Herron School of Art and Design

Designing People-Centered Experiences

Syllabus / Fall 2017


HER-V 400




MWF (8w1)


Aaron Ganci
Helen Sanematsu


Designing People-Centered Experiences is a succinct, 8-week course about the experience design industry and its processes. This course provides a methodological overview of experience design from the perspective of a visual communication designer. By exposing the range of design activities associated with experience design, this course prepares visual communication design majors to make an informed decision about which capstone course they will take in the second 8 weeks of the Fall and the Spring semesters.


This course provides students hands-on experience with context-based design research to facilitate a better understanding of the experience design activities. Special attention is devoted to exposing the similarities and differences between the Service Experience, Interaction Design, and Interface Design professions, their disciplinary activities, deliverables, and processes. Students will apply research tools and methods to seek better understanding of human factors (issues of audiences and contexts), and apply strategic design tools for generating and integrating solutions. Students will engage in individual and team-based approaches to problem solving.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • frame the context or circumstances of a design problem in an insightful way
  • conduct research by adopting appropriate tools and methods to investigate design contexts
  • visualize an existing experience and its parts
  • draft a plan on how to address weaknesses in an experience
  • describe the relationship between people, interfaces, interactions, and experiences
  • enact a problem solving process that involves the simultaneous creation and evaluation of multiple alternatives
  • establish purposeful relationships among elements of a solution and between the solution and its context
  • identify personal strengths within the experience design field to better inform decisions about their capstone project


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.

Important Terms

Throughout the semester, we will consistently use a few terms. Designers uses terms interchangeably sometimes or there may be multiple understandings for the same term. Or, in some cases, we may have made up a term to more easily describe a concept. These definitions will help us build a common vocabulary and clear up some confusion.


The distinct set of conditions around a person that influences their actions. A person’s satisfaction with a design is almost always dependent on context (for example, chat apps are designed differently depending on their context of use: a public context (Twitter), romantic context (Tinder/Snapchat), and a professional context (Skype).

Map or
Alignment Map

These are terms that Helen and Aaron use to generally reference the genre of experience mapping. These terms are usually a placeholder for a specific type of map (customer journey, experience map, service blueprint, etc.).

Customer Journey Map

A specific type of Articulation Map that focuses on one person (or a persona’s) journey with a product or service.


A specific type of Articulation Map that focuses on human activity (and goals) within a certain context. It still documents a person’s journey but shifts the perspective from “a concrete solution” to “a desired experiential state of mind.”

Phase of experience

A distinct segment of an experience. Usually used to help frame the underlying actions and touchpoints through specific goals. (ex: Awareness > Decide > Purchase > Use)


A moment in time where a person encounters a product or service. Touchpoints usually impact the person’s understanding of that service. (ex: checkout)


Any action that a person undertakes in their journey. They may or may not coincide with a touchpoint (ex: ‘Turn doorknob to open door’)


Tangible, designed objects that a person encounters throughout an experience. (ex: a sign, the previously mentioned doorknob, an app, etc)

End Goal

What a person literally wants to accomplish. (ex: I want to send a message to my friend).

Experience Goal

How a person wants to feel while they using a product or service (ex: I want to feel creative).

Life Goal

How the use of a product or service feeds into a person’s grander sense of self (ex: I want to be a good citizen).

Elements of Design

The basic elements of our craft:

  • Color
  • Shape
  • Texture
  • Space
  • Form

Principles of Design

Concepts we use to apply the elements of design in meaningful ways:

  • Unity
  • Balance
  • Hierarchy
  • Scale
  • Emphasis
  • Contrast
  • Figure/ground


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: . Readings are noted with this icon: . Readings need to be completed by the marked class session.

Schedule is subject to change at the instructor's discretion

Project overviews:

Week Class Topic

21 Aug

Introductions; course overview; Lecture: What are experiences, how do we design them, and why are you taking this class?

