GDES-425 spring 2017 · American University Design
Instructor: David Ramos ( · office hours )

This course examines experience design in depth, addressing ways of creating meaning through technology and interaction. It aims to locate design practice within larger cultural and social contexts. Assignments ask students to investigate design questions while also negotiating substantive content.

A semester-long capstone project lets students explore an idea through research and making, building on knowledge and skills accumulated over their academic careers. Additional projects help students build skills in thinking about and explaining ideas in experience design, and in presenting their work in professional settings.


Students explore advanced topics in interactive and experience design through creative projects. Students conduct semester-long applied research resulting in a series of cohesive works that explore effective and meaningful uses of technology for creating engaging interactive experiences. Supporting course lectures address current issues and trends in the field, while lab work sessions cover required technical skills. Interdisciplinary inquiry and creative experimentation are highly encouraged.


Students will gain fluency in:

  1. Organizing a multifaceted, research-driven design project.
  2. Working with interaction across screens and in 3-D space.
  3. Creating meaning through experience and interaction.
  4. Navigating contemporary issues in experience design and supporting technologies.
  5. Communicating interactions using prototypes and documentation.
  6. Presenting work and skills in professional settings.


This course mixes classroom time (demonstrations, discussions, and lectures) with field trips and studio/critique sessions. It requires more time outside of class than most studio courses, and it leans heavily on students to take responsibility for planning and executing work.

The class schedule and assignments are provisional and subject to change.

Office hours and contact

An office hours schedule is published elsewhere on your instructor’s site. The best way to reach me outside of office hours is through email ( Please allow one weekday for an email response. It is department policy not to do critiques over email; plan ahead and take advantage of class time and office hours.

Assignments and grading

35% Capstone project  
30% Portfolio  
15% Exercises and reading  
20% Exit interview and presentation  

The capstone project, portfolio, and exit interview/presentation are all required, and you must complete them in order to pass the course. Be warned: students have failed to graduate because they missed their exit interviews.

The portfolio is flexible. Its percentage weight assumes that a student starts anew. If the instructor agrees, you can carry out lesser revisions to an existing portfolio site, and instead allocate more time and more grade points to the capstone project.

Do the reading. If discussions suffer because of limited reading, we will start to have quizzes. Participation affects grades as necessary. These percentages will change if assignments and schedules change.

Process and submitting work

You will need to turn in your process documentation as part of your projects, so keep versions of your files and paper sketches as they progress. Projects not seen in progress during previous classes will receive a failing grade. Late work will be marked down.

See instructions for submitting work.

Tools and resources


Handouts and online readings. No required textbook.

Additional resources

See a compilation of reference material on the separate Resources for IxD students site.

The AU Library provides access to online tutorials, which are especially useful for technical topics.

Required software + tools

In the interest of efficiency and equity, HTML-based projects will be evaluated using a current build of Chrome Canary on a Mac.

Hosted services

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.



Students are expected to attend scheduled class sessions. Grounds for excused absences are illness, family emergencies, jury or military service, and religious obligations. One unjustified absence is allowed for the semester. Each additional absence will lower the course grade by one step (i.e. from A to A-).

Come to class on time and do not leave early. Excessive tardiness, early departures, excessive break time, and lack of participation in assigned class activities will count as equivalent to half an absence (2=1 absence). Tardiness over a half hour will be counted as an absence.

Grading scale

This course is modeled on the rigor of the graphic design curriculum at American University, which is in turn based on the standards of the graphic design industry. As such, students often find this to be a challenging course in which a significant amount of work must take place in the studio outside of class time. Your instructor will use the following grade scale when evaluating projects, with plusses and minuses.

In the classroom

Academic integrity

Standards of academic conduct are set forth in the University’s Academic Integrity Code. Please see me or consult the student handbook if you have questions about academic violations described in the Code or as they relate to particular requirements for this course.

Image and code citations: If you use any material (including images and source 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. See class policy on citations and copyright.

Support services

American University offers an array of support services.