Interactive Web Design I · DM2280B spring 2013 · Corcoran College of Art + Design
Instructor: David Ramos

This course explores ways of crafting experiences and creating meaning in interactive media. It looks at ways of organizing information, guiding users through processes, and helping visitors to navigate seas of media. Subjects include user-centered design, information architecture, design documentation, and interactive art direction.

This course explores ways of telling stories, crafting experiences, and creating meaning through interaction. At heart, the course is concerned with helping designers gain an empathetic understanding of users and their needs.

“We are designing verbs, not nouns.” (Bill Moggridge)

Work in interactive media often involves creating projects that one designer cannot realize without the help of a large team. Designers explain their ideas by creating documentation and diagrams. We study ways of communicating design, both at high fidelity, with computer tools; and gesturally, using pen and paper.

Speculating about ideas is of tremendous value in the design world, but it is essential to try those ideas in practice. Designers can answer large questions by building simple prototypes. The course examines ways of using paper, screen, and video prototypes to test ideas.

The class spends time examining leading-edge tools. We will look at physical computing, interactive visualization, and rapid prototyping, and we will ask what these new methods might mean for design.


This course focuses on concepts. It is not a technology course. The class requires no software expertise beyond familiarity with Illustrator or InDesign.

Class meetings will be a mix of demonstrations, discussion, critiques, and studio working sessions. There will be extensive self-scheduled project work outside of the classroom.

There are 2–3 guest speakers and field trips planned, dates t.b.a. No field trips outside of class hours will be required.


Students will:


This is a project-based course. Design, as a discipline and a practice, helps make sense of a changing world, and a designer’s point of view is ever-more important. The projects are student-driven, and the major semester project uses prompts as the starting points for more extensive research, asking students to assemble their own content.


Plan a tour, and devise a method for guiding two other students on your tour.


Redesign the interface for a machine. Study the way that people use your assigned machine. Then, imagine a new design for your machine. Create prototypes for your interface, and test these prototypes with other students and people outside the class. Use your testing to help refine your design.

Structure and movement

In this project, you’ll organize a website for maximum effect. Think about the people who will use the site and what they want; how the site should be organized; and how people will move through the site. Produce a full set of IA/IxD deliverables: competitive analyses, personas, site maps, use cases, navigation systems, and low-fidelity wireframes.

Experience: a research project

This project asks how designers can help to make sense of a large body of information. Begin with a large dataset – a group of texts, or an image collection, or a mass of quantitative data, or a set of artifacts, perhaps – and create an interactive experience that presents that material in a usable, emotionally-resonant way. Then, develop an idea, refine that idea using user-centered design methods, and explain the idea by creating documentation and prototypes. The proposed piece can live in a space, in the hand, or on the screen.


Keep a weblog for this class. Use it to set down, in writing, your thoughts about your projects and the reading. The writing need not be particularly formal – it is most important that you take the opportunity to reflect. Freewriting would be entirely fine. Aim for at least a paragraph for each weeks’ reading assignments, and a paragraph each week for your projects.

Process book

As you work over the semester, save your files, sketches, notes, and raw material. Assemble these clippings into a process book that records your progress over the term. The book’s design can be simple. Deliver your process book in PDF form.


23% Interface
25% Structure and movement
25% Experience
17% Weblog, process book, and other assignments
10% Participation

Tools + resources


There are two required textbooks:

Wodtke, Christina, and Govella, Austin. Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web (Second Edition). Berkeley, Calif.: New Riders P., 2009. ISBN-13: 978-0735712508.

Norman, Donald A. The Design of Everyday Things. New York, N.Y.: Basic Books, 1988. ISBN-13: 978-0465067107.

Recommended resources:

Brown, Dan M. Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning. Berkeley, Calif.: New Riders P., 2011.

Required software + tools



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.

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.

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. Name the folder with your first and last names and the project title.
  3. ZIP compress the folder.
  4. Make sure that the name of the ZIP file contains your first and last names, and the project title.

You may send the following file formats: PDF, .folio, HTML/CSS/JS, JPG, PNG, MOV, MP4, MP3, AAC, and TXT. Your instructor will not grade InDesign, Illustrator, or Word files.



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	Outstanding 
B	Good
C	Adequate 	
D	Poor 	
F	Unacceptable 	

Resubmitting work

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

Classroom rules

Intellectual honesty

Cite the work of others. Do not borrow projects from other students or reuse work from other classes without permission. Plagiarism or cheating are grounds for failure on an assignment; repeated plagiarism or cheating results in failure of the course. If in doubt about how and when to cite, please ask the instructor or a librarian.

Code citations: 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.

College policies

The Corcoran Honor Code and Attendance Policy apply in this class.

Please consult the Student Handbook for policies on disablities, and see the Corcoran’s Disability Support Services.


Published 2013-01-24.