Assignment 1: Design Thinking

"How many designers does it take to replace a light bulb?"
Designer: "Does it have to be a light bulb?"


Think about some of the designs that you consider to be great innovations. Quite likely, they came about because the design team was able to see a new problem or opportunity, or reframe things in a new way. As the light bulb joke illustrates, an important strategy of successful designers is to reframe things so that... we can see things in a new light. In this first exercise, you’ll build your needfinding, brainstorming, and reframing "muscles". It’s an opportunity for you stretch your creativity and have fun as you settle back into campus to begin the quarter. Also, the steps that you go through this week -- needfinding, prototyping, evaluation -- give you a mini preview of the design process we’ll go through during the quarter. This way, during the main course project, the steps of the design process will be more familiar.

In studio this Friday (and every Friday), you’ll self-assess your work with the rubric below. Read the rubric carefully before starting; it’s your guide to success. The great thing about design is that you can meet the criteria for success in lots of different ways. Not all designs are good, but lots of very different designs can all be good, and you’ll see that diversity in your studio peers’ work.

Here are two important take-aways we hope you’ll glean from this first week’s design experience. First, the early stages are worth their weight in gold because it takes just as much time to implement a lousy idea as it does a great idea. It’s worth putting extra time and energy into the first few weeks; it’ll pay a lot of downstream benefits. Second, while design is a lot of work, it’s also a lot of fun. Last year, many students reported that this was their favorite class at UC San Diego, and we hope it will be for you too!

Your Mission

  • Finish the exercise on redesigning the freshman experience that we started in class on Tuesday. Bring your completed worksheet and the prototype that you created to your studio. Messy and “bad drawing” are just fine. This is about getting ideas out there, not having a ‘pretty submission’.
  • Print and finish a second redesigning the freshman experience exercise by finding a freshman somewhere on campus, interviewing them, filling out the worksheet, and creating a second prototype. Use your first iteration from class to ask better questions, and deepen your insights. This will be what you are primarily graded on for this assignment. Bring your completed worksheet and the prototype that you created to your studio. Messy and “bad drawing” are just fine.
  • Watch the videos posted underneath Lecture 1 on the homepage and write two comments or questions that you have related to the subject matter in the videos. (That's two overall, not two per video.) Write these comments on the back of one of your handouts.
  • Arrive at Thursday’s lab with a laptop that you have set up with the steps under the section titled "Get accounts and install software" completed for Lab 1 on Thursday.

Assignment Submission

  • Scan or take clear pictures of your worksheets and prototypes. Submit a single formatted pdf file with the images concatenated within it. Turn in your completed worksheets and prototypes on Friday during studio.
  • Two questions about video content written on the back of a worksheet. These should be included as an image in the submitted pdf.

Note on prototypes: Prototypes should be something your partner can physically interact with or a scenario that you can take them through.

If your solution is an app, your prototype should be one or two 'screens' that are drawn on paper that will help give your partner a feel for it. If your solution is a service or experience, you can draw 3 or 4 scenes that will help your partner simulate that experience so you can get feedback from them.

Remember you're redesigning a freshman experience

Submit your formatted pdf here

Student Examples

  • This is a different worksheet from a previous year when the student was tasked with redesigning the gift-giving experience. The student was detailed yet concise with their interview, and had a creative and refining iteration process: Example 1

Evaluation criteria & Grading rubric

Category Nope Weak Proficient Mastery
In-class worksheet and prototype from in-class interview
2 points
No worksheet or minimal work submitted. Conducted interview, took notes on partner’s experience, but point of view and prototype are unconnected to interview. Ideation process or reflection was not thorough. OR used Photoshop, computers, or spent too much time ‘neatening’. Took notes on partner’s experience. Point of view and prototype are connected to interview. Strong ideation process and reflection. Messy is good :)
Interview (Sec. 1-3)
3 points
No interview information written, incomplete section, or no sheet brought. Took notes on partner’s experience, but point of view is unconnected to interview. OR used Photoshop, computers, or spent too much time ‘neatening’. Took notes on partner’s experience. Point of view is connected to interview. Took notes on partner’s experience. Asked important questions and gleaned big insights. Point of view is connected to interview and inspired. Messy is good :)
Brainstorm Topics (Sec. 4)
1 point
Brainstormed at least 3 ideas
Brainstorm (Sec. 5)
1 point
Ideas follow from Interviews
Sketch (Sec. 6)
1 point
Sketch is well fleshed out
Prototype (Sec. 7)
1 point
Prototype clearly connected to previous sections.
Prototype (Sec. 7)
2 point
Inspired and insightful solution to a clear point of view.
Testing with partner (Sec. 8)
1 point
Received feedback from partner
Video Questions
2 points
No questions submitted from video, or questions minimally related to video Questions reflect a basic understanding of the video. Questions reflect a strong understanding of video material and critical thinking that would enrich class discussion.

Frequently asked questions

Can my sketch be text?

The point of the sketch is to make the idea visual! It can contain text, but it should read more as a drawing or storyboard.

What is the difference between "Sketch it Out" and "Build your solution(Prototype)"?

The sketch is meant to be an illustration of how to product or service might work. It's a very quick(3 minutes) drawing of the idea. The Prototype must be interactive and physically manipulable in some way e.g. index cards, that can be shuffled.

What kind of materials should be used to prototype and test?

Your prototype should be really rapid -- marker on index cards or similar. Remember you need to be able to build it within 7 minutes! You should create an experience that your partner can engage and interact with.

Given that this is a HCI course, does the design solution need to include a computer or technological component?

Your redesign doesn't need to involve a 'computer'. There does need to be a design solution, however. This is your chance to warm up for the quarter and practice a complete cycle of human-centered design. All designs are fair game and the only limit is your creativity.

I got added to the class late and don't have a partner OR my partner dropped the class. What should I do?

Do the assignment with your roommate or just anyone you can borrow an hour of their time. Another idea is to post on Piazza and see if anyone else is lacking a partner.