HCD 421 Design and Human Experience

Marta Cuciurean-Zapan

Fall 2020-2021
Class number: 10353
Section number: 701
Th 5:45PM - 9:00PM
OLSYN CH000 Online Campus

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Understanding design’s profound impact on people and the way they live their lives is a key factor in the personal, professional and creative development of a human-centered designer. As such, HCD 421 helps students learn, observe and understand design’s wide-ranging effect on society including the physical, cultural, emotional, psychological and social impact on people, communities and humanity.

Using real-world case studies of complex systems design, as told by the very designers who developed innovative solutions, students will learn how designers tackle these large scale design problems as well as shape the world around us. They will also use what they observe and hear to develop their own personal point of view and philosophy as a designer as well as pursue a passion project to bring new skills into fruition.

Through guest speakers, lectures, readings and assignments students will gain a real-world understanding of the challenges of designing for the human experience and develop reflective as well as practical skills to help navigate those challenges of today and tomorrow. These skills include problem framing, articulating project goals, designing and conducting interviews, and thematic analysis.

Learning Objectives 
Students will be able to: 

  1. Build a systemic view of design in order to analyze examples of and deconstruct assumptions about the impact of technologies on communities.
  2. Critically assess goals, approaches, and challenges of designing experiences.
  3. Describe their own point of view as a designer to shape a conceptual framework for design.
  4. Describe a human centered problem statement and identify and execute next steps to research and design against this problem statement
  5. Become familiar with the work of practitioners.
  6. Connect personal interests to course topics.
  7. Develop confidence as researchers and designers.
  8. Consider equity and the role of design in underrepresented communities.


Gunn, Otto, and Smith eds. (2013). Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice. New York: Bloomsbury

School policies:

Changes to Syllabus

This syllabus is subject to change as necessary during the quarter. If a change occurs, it will be thoroughly addressed during class, posted under Announcements in D2L and sent via email.

Online Course Evaluations

Evaluations are a way for students to provide valuable feedback regarding their instructor and the course. Detailed feedback will enable the instructor to continuously tailor teaching methods and course content to meet the learning goals of the course and the academic needs of the students. They are a requirement of the course and are key to continue to provide you with the highest quality of teaching. The evaluations are anonymous; the instructor and administration do not track who entered what responses. A program is used to check if the student completed the evaluations, but the evaluation is completely separate from the student’s identity. Since 100% participation is our goal, students are sent periodic reminders over three weeks. Students do not receive reminders once they complete the evaluation. Students complete the evaluation online in CampusConnect.

Academic Integrity and Plagiarism

This course will be subject to the university's academic integrity policy. More information can be found at If you have any questions be sure to consult with your professor.

Academic Policies

All students are required to manage their class schedules each term in accordance with the deadlines for enrolling and withdrawing as indicated in the University Academic Calendar. Information on enrollment, withdrawal, grading and incompletes can be found at

Students with Disabilities

Students who feel they may need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact the instructor privately to discuss their specific needs. All discussions will remain confidential.
To ensure that you receive the most appropriate accommodation based on your needs, contact the instructor as early as possible in the quarter (preferably within the first week of class), and make sure that you have contacted the Center for Students with Disabilities (CSD) at:
Lewis Center 1420, 25 East Jackson Blvd.
Phone number: (312)362-8002
Fax: (312)362-6544
TTY: (773)325.7296