Design, Place & Social Innovation: Senior Project (51-404)
Spring 2013

Instructor: Laurene Vaughan
Location: MM204A
Time: Monday/Wednesday 1:30-4:30pm
TA: Anna von Reden


1. Project Description

The studio will involve a mix of individual and team based explorations, and will include design students  engaging with students from the English School as part of the process. Our ambition in this course is to explore approaches that that will support us in designing our way into a better future; this is an uncertain and exploratory path; and participating students are open to discovering what that may be.

This course will produce a range of project outcomes that you will hopefully serve as a resource for others and be the tangible outputs for your folios. These will include a studio project blog, downloadable PDFs of project work and tools, and a final publication outlining the discoveries of the studio.

2. Course Objectives

Thus, alongside our partner organization, your challenge is to:

  • identify the key issues that underpin a social issue and how design can provide a way for addressing this issue in practice;
  • use design to explore solutions that have application with the partner organisations and the broader community;
  • create ways, tools, approaches or design artefacts that will communicate with the various stakeholders in a manner that makes sense to them;  
  • address the questions, “How can we design our way into the future that we aspire for?” “How can we use design to support and enable behaviour change?”

3. Project Goals

As a result of your efforts, as a class we will achieve the following objectives:

  • critically explore the ways in which we can design approaches to sustain able behaviour change;
  • develop a series of design tools and approaches that support this;
  • engage in a real world project that requires you to work in an interdisciplinary and agile manner.

4. Course Deliverables

Due to the complex nature of the issue being explored and the various entities that inform it, what will constitute the design outcome for this project is yet to be defined. Throughout this course we will use an emergent methodology of design discovery to realise outcomes as is appropriate to Citizens for a safer Pennsylvania needs and is accessible to the various stakeholders. As this studio is being framed as being contributing to the broader DESIS network objectives, we will produce project documentation that adds to the broader ambitions of DESIS and those designers engaged in design for sustainable futures and social innovation.  As such in this course of the studio you will:

  • create a series of design artefacts and methods that will be used within the course of the studio
  • document your process and discoveries in the project blog, and final publication
  • present your work to both internal (CMU) and external (Citizens for a safer Pennsylvania) partners

5. Course Structure

The course will be taught using a studio methodology. As a class and in conjunction with your instructor and teaching assistant, we will explore the issues and design appropriate approaches and pathways to address issues. This will include both individual and team/group work as is appropriate. The issue of gun safety, children and location is a complex one, and the initial phases of the course will require us to do substantial information gathering and synthesis as part of the design process. We will meet with the project partners Ask for a safer Pennsylvania throughout the semester and they will be available outside of set presentations to provide insights and insights to us in our work as a design studio.

This is a studio course which means that much of the class time will be spent working in studio. As a class, we will frequently discuss relevant topics and conduct in-progress reviews throughout the semester as we evaluate the various stages of the project and its evolution. Please use class time, critiques and visits from the project partners as an the opportunity to articulate your ideas, assess where you are in the project, ask questions, and accept constructive criticism from your peers. Your verbal contributions will be expected and are always welcome.

Also note that this course will move very quickly throughout the spring semester and will be peppered with interruptions. As a result, it is critical that you to stay focused on the tasks at hand and be vigilant of your progress. You must come to each class prepared to discuss your work to obtain the feedback that you will need to move your project forward.

6. Suggested Reading

In order to address a topic such as this it is essential that we inform ourselves of the key issues, public discourses and approaches that are in current use. As such the first phase of the course will include a range of readings which we will undertake and discuss through a series of reading circles during class. I will distribute a list of readings, documentaries, design artifacts, etc. that I believe will help you in the work you conduct throughout the semester. Please don’t hesitate to ask us to suggest additional references that will be most helpful for your specific design direction. There will also be a reference section within the project blog which we will be able to add to on goingly.

7. Process Documentation

It is essential that you document your process in some form that describes the steps you take throughout the project. It should include your research, analysis, sketches, ideas, inspirations, and notations of what you learn. This will be done in your individual blog pages within the project blog. Think of this process as an opportunity to track your design process and progress throughout the semester. Keep in mind, it’s wise to organize your process documentation in a manner that is logical, clear, and includes only pertinent information. In addition, if done well, your process documentation will aid the development of the final studio outcomes.

