Public Interfaces

Tuesdays 6 – 8:50pm
Michael Luck Schneider
[email protected]

Course Description

Public spaces have traditionally been designed to support the social, a place for culture, education, work and leisure; we more and more turn to our digital devices to fill these same roles. This course will explore the multi-modal physical world and the role that interaction design and the digital design process have in reactivating and finding new opportunities in the spaces that we inhabit.  We will investigate new possibilities available to us through leveraging new technology, and working closely with architects, lighting designers and acoustic designers to create a fully integrated experience that engages people through all of their senses. This studio class will be heavily focused on prototyping and charrettes, and on developing your skills in rapidly iterating design concepts. Students will use their thesis projects as a starting point and develop ideas as adjuncts to the projects, or as the main project itself.


Most of the work in this class will revolve around 3 projects, one quick dirty and done individually, one group project working on an intervention for a defined space (Levi’s Stadium) and a final group project that is more open ended. Students will also do a technology research project that they will present to the class. Students are expected to document their work online and to actively participate in supporting fellow classmates.

Students will learn about the challenges and opportunities of designing for public spaces as well as try out a number of different techniques for rapid iterative development of a design. We will explore how to apply some of the digital design processes to “real space” such as designing in the final medium and rapid iterations.

It is vital that students work in groups as all of the projects require multiple perspectives and disciplines. Groups will be created for the first group project and then rearranged for the final project. Students should expect to take on roles within their group and will be responsible for the outcome of that aspect of their project (i.e. physical, visual, content, technology).

Conduct (adapted from Marina Zurkow)

This class meets for one two-hour and fifty minute session per week.
No email or IM in class  (you will be asked to leave).
Grades are based on class participation (40%) and assignments (60%).
See below for absences and lateness.
Assignment due dates are hard dates.

Unexcused absences on project due dates will constitute a failure of that assignment. If you have an excused absence, you will have to arrange for an out-of-class appointment to review your work. If you are part of a team, your work will be critiqued on the assignment due date by the member who is present.

In exceptional cases, at the discretion of the professor, a student may be excused from class.  Leave will be considered 1 week (or more) before the class in question but not after that time.  This does not apply to sudden illness, a death in the family, or other last-minute exigencies.  Situations, which merit consideration for leave from a class, include:

-Unique and compelling professional opportunities relevant to your studies
-Important family events (weddings, funerals, and the like)
-Incapacitating or contagious illness  (NB: A student must call or e-mail the professor BEFORE the class time if he or she cannot attend as a result of serious illness.  Failure to do so will result in an unexcused absence.)
-Religious holidays


Lateness (more than 5 minutes) or early departure from class translates into one half absence.


Class Participation: 40%
First Project: 10%
Second Project: 20%
Final Project: 30%

Class Meetings

Week 1
Honing our sensory understanding of the spaces we inhabit, understanding the importance of delivering a cohesive experience through multiple senses, and introductions

  1. Reading – Oldenburg Our Vanishing 3rd places. Create a blog post that has two ideas from the reading that stand out to you. Put it under the “Third Places” category. This is due by Sunday 13.
  2. Assignment – quick dirty individual project – take a project or an aspect of a project you have done at SVA (ideally your thesis) and locate it somewhere in the NYC subway system. Create a simple 3-5 minute presentation of it. Put a link to it or post it under the “Quick Indie Project” category.

Week 2
Third places, public places, and building shared experience as community investment. The role of digital in the third place.

Who are you? Who are they? Who are we? – first in a series of improv exercises to better understand the user.

  1. Reading – Everything Sings Intro, Denis Wood
  2. Assignment – Observe and Document a Third place, present it back to the class through multiple senses. Work in groups, each student responsible for documenting a different sense. Feel free to impair a sense if it helps you focus(blindfold, earplug, big mittens). Compare your observations and create a presentation that represents the information through multiple senses. Use time, or choose another axis to plot your observations against.
  3. Reading –  Double diamond design process. Read these articles and diagram out your version of the design process that you will follow with your team.
    1. Design Council
    2. Double Diamond
    3. Diagram

Week 3

The Design Diamond, Iterative design, prototyping, and creation mythology

  1. (15) Assignment – Same Groups start to brainstorm 3rd place building tool for 49ers stadium (three weeks till presentation) This week you will be expected to do the first part of the design diamond, focussing on divergent discovery
    1. Read linked articles or other articles to find out about the underlying technical infrastructure of Levis Stadium
    2. Research existing products in the market that are similar; categorize them.
    3. Research your user, and group by level of engagement across a timeline.
    4. Find an expert to interview to find out more about this market, bulletpoint your findings.
    5. Make a list of actions that already are happening at this place (ordering drinks, cheering the team, watching other games…)
    6. Write a draft (or two) of your creation myth. This is the identity or brand of what you are going to be designing. This can be total fiction, a story that can communicate the mood and should give the reason for your design to exist as well as give people the reason to connect.
    7. Put all of the above documentation under the category “— 49ers Diverge (research)” for review next class.

