Syllabus v3.0 20210127

ADS 560 / VISC 525, Designing Digital Products, Spring 2021
Tuesday / Thursday @ 3:20-5:50pm
Matt Kirkland / / Zoom Link

Niche, Please

In this project, you will define a new interactive tool that serves a specific niche that you're interested in. Our goal is that you get to geek out with something you care about, while having more autonomy over your project.

We will follow a similar process as the Inventory and Desk projects, but this time you'll get to define your project scope. I'll keep you honest and realistic, but you're in charge.

Your Client

Your client is your niche! You will choose a subject area or interest group that you're interested in serving, and you'll dive into learning abou them. The more specific you can be, the more successful your project will be.

The Problem

You get to define the problem and solutions! You will propose a digital product: a software tool or toy you could design to address your Niche audience. You don't need to follow Paul Graham's ideas about startup success, because we don't really need this to make money or become a business. (But if you can pitch some monetization, it'd be fun to think about.)

You can propose any kind of digital product: a native app for phones, a kiosk to be installed in a museum, an interactive billboard, a video game, a web site, web application, AR/VR experience - whatever you like.

Not Allowed

However, there are some project types that are not allowed. These are worn-out concepts that for one reason or another never turn into good projects. Why? I don't know. It might just be that the reason there's already not a great solution for these problems already is that they are either very trivial, or very, very hard. But either way, you cannot tackle:

  • Drink Specials finder
  • Where to buy something
  • Rate and review music I listen to
  • Help me figure out what to cook / recipe guide for special diet


Your final deliverables will be an interactive prototype (made in Figma), however, so don't propose something that you can't adequately mock up an interactive version of. You can include other deliverables as well if they make sense for your project. A video? a physical prototype? a pair of jeans? Anything extra that helps communicate your vision is up to you.

    Along the way we'll take some steps together:
  • A pitch presentation
  • Consultation with your niche audience
  • Low-fi prototype
  • User testing with your niche audience
  • Hi-fidelity mockups & prototype


We've got four weeks including finals. We'll hammer out a schedule here below. BUT MAYBE your niche project is special, and you want to spec out some other deliverables? Let's talk about it!

Apr 20 Kick off Niche project. Talk about scope. Workshop ideas.
Apr 22 Pitch presentation. Over the weekend: consult with your niche audience, start concepting.
Apr 27 Tell us about feedback from your niche. Show Concept Sketches.
Apr 29 Lo-fi prototype. Over the weekend: usertest with your niche audience.
May 4 and 6 Higher Fidelity mockups and prototype. Refine, test, refine!
Thursday May 13, 1:30pm FINAL Meeting Final Niche Project due. On your site, the big pitch for who your audience is,