8. Project Submission

On completion of this course students will be required to submit all project work, this will take two forms. Firstly there will be individual design explorations, commentaries on readings and design outcomes. There will also be your individual learning reflections within the project blog. Secondly there will the group/studio work that will be within the project blog. It is to all students advantage to ensure that project documentation is as thorough as possible. Other details for what is required and how will be distributed throughout the semester as the details of activities become apparent.

9. Class Policy

Since this is a studio course, everyone’s contributions are vital to the success
of the class. Please feel comfortable asking questions and helping each other when possible. This does not mean completing someone elses tasks for them but rather answering questions or conducting out-of-class reviews. Collaboration often spawns wonderful ideas which cannot be achieved in isolation. We too will help in any way we can.

Although a large portion of class time will be spent working on the project, you will be expected to devote no less than an equal amount of time to the course outside of scheduled class meetings. This time should be spent completing  readings, conducting research and analysis, making, making, and making, and learning any necessary software.

Also it should be noted that in this class we will be spending time working with different online resources including social media. Your activities should be focused only on class related work during class. It is important that we act responsibly towards each other and keep focused on the issues at hand during class time.

10. Attendance

To utilize the studio environment, your timely presence and participation are necessary. Studio meetings begin at 1:30 p.m. and continue until 4:20 p.m.
It is vital that you arrive on time because we will often discuss important topics at the start of the session. I anticipate that the rhythm of the class will vary as we move through the challenge of the project theme, at times you will work independently and at others as teams, it important that you devote the entire class time to this project even when I am not meeting with you. Keep in mind, frequent absences and late arrivals are disruptive and inconsiderate to the rest of the class and will adversely affect your grade. If you can’t attend class, inform me in advance either by e-mail or by calling the design office at 268-2828. After two unexcused absences your grade will begin to drop. Three late arrivals will count as one absence. You are responsible for information you miss through absences or lateness. Work that is incomplete or improperly done due to missed or misunderstood information will result in a lower grade. Work that is not turned in will be graded as failing.

11. Communication

If you have questions outside of class please email me. The questions and comments I receive from students are often relevant to the entire class. Therefore, I will frequently use email as a means of distributing pertinent project information to all of you. It is your responsibility to check email often to obtain this information.

12. Teamwork

This is an interdisciplinary real world project. Therefore, I encourage you to utilize the diverse strengths of  the class to address it in the best possible manner that we can. Building on differences in approaches often leads to rich concepts. Also, much of your professional career will require you to work effectively with a range of people. Take advantage of this opportunity to improve your collaboration skills. Recognize and appreciate your strengths and weaknesses and those of your peers.

13. Professional Conduct and Attitude

Over the past four years you have all done a wonderful job of creating a community of practice with your classmates and teachers, based on relationships of mutual trust and respect. I hope that you will continue working in this manner, fostering your professional development and ending your undergraduate education on a high note.

Please approach me if you have any concerns, problems, or questions. You may also contact me for a meeting outside of scheduled studio hours. I am committed to offering you a good educational opportunity and look forward to working with you this semester!

14. Evaluation

Assessment items for this course include a mix of individual and collective activities. These will span from in class design exercises, readings, class discussions, attending presentations by external people, shared projects and individual reflection and design explorations. It is essential that you participate in all these. Details of what is required for each item will be explained to you in class.

You will receive a mid-term and final grade for the course based on the following criteria (each counting 33%):

  • Design Process: breadth and depth of idea generation and exploration,
    evaluation of ideas, and development and refinement of a selected idea
  • Your Work: quality, relevance, and innovation of your final pieces, clarity and completeness of documentation, craftsmanship employed, verbal
    presentation of your work, level of engagement with your peers and the project partners,  and evidence of understanding of the key points
    in the project
  • Your Participation and Attitude: articulation of ideas, contribution of constructive criticism, value and frequency of comments given, ability to work effectively with teammates and complete a fair share of the project, attention to class activities, attendance, meeting of deadlines, demeanor, and commitment to this class and your work