Herron School of Art and Design

VC3 / Identifying Problems

Syllabus / Fall 2017


HER-V 310




MWF 3:00–5:30pm


Aaron Ganci


This course will prepare you to implement design methods and facilitate solutions to unframed problems in our society and culture. Along the way you will investigate the world of innovation and creativity.

Design can transform the experiences of citizens in our communities. In this class you will continue to conduct your inquiries into "fuzzy" and unstructured situations where problems are yet undefined but within a large scope. You will use design strategy tools to sort through and tackle complex conditions, identify and define unstated needs for design—and expand your understanding of design past traditional visual communication design.


In this course, you will practice methods to isolate problems and quickly iterate solutions for them (in the form of visual designs, ideas, or otherwise). To do this, you will undertake a series of "design challenges" and an expansive and multifaceted project. The Challenges are meant to give you a space to practice and learn fundamental skills that you can build upon in the big project. There is also an overarching theme to the content of this course: using design for civic or social good. As modern designers, we have a responsibility to leverage design processes and visual language in productive ways.

Structure and Process

This class meets 7.5 hours each week. Most class sessions will be structured around project milestones, short exercises, or lectures. You should utilize class time effectively: meet with the instructor(s), prompt a critique, pilot you solutions, ask questions, and work smart. You are expected to work a minimum of 9 hours outside of class per week to achieve the class goals.

You will required to spend money for some of the deliverables in this course. I will only ask you to spend money when I think it is necessary for your learning. It will always be my goal to limit your expenses as much as possible.

Learning Objectives

There are few high level learning objectives I have for you this semester. These objectives will be addressed in different ways through each project.

  • Remove personal bias from your designs.
  • See problems and devise ways to solve them.
  • Diverge with a wider array of ideas.
  • Receive a thorough introduction to digital UI Design.
  • Present your work in a professional way.
  • Work fast.

Learning Outcomes

In this course...

You will use techniques and strategy tools to manage complex communication issues by:

  • Researching and extracting the most meaningful facts
  • Using strategies to break down problems into manageable parts
  • Identifying likely causes of problems
  • Developing a design/creative brief that specifically outlines your problem and its surroundings

You will use techniques for effective decision-making by:

  • Developing specific criteria for looking at multiple ideas and making decisions
  • Weighing pros and cons of a decision & understanding the most important changes to make
  • Projecting likely outcomes

You will identify and solve challenging communication problems by:

  • Visualizing proposed solutions and creating multiple sketches and prototypes for evaluation

You will create appropriate and meaningful graphic design work by:

  • Considering the principles of good design in every design layout in any medium
  • Utilizing appropriate images including both photography and illustration
  • Scrutinizing, selecting and refining appropriate typography
  • Presenting work in context that is professional and inspiring


There are few principles that should define our collective approach this semester.

Be present, not perfect.

"Design, as a problem-solving activity can never, by definition, yield one right answer: it will alway produce an infinite number of answers, some 'righter' and some 'wronger.' The 'rightness' of any design solution will depend on the meaning which which we invest the arrangement [of design elements]."

-Victor Papanek, Design for the Real World, 1971

Outside of a few issues (spelling, craft, promptness), I will never ask you to be perfect in this class. Your daily goal should be to make your best effort, learn from your mistakes, and continuously improve (even if by very small amounts). Rather than executing perfect solutions, focus on being present in class, during critique, and discussions and I promise that you will be a much better designer by the end of the semester.

Be smart about your data

Losing your computer (either from a software crash, hardware failure, theft, or otherwise) is an inevitability. Embrace this and plan for it: have a plan to backup your computer. I recommend having a two-pronged backup strategy. You should have one hard backup on an external hard drive somewhere. If you use a Mac, make sure Time Machine is connected and use it regularly. The other backup should be remote. I recommend using Backblaze for a reliable, seamless, and relatively inexpensive experience: https://secure.backblaze.com/r/019kbx (affiliate link, includes 1 month free).

Be an informed citizen

As a student, you have access to a lot of great resources for free or reduced prices. Take advantage of these while you can. Get your news from somewhere other than Facebook. For example, the Washington Post offers a free subscription for students. Learn how to access it here: http://time.com/money/4671856/get-free-subscription-to-the-washington-post/. You can get the New York Times for only $1/week (https://www.nytimes.com/subscriptions/edu/lp8LQFK.html). Wherever you get your news, get good at assessing the credibility of what you see.

