Civic Design

Prof. Steven Dow

WINTER 2020, T/Th, 12:30-1:50pm

Location: HSS 1330

DSGN 160, 4 credits

This studio course explores how to design products, services, and policies for complex socio-technical systems. The class will follow a human-centered design process that includes user research, concept generation, prototyping, pitching, and alliance building. Students will work in teams to design solutions to civic challenges affecting people in the San Diego region. 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 real-world problems.

As part of this class, teams will enter the Design for San Diego 2020 challenge ( and interact with other innovators, experts, and mentors throughout the city to address problems related to Mobility, Health, Environment, and Housing. Top teams will have an opportunity to present their work and win prizes at events in downtown San Diego!

This is a 4-credit hour class that has been approved as an elective for CogSci majors and DSGN minors. As a prerequisite, students should have completed as least one prior project-based design or engineering course at UCSD.

To request enrollment, look for the course on the Enrollment Authorization System (EASy).

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 Associate 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 four 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.