I’m really excited to start a course on Human-Computer Interaction today, taught by Dr. Scott Klemmer, associate professor of computer science at Stanford University. The course covers a range of topics related to user-centered design, the iterative and serial design process, prototyping, and research methods. There are design projects and quizzes.
In the summer of 2009, I did a design studio and architectural history summer program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design that similarly covered methods of the design process, design research, model building, technical drafting skills, drawing, and architectural theory and history. It was, of course, entirely focused on the scale of architecture, but did cover some issues in materials development that probably apply to industrial design.
The Stanford HCI course seems to be different mostly in content. While there is a studio element, and a more theoretical element, it focuses on issues of human experience and feedback, and how designers can access and apply knowledge about users. In general, the user-centered design paradigm is one that is very marginal in architecture (except when programming for “special populations” such as people with disabilities, seniors, etc.). I know from my archival and site visit research that Ron Mace, who coined the term, “Universal Design,” was an avid reader of Donald Norman, a fascinating practitioner of human-centered design who is an IDEO fellow and has had several high profile positions working on design strategy. In a lot of ways, Universal Design has become synonymous with user-centered design, certainly because user-centeredness is a marginal discourse within architectural design and also because UD would like to expand consideration of who comes to count as a user.
In the HCI course, I will be curious to think about how expansively users are thought about and what epistemological standards and frames are used in the application of knowledge to design. Who is a legible potential user and who gets left out? How can the methods of user-centered design education benefit from methods of UD education to include a range of users in mind? I hope to get to try doing a UD project myself, to build upon my previous attempts at accessible design during my summer at Harvard. This will give me perspective on the processes of decision-making and difficulties around expansive user-centeredness and flexibility in the actual implementation of designs.