A Syllabus for User Experience

When I agreed to teach a class on User experience Design at General Assembly, I had a very clear idea of what I would teach.  And what I would not. I would not teach OMnigraffle or Photoshop. I was tired of classes that purported to teach design,  and only taught tools.  And I would not teach wireframes. I was not going to pretend the didn’t exist, but they would be explained as part of a toolkit for thinking and communicating design, not as a golden deliverable.

But more than the do nots, I was excited by the dos I could teach. Do do primary research. Do understand context. Do learn about game design and social design and network effects and business models.  Do design an entire user experience. I was excited to teach a foundations class, ignoring the face that foundations is usually taught by multiple professors over a year 8 hours a day.  Call me what you want, but underachiever isn’t going to stick.

So here is what I thought was worth teaching.  And why, and links to slides if it has been taught and if have them ( I have had many many guest speakers).

Day One

I started with an introduction,


Andrei don’t need no stinking slides
Demonstrating how hard indirect manipulation is with a pen on a stick.

then Andrei spoke on key principles designers seem to have forgotten about, including Modality, direct manipulation, and feedback loops. He’ll be writing more on these toward the end of the year, but for now I recommend a visit to wikipedia to learn more.

Day Two
Next the amazing Steve Portigal came in to talk about User Research. I really felt it was important to lead with research. First we understand, then we think, then we pick up pencil and draw… finally we make product.

Day Three

Although I have mixed feelings about using personas in every day life, I have a lot of faith in their power to turn people into user-centered designers.

Day Four

Day Five
This is a day where I taught mental models, including Indi Young’s without slides! Yes! amazing! I used a whiteboard. I loved it. However I’ve got nothing to share. Um… buy her book!

Day Six
Lost in the desert. Running out of bourbon. Send cabana boys.

Ok, no.

My redoubtable TA, Eric Bell taught on deliverables. I’ll see if I can track down his slides.
I include the definition because when I use the word redoubtable, he thinks I mean people doubt him.

Au contraire mon frere!

Day Seven

Has it really only been seven days?

Day Eight
Don’t you hate flashbacks?

Day Nine
I dust off my old social talk and bring it to the new generation

I’ll say, it’s more relevant than ever with the rise of so many new social sites.

Day Ten
And now for something completely different: Randy Farmer!

Day Eleven
Klaus Kaasgaard explained the power of network effects, and how to design for them. No slides, sorry. But let’s take a moment and enjoy how many a’s he has in his name.

Day Twelve
Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone on Design Pattern Libraries
No slides at the moment, but their whole social library is online, and this may help

Day Thirteen
Daniel Gatsby told us lots of secrets from Apple and Square and guess what.. no slides! Bwahahaha! You had to be there.

Seriously, it was awesome and maybe someday he’ll write his genius down!

Day Fourteen
I’m baaaack

Day Fifteen
Todd Zaki Warfel on Prototyping, and Dan Parnum tells the case study of Neighborland. Whew, that night was awesome. Amelie even made a prototype

And yes, NO SLIDES YET. Calm down, already.
Enjoy Todd’s slides on prototyping from Australia. They are quite similar, I assure you

Day Sixteen

Next up was Amy Jo Kim, talking about collaboration in game and experience design.

As well, she’s writing a lot about it on her blog.


Days blur together into a mess


As the holidays came, and guest speakers got slotted in when they could make it, it all became a bit of a blur. The large deck below got taught across at least two days.

I spoke on Visual and Interface design principles:

and Brand

and in the middle of all this, gave a workshop… outside of the class… on UX. I include it here, because, why not?

Finally I had Jen Ruffner speak on Optimization, and Greg Nudelman on Mobile.

And Greg just wrote a book, and an article for B&A, and has these fine slides that are quite similar

and at last, we had the student presentations and portfolio review.



Overall it was an amazing and wonderful experience. One That I hope to repeat.

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