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As the bulletin will tell you, this course covers, "...practices, concepts, history, and social ramifications of design. Typography, layout, identity, visual/physical structure, graphic iconography, and relationship of form to function. Theoretical and/or historical issues relevant to contemporary practice."

This particular semester we will be designing a mobile application, exploring the above concepts through the practice of user interface and user experience design (shorted to UI/UX in the industry). Specifically, we will be researching and designing a mobile application for the Bronx Children's Museum – the first and only museum of its kind in the Bronx!

[Click here] or the thumbnail to the left to download a PDF of the course syllabus.

User experience (UX) Design

We'll begin this semester by discussing user experience design. This field of design can also be referred to as "user-centered design," as it considers the demands, behaviors, desires, and even the handicaps of the end-user. Questions a user experience designer asks include, but are not limited to:

  • What are the things a user is going to want from my design?
  • What is the most thing in my design and how do I connect the user with ASAP? 
  • How many ways can a user try to get what they want?
  • How would a user react to the layout, structure, and/or pacing?
  • What does the user want?
  • What will make sense to the user; what will confuse her?
  • What might one user potentially have trouble doing that another user will not? 

Take a look at the above questions and think generally about what they're describing. Do these sound familiar to you? Haven't we considered these things no matter what we're working on? Certainly, websites and apps need good user experience design because people could use them in so many ways. But don't we consider these same things to some degree when texting someone? Or posting to Instagram? Or writing an email, laying out a book, writing a story, making a video... even making breakfast?! 

If you answered yes to any of the above, then congratulations: you're a user experience designer! This semester we are going start to designing mobile apps by considering their users, deciding what we want the apps to do, how the user should use them to do it, and then moving on to the next phase of the course, user interface design.


User Interface (UI) design

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Once we've created a solid user experience, it's time to 'skin it' in an elegant way that enhances and optimizes its usability. Whereas UX considers the user's behavior, UI is concerned with how the user's behavior meshes with the logic of what is generally an interactive design. If the designed item is a tool, how does the user use it to create change? How can we optimize how usable this tool is? Is the usage visually clear or muddled? Beautiful or ugly? Pleasing or frustrating. These are the questions of a user interface designer.

The good news: user interfaces are all around us, so we have plenty of references. Here is a shortlist:

  • the handle of a screwdriver
  • a touchscreen with icons
  • any phone
  • any tv remote
  • a toothbrush handle
  • the surface of a basketball
  • the shaft of a pencil
  • shoelaces or velcro 
  • an MRI machine

The more good news? If you ever created any work of art ever, even taken a photograph with your phone, then you have engaged in user interface design. In this case, you allowed a 'user' to 'interface' with a visual concept. Yay!