Be forthright

To do our best work together, we need to have a good working relationship. Trust is the cornerstone. Do your best, and if you fall short, be humble and ready to learn. If you need to miss class for any reason, just tell me. Trust me, I've heard it all.

Honesty also works both ways. If something is not going as you would like in this class, tell me. I'm ready to talk about it and work through it. I will always be honest with you, please be honest with me.


In the schedule below, you can see each day's class activity. When assignments are due or you need to bring materials to class, it is noted in the schedule with this icon:

Schedule is subject to change at the instructor's discretion. Changes will be noted in the Change Log

Project overviews:

Processing Exercise

Week Class Topic

21 Aug

Course introduction; set up room; set up Slack; watch eclipse

23 Aug

Discuss people-centered design examples. Conditional Design exercises. Introduce boarding pass exercise.

An example of a person-centered design (printed visual)

25 Aug

Class will start at 4pm today.

Discuss Boarding Pass exercise. Processing exercise.

Boarding Pass exercise (digital)


28 Aug

Discuss processing exercise, Review Chapter 1. Challenge 1: Color blindness Introduction and Discovery

A Designer's Research Manual, Chapter 1

30 Aug

Challenge 1: Color blindness: Working Day

Divergent ideas for layout

1 Sept

Challenge 1: Color blindness: Working Day; critique solutions


4 Sept

Labor Day, No Class

6 Sept

Challenge 2: Global warming: Introduction and Discovery

Challenge 1 Due

A Designer's Research Manual, Chapter 2

8 Sept

Challenge 2: Global warming: Working day


11 Sept

Challenge 2: Global warming: Critique

13 Sept

Challenge 2: Global warming: Working day

Draft of design, printed

15 Sept

Challenge 2: Global warming: Working day


18 Sept

Challenge 2: Final refinements working day

Challenge 2 Due

20 Sept

Challenge 3: Introduction and initial discovery; Discuss interviews; Conduct interviews

22 Sept

Challenge 3: Inspiration and style divergence discussion; begin developing concepts; Finalize brief

Initial divergence (for review by partner)


25 Sept

Challenge 3: Present and vote on divergent concepts as a group, discuss outcome with partner.

4 Divergent concepts for group critique

27 Sept

Challenge 3: Refine and Revision work day (final feedback from partner).

29 Sept

Introduce Revitalize Indianapolis project; Peer review of Challenge 2.

Challenge 3 Due (beginning of class)


2 Oct

Revitalize: Problem Exploration

Problem spaces, bring visuals + data to discuss

4 Oct

Revitalize: Problem Exploration

6 Oct

Revitalize: Problem Exploration


9 Oct

Individual meetings with Aaron

11 Oct

No class, Aaron presenting at AIGA National Conference.

13 Oct

No class, Aaron presenting at AIGA National Conference.


16 Oct

No Class: Fall Break

18 Oct

Problem space presentations


20 Oct

Problem space presentations



23 Oct

Revitalize: Refine problem space, work on brand analysis and name

25 Oct

Revitalize: Refine brand, mini-critiques

27 Oct

Revitalize: Refine brand, mini-critique


30 Oct

Revitalize: Discuss 6 concepts in mini-critiques

1 Nov

Revitalize: Refine brand

3 Nov

Revitalize: Refine brand


6 Nov

Revitalize: Critique: Brand applications

8 Nov

Revitalize: Refine brand

10 Nov

Revitalize: Present final brands

Brand deliverables due


13 Nov

Revitalize: Introduce Phase 3: App Design. User goals and tech personas.

15 Nov

App Design: Workflow diagrams

17 Nov

App Design: refinement


20 Nov

Individual meetings with Aaron

22 Nov

No Class: Thanksgiving Break

24 Nov

No Class: Thanksgiving Break

25 Nov

The Game (Go Bucks!)


27 Nov

App Design: refinement and document development

29 Nov

App Design: refinement and document development

1 Dec

App Design: refinement and document development


4 Dec

Revitalize: Presentation Prep

6 Dec

Final Presentations

8 Dec

Final Presentations


11 Dec

Mid-level review prep

All Revitalize deliverables Due


Your grade will be broken down into the categories below*. Participation includes: being present and on time, asking and answering questions, helping to improve understanding of course content for others. Your full attention is expected during class time.