Week 4
Platform – product continuum

49ers Roleplaying

  • Assignment
  • How do you get people to make choices with the lowest level of entry, can you leverage an existing action or give people an excuse to do something that they always wanted to or had never even thought of? How do you teach a new action that results in something that makes it worth it?
    • Based on your preliminary research and creation myth, write goals and parameters and post them by Friday under “49ers – G&P” category
    • Based on your Goals and Parameters come up with the first iteration of your idea. Represent it as a diagrammed user experience and post to the “49ers – User Diagram” category.
    • Think about:
      • Ways to get people engaged and to educate them before they get to the stadium or before they “sign on.”
      • How people take the experience home with them?
      • What other technologies or platforms within Levi’s Stadium that can be leveraged in your experience?

Week 5
Understanding the Medium – Tech and its influence on the experience

  1. Assignment – Send me what you want to do for your tech research project
  2. Do one quick iteration on your design solution for the 49ers and create a 10 minute presentation

Week 6
Project 1 presentations

  1. Assignment – New groups (of 4). Discover: Go back to a third place from the first assignment or find a new one (if you are choosing a new one please email me by Wednesday to confirm). Document actions or review your previous documentation to find actions. Highlight moments of intervention opportunity, dream up some unexpected nuggets of delight (what if I saw…, what if I heard, what if I thought I was, what if I could…). Define users, Do preliminary market research (what other technological interventions are there for this space or similar spaces). Put all of this information into your Discovery Report and post it to the Blog under Final – Discovery

Week 7

330 Hudson St. Field trip, LED Lab field trip Tech overview (meet at the LED Lab). Differentiating technology (content – medium spectrum)

Assignment – Define: The big goal is to plan and prepare for your first in situ prototype. Out of your discover develop goals and parameters, and focus on one single element of a goal to rapid prototype around. Elevator pitch with prototype iteration 1 proposal to present in class. Post on the blog under FInal – Define


Week 8

Preparing for first prototype

  1. Assignment – paper/rapid prototype, content, medium (post on internet and send link)

Week 9
Present first site mockup

In-class paper prototyping session

  1. Assignment – This week you will do your second iteration based on what we talked about in class
    1. Write a series of goals that you want to understand through your testing. Go back to your original goals and parameters to make sure that they are aligned.
    2. Take a photo or plan of the location that you are working in and highlight the spaces that you are activating.
    3. First set up your second iteration at SVA IXD floor let it run for 48 hours.
    4. Write an analysis of your findings
    5. Prepare to present your project to guest lecturer Pete next week.

Week 10
Guest Lecture – Pete Vigeant Game mechanics in public spaces – Big Games

  1. Assignment – Create user experience diagrams for the next iteration of the prototype you’re planning to do. The diagrams should take two different users and walk through the experience. They should indicate the passage of time and any other characteristics of the environment that change and affect the experience. If there are multiple users involved, it should indicate their interaction.

Week 11
In-class design swap – New groups, spend 30 minutes on each of the four projects represented by your new team. 5 minutes to present where you are and layout challenges and questions that exist and 25 minutes doing a quick design charrette.

  1. Iteration 3 – Get together and discuss input and ideas from in-class design swap. This is time to start doing a hard convergence. Choose a gem or something that has caught your interest most and start honing it. Find a day this week to go out and do your second to last iteration. Create clear goals to test agains. Plan how you will be documenting your prototype.

Week 12
Each group give an update about their latest iteration and show their user experience diagram.

  1. Assignment – each group re-craft their design for one of the worlds created in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

Week 13
Review documentation examples – Plan your own deliverable presentation

  1.  Assignment – Final iteration
  2. Start putting together your final presentation

Week 14
Set up your design on the floor so that we can each experience it.

Have a sensory check-in

  1. Assignment – Prepare presentation

Week 15
Final presentations

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