Human-Centered Design Research



Instructor: Brenda Laurel <>

TA: Michael Cutter <>


This course is designed to take students through a rigorous process that touches on the most important skills and principles in human-centered design research as well as some formal research methods. Design research employs tools and methods that are often similar to what we might call “market research,” but with a difference: design research is conducted in order to inform the design a product or service, not to discover how best to sell it after it has been created. The course is highly collaborative, and all work will be conducted in small teams. Within a given opportunity space, students will be invited to generate new ideas and to learn about potentially unfamiliar audiences. One of our prime objectives is to help students learn what it takes and how it feels to design for people who are not like you; in other words, how not to design solely for ourselves.

    Students will become familiar with a variety of brainstorming and ideation tools. They will learn about a variety of human-centered research methods, relying heavily on qualitative methods in their field work. They will have the opportunity to practice research analysis and synthesis to inform and improve project ideas and to work with paper prototypes or mock-ups to test their ideas as they develop. Each team will give several presentations with group critiques and a final project presentation to an audience of invited guests, faculty and students.

    The design opportunity space will be circumscribed as follows:

    audience: ages 25-60

    platforms: mobile required, others optional

    keywords (may change slightly): nature, engagement, delight

Instructors and Assistants