Category % of overall
Weekly Challenges 10%
Challenge 1: Design for people with color blindness 10%
Challenge 2: Global warming 10%
Challenge 3: Wrapping gifts 10%
Revitalize Indianapolis (Available soon) 60%

*Categories and percentage breakdown subject to change. You will be informed of any changes and they will be noted in the Change Log.

Late work

Every assignment in this course will be due at the beginning of the class of its defined due date. Work that is not handed in via the method requested by the instructor (Canvas, email, etc) by the predetermined time will be considered late. The consequences of late submission fall on sliding scale, increasing in severity over time. Grade reductions will be assigned on a case-by-case basis (depending on your specific situation) but the following scale will be used by default:

Due date/time – same day, end of class -10%
Same day, end of class – same day, end of day (11:59pm) -15%
Next day (midnight – 11:59pm) -20%
Any subsequent day -50%
Grading scale
A+ 100-98
A 97-93
A- 92-90
B+ 89-87
B 86-83
B- 82-80
C+ 79-77
C 76-73
C- 72-70
D+ 69-67
D 66-63
D- 62-60
F 59-0



A Designer's Research Manual (2nd Edition) by Jenn + Ken Viscocky O'Grady, 2017 (Amazon)


Managing the Design Process: Concept Development by Terry Lee Stone, Rockport Publishers, 2010 (Amazon)

Design, When Everybody Designs: An introduction to Design for Social Innovation by Ezio Manzini, The MIT Press, 2015 (Amazon)

Participate: Designing with User-Generated Content by Helen Armstrong and Zvezdana Stojmirovic, 2011 (Amazon)

Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change by Victor Papanek, 1971 (Amazon)


Attendance Policy

Being present and active in this class will have a positive impact on your design skills and abilities. What you learn in this class and your growth as a designer is directly related to your engagement with course projects and in-class discussions. I plan the semester around how I can most effectively impact your learning within the time we have together (a.k.a. our class sessions).

Attendance will be taken at the beginning of class every day. You have 4 "Free passes" that you can use throughout the semester. Starting with the 5th absence, you will receive a 2% reduction of your overall grade for each absence. If you miss more than 10 sessions, you will be required to have a meeting with the instructor and the VCD academic advisor to discuss the cause of the absences.

As with all IUPUI courses, we follow the Administrative Withdrawal Policy. This policy basically says that if you miss 50% of the sessions in the first quarter of the course, you may be administratively withdrawn from the course. That withdrawal may have financial ramifications as you may no longer be eligible for a tuition refund. Read more about Administrative Withdrawal Policy.

General Course Policies

All university approved course policies apply to this course. To reference the policies about course withdrawal, disabilities, academic integrity, and more, please see http://registrar.iupui.edu/course_policies.html.

Academic Integrity

Pay careful attention to the university policies on Academic misconduct. Cheating, fabrication, dishonesty, interference, and especially plagiarism will not be tolerated in this course. You can find more information about these topics in Indiana University's Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct.

Two-Step Login (Duo)

Duo will be required for all students beginning November 2. Be sure to bring your primary device (like a cellphone or tablet) to class so you can log in to secure IU systems. Also make sure you have a backup device like a hardware token or Google Voice. If you get stuck without a working device, the UITS Support Center can give you a bypass code, but it takes up to 20 minutes. You can learn more about Duo here: https://kb.iu.edu/d/bfgm.

Other important links

  • For students with documented disabilities, please visit Adaptive Educational Services.
  • The university has several policies and procedures when dealing with emergencies. You can find many of them, including Active Shooter situations, Bomb threats, Fire, and more at Protect IU. If you have not signed up for IU-Notify, you should now. This service keeps you informed of emergency or weather related events happening on campus. You can sign up here.
  • Here are links to the Fall 2017 Academic Calendar and Finals schedule.

Header source: http://gph.is/2lAx1St

Change Log

Moved Challenge 2 Due Date to 18 September.

Restructured Challenge 3 timeline (daily activities got more specific); Moved due date for Challenge 3 to 29 September (at the beginning of class)