DM3430A fall 2014 · GW Corcoran School of the Arts and Design
Instructor: David Ramos (

We are in an astonishing moment. What does it mean when a person can carry the Internet in a pocket? What happens when books start to think and to move? How might mobile computing shape culture and society? This course operates in the area where technology and design meet, seeking to answer questions about what the mobile world can be.


New handheld, touchscreen devices have brought us to the edge of a new way of reading, one that brings together print, time-based, and interactive media. This course explores ways of telling stories and creating experiences in this new environment. Projects target the iPad, with workflows built around InDesign, but incorporating images, sound, video, and interactivity.


“Designers take things apart, evaluate them, and put them back together, in a different order. That is how we understand product and process.” (Erik Spiekermann)

Students will study the design challenges and possibilities that mobile devices bring. The class considers the effects of touch interfaces, Internet access everywhere, location awareness, and unpredictable contexts for use. It asks whether new, mobile devices can, perhaps, make the world slightly easier, more equitable, and enjoyable.

The class introduces three current approaches: interactive and paper prototypes, HTML/CSS-based mobile-friendly websites, and Adobe’s digital publishing platform. Prototyping and documentation are central concepts.

At the level of culture, this class examines changes in publishing, the future of technology and reading, and the broadening scope of design practice. Projects are open-ended, and require students to bring an editorial stance to their work.


Students will gain fluency in:

Students will also become proficient at:

Time, location, and office hours

Georgetown Campus, Room 305
Tuesday 6:10 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
The instructor is available by appointment.


This class will be a mix of demonstrations, discussion, critiques, and studio working sessions. It requires extensive self-scheduled project work outside of the classroom.


Students will produce a mixture of sketches, prototypes, documentation, and finished artifacts. Projects are student-driven, using prompts as the starting points for more extensive research, asking students to create their own content and to supply their own point of view.

“Anything that can be connected to the Internet, will be.” (Luke Wroblewski)


Design a smartphone application that responds to a user’s geographic location. Develop your design through critiques and usability testing. Explain your design in a screen/print booklet.


Working from a prompt, create an electronic publication that explores a topic. Design for a tablet. Bring together text, images, and time-based media. Consider narrative structure, navigation systems, and the reading experience on-screen.

Publishing systems

Imagine a design question that you would like to study, within the framework of mobile computing. Examine that question by making something that runs on a mobile computer – a book, an app, a magazine, a website, or something entirely different. Create working prototypes and documentation to explain your ideas.

Process book

Gather your work in a process book. Include sketches, versions of projects as they progressed, and images of final projects. Provide this book as a PDF. (Do not create a website or a DPS publication. PDF means PDF.)


15%	Location
10%	Sequence
65%	Publishing systems
10%	Participation and documentation

Code/No Code

If designers do not learn to work with technology, they surrender their say in shaping new media. Some topics covered by this course involve work with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and some in-class exercises will require writing code. Nevertheless, student experience and familiarity with development tools varies, and for all graded projects, students will be able to choose between coding and non-coding approaches.

Sources and tools


Reading in this course includes assigned articles and one required textbook.

This course draws on assigned readings and one required textbook.

Wroblewski, Luke. Mobile First. New York, N.Y.: A Book Apart, 2011. (Available in print and as an ebook.)

We will be reading excerpts from the leaked New York Times Innovation Report and Bill Moggridge’s Designing Media.

Required software + tools

Smartphones and tablets

Develop and test using real devices, or environments like the Chrome Canary device mode, Apple’s iOS Simulator, and Adobe’s Folio Producer preview tool.

Backup strategy

Loss of data is not an excuse. Back up your work. An adequate backup plan involves duplicating your work across three different storage devices, kept in two separate locations.



This course seeks to help students to develop their own working processes. Good final projects invariably come as the result of diligent, structured work earlier in the semester. Do not leave work for the last few weeks. You will need to turn in your process work as part of your grade. Keep versions of your files and paper sketches as they progress. Never delete the files for anything you show in a critique.

Presenting work

If you are bringing work on paper for critiques – an excellent idea for sketches, wireframes, and design documentation – remember that other people in the class must be able to see your work and size your paper accordingly. You need not mount any work from this course.

In the interest of efficiency and equity, HTML-based projects will be evaluated using a current build of Chrome Canary on a Mac. Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) projects will be evaluated on the iPad.

Submitting work

Follow these steps to submit files. If your instructor cannot readily identify or review your projects, you will not receive a grade.

  1. Put the files into a folder.
  2. Put your name on the folder, along with the project title.
  3. ZIP compress the folder.
  4. Share the files on Dropbox or another filesharing tool. (Please avoid sending email attachments.)

You may send the following file formats: PDF, HTML/CSS/JS, JPG, PNG, GIF (if you must), MOV, MP4, MP3, AAC, MD, and TXT. Your instructor will not grade Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator files.

You will receive more detailed instructions about how to share Adobe DPS folios.

Expectations and evaluation


Students are expected to attend scheduled class sessions and course-related activities. Two unexcused absences will reduce a student’s semester grade by one letter grade. A third unexcused absence is cause for failure of the course. Grounds for excused absences are illness, family emergencies, jury or military service, and religious obligations.

Grading scale

A   4.0  Outstanding work
A-  3.7  

B+  3.3
B   3.0  High-quality work
B-  2.7

C+  2.3
C   2.0  Acceptable work; meets expectations
C-  1.7  

D+  1.3  
D   1.0  Seriously deficient work
D-  0.7  

F   0.0  Failure (no credit)

Resubmitting work

Students may revise and resubmit projects for a new grade before the end of the semester. Late work will be marked down.

In the classroom


Provide citations for any images, text, code, or recordings that you didn’t create yourself.

Images: If you use an image that you did not create, add a note to your project’s file or write a caption for the image.

Code: If you use any code from a source outside of the textbook and class demonstrations, insert a comment describing the material that you used, along with a URL for the original code.

Support outside of the classroom

Disability Support Services (DSS)

Any student who may need an accommodation based on the potential impact of a disability should contact the Disability Support Services office at 202-994-8250 in Rome Hall, Suite 102, to establish eligibility and to coordinate reasonable accommodations. For additional information please refer to the Disability Support Services website.

University Counseling Center (UCC)

The University Counseling Center (UCC) offers 24/7 assistance and referral to address students’ personal, social, career, and study skills problems. Services for students include:

Phone: 202-994-5300


University policies

Academic integrity

All examinations, papers, assignments, and graded work products are to be completed in conformance with the George Washington University Code of Academic Integrity.

Observance of religious holidays

In accordance with University policy, students should notify faculty during the first week of the semester of their intention to be absent from class on their day(s) of religious observance.

Department policies

End-of-Semester Reviews, Undergraduate Design Department

Student participation and attendance at End-of-Semester Reviews are mandatory. Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior Undergraduate Design students participate and attend End of Semester Reviews in both the Fall and Spring semesters. Undergraduate Design Department End of Semester Reviews are scheduled for the last day of each core designs studio course. There are grade penalties for students who do not participate and attend End of Semester Reviews. Students who do not participate and attend End-of-Semester Reviews will receive a full-grade deduction from their overall semester grade in their core design studio course.

Published 2014-09-02.