12 Nov 6 / 8 Niche Project
13 Nov 13 / 15 Niche Project
14 Nov 20 / 22 M. Niche Project / Thanksgiving break - no class
15 Nov 27 / 29 Niche Project
16 Dec 4 / 6 Niche Project / W. Last day of class
17 Dec 15 We won't meet during Finals Week, but you'll have until Dec 15 to submit the 'final' version of your site.


House Rules

We're all adults here, let's act like it. Put your phones down unless we're using them for something in class.


KU has rules about attendance and we'll follow them. We're all working together here so it's important that you actually show up. Don't be late, it's rude to everybody.


We'll follow the regular KU Design departmental policies: You can reference them here.


Grades will be based on performance and participation. Show us all that you're working hard and you'll be fine.

  • 25% class participation / reading responses / etc.
  • 10% inventory project
  • 20% hotdesk project
  • 30% final niche project
  • 15% your site's final state

Extra Credit

I will give you actual extra credit if you read / watch / listen / visit one of these things and give a 10-minute presentation to the class about your experience and how you can apply this to your design practice. Each can only be claimed once, so choose wisely.

If you'd like to tackle one of these, talk to me and we'll work it out.

Getting Started

On our first day (Wednesdsay Aug 23), we'll walk through our objectives for the class and do these set up exercises:

  • Show me your sketchbook
  • Join the Slack team
  • Get an FTP client: I recommend Cyberduck
  • Get a text editor: I recommend Atom
  • Get Sketch, with the Educational discount (or use it in the computer labs)
  • Get a Domain Name
  • Get / talk about Hosting:
    • KU has this for free, but I don't know how easy they are to work with.
    • Dreamhost is better, and is super easy to use. ~$10 / month, or cheaper if you pay for a year, plus they'll throw in a domain name for free. You only need it thru the end of the semester, but you're going to need a web presence & portfolio space soon if you don't have it already. Look for the 'shared hosting' options