Prof. Steven Dow
FALL 2017, 
T/Th, 5-8pm
Location: HSS 1346
COGS 160, 4 credits

This studio course explores how to design services for complex socio-technical systems. The class will follow a human-centered design process that includes user research, concept generation, prototyping, and refinement. Students will work in teams to design a solution to a civic challenge affecting people in the San Diego area. This will be a good course for intermediate to advanced design students who want to build up their portfolio and to practice their skills with sketching, storyboarding, prototyping, and evaluating services for complex settings.

This is a 4-credit hour class that has been approved as an elective for CogSci majors. Students may petition to count the course for other programs, such as the Design Minor. As a prerequisite, students must have completed as least one prior project-based design or engineering course at UCSD (e.g., DSGN 1, DSGN 100, CSE 170/COGS 120, COGS 122...).

Special offering for Fall 2017: As part of this class, teams will enter the Civic Design Challenges and compete with teams throughout the city to innovate on problems related to Mobility, or our ability to move around freely. Selected teams will have an opportunity to present their work and win prizes at the Design Forward Summit on October 25-26th at Liberty Station in downtown San Diego!

The deadline to enter the Civic Design Challenge is 11:59pm Oct 22, 2017. Therefore, the course will be roughly divided into two halves. In the first half, students will form teams, rapidly ideate and prototype solutions, and prepare posters for the summit.  The second half of the quarter offers students an opportunity to reflect on feedback and to integrate ideas into a redesign. 

In general, we will have lectures on Tuesdays and studio sessions on Thursdays.  Scheduled activities will generally happen between 5-6:20 (official class period), but the instructors will be available until as late as 8pm on many evenings.

Learning Objectives

Students who have successfully completed this course will be able to do the following:
  • conduct multiple methods for user research
  • sketch as a means of visual exploration and ideation
  • give form to design ideas through prototyping
  • understand how designers think in order to collaborate on interdisciplinary teams
  • give and receive feedback in a constructive way during critiques
  • communicate design ideas to a variety of stakeholders


Steven Dow is an Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science at UC San Diego where he researches human-computer interaction, social computing, and creativity. Steven received the National Science Foundation CAREER Award in 2015 for research on "advancing collective innovation." He was co-PI on three other National Science Foundation grants, a Google Faculty Grant, Stanford's Postdoctoral Research Award, and the Hasso Plattner Design Thinking Research Grant. Before UCSD, Steven was an Assistant Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. He holds an MS and PhD in Human-Centered Computing from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from University of Iowa. 


Colleen Emmenegger is a Senior Research Scientist in the UC San Diego Design Lab. She is a graduate of the UCSD Cognitive Science Department, and received her M.S. from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign from the Department of Psychology. She has worked in many labs across both universities including the Aviation Research Lab, the Distributed Cognition and Human Computer Interaction Lab in the Cognitive Science Department, and the Distributed Human Computer Interaction Lab in the Computer Science Department. Her strengths lie in enabling effective design through an understanding of distributed cognition in complex and "messy" real world settings, and continuing to develop tools and techniques that support research domains rich in data, with a diverse team of innovative researchers and students. Colleen currently works as a senior researcher in the domain of automobile automation, exploring current road user behavior in urban road settings.

Narges Mahyar is a postdoctoral fellow in the Design Lab at UC San Diego. Her research falls at the intersection of social computing and design with the goal of augmenting groups’ ability to solve complex problems. She is interested in exploring new strategies for engaging the public in massive decision-making processes related to civic issues. Previously she was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia where she designed and developed collaborative technology and visualization techniques for increasing public engagement in Urban Design. This work received the honorable mention award from Interactive Surfaces and Spaces conference in 2016. Her dissertation focused on designing visualization tools and interaction techniques to facilitate Collaborative Visual Analytics. She received the best paper award from IEEE VAST 2014 for her work on supporting collaborative sensemaking. She holds a PhD in computer science from the University of Victoria, an MS in information technology from the University of Malaya and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Tehran Azad University.

Teaching Assistant

Xiaotong (Tone) Xu is a first-year Ph.D. student from Cognitive Science Department at UC San Diego. She obtained her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Master's degree in Information Science from Cornell University. Her research interests include computer-mediated communication, social-technological systems, and user-centered system design. In the future, she wants to research educational technology and informal STEM learning for both adults and children.