Don't look at the Sun exercise

23 Aug

Observe and Document Exercise; Introduce Conveying and Articulating Experiences Assignment

The Mezzanine Chapter 1

25 Aug

Conduct observations for Conveying and Articulating Experiences


28 Aug

Discuss observations; select one context to Convey and discuss plan of approach; generate rough map of experience

30 Aug

Work in groups to prepare Convey presentations

1 Sept

Convey presentations

Discuss Articulate Maps


4 Sept

Labor Day, No Class

6 Sept

Discuss approach to maps, review initial sketches

Initial map sketch

Mapping Experiences Chapters 1 & 2

8 Sept

Review and refine maps with instructor

Mapping Experiences Chapters 6


11 Sept

Group critique of maps

Printed maps (in-studio prints) for critique

13 Sept

Review and refine maps with instructor

15 Sept

Review and refine maps with instructor


18 Sept

Review and refine maps with instructor

20 Sept

Articulating Experiences Map, printed and via Canvas

Introduce Experience and Its Parts assignment, form groups

22 Sept

Discuss problem spaces in groups with instructor


25 Sept

Sketch of journey and potential artifacts

Lecture: Designing Desirable Products

27 Sept

Review and refine work with instructor

29 Sept

Review and refine work with instructor


2 Oct

Review and refine work with instructor

Critique: Map and in-progress artifacts

4 Oct

Review and refine work with instructor

6 Oct

Review and refine work with instructor


9 Oct

Review and refine work with instructor

11 Oct

Review and refine work with instructor

Aaron at AIGA National Conference; Helen available for feedback

13 Oct

Hang poster display in hall; Review final solutions

Aaron at AIGA National Conference; Helen available for feedback

The Experience of Wellbeing due


Your grade will be broken down into the categories below. *

Category % of total
Convey and Articulating Experiences 40%
The Experience of Wellbeing 60%

* Categories and percentage breakdown subject to change.

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. If late work is handed in within the following parameters, the grade will be reduced in the following ways:

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%

Focus and attention

As with anything, what you get out of this class is directly related to what you put into it. When Helen or Aaron are lecturing, we expect your undivided attention. Working on projects for other courses during this class time is not acceptable. Many of you will use computers to take notes during lectures or discussions. Please resist the urge to use that time to use social media, watch youtube, etc.

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


Kalbach, James. 2016. Mapping Experiences: A Complete Guide to Creating Value through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams

Strongly suggested
Stickdorn, Marc, et al. 2012. This is Service Design Thinking: Basics, Tools, Cases

Cooper, Alan. 2014. About Face 4: The Essentials of Interaction Design.

Berinato, Scott. 2016. Good Charts: The Harvard Business Review Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations

Baker, Nicholson. 1988. The Mezzanine

B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. “In The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage”, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore

B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. "Welcome to the Experience Economy." Harvard Business Review.

Buchanan, R. (1995). “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking”, in The Idea of Design, Buchanan and Margolin, eds. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp 3-20

Garrett, Jesse J. 2010. "The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond" (2nd Edition).

Career Services

Herron Talent

HerronTalent.com is Herron’s online job and internship database where employers on- and off-campus post full-time, part-time, freelance, and internship opportunities. Students can login using their IUPUI username and passphrase to browse jobs and contact employers when they see opportunities they like.

Herron Career Services

Herron Career Services guides students through the process of career exploration and assists with cover letter and resume writing, job search strategies, interview techniques, and lots more. Students can make an appointment with the career advisor at www.herron.setmore.com. They can check out the Herron Career Services website at www.herron.iupui.edu/student-jobs for resources that can help them find jobs and internships while in school and connect with opportunities, professional organizations, and other venues for professional development that can be useful both while in school and after graduation.


Attendance Policy

Your growth as a designer is directly linked to your presence in class and your level of engagement while you’re here. Faculty design our assignments and conduct our lectures, discussions, and critiques as learning experiences that are unique to being in school. So show up, and when you’re here, be here. If there’s an emergency message you need to deal with during class time, go into the hallway and come back when you’re done.

Attendance will be taken every day so we can track trends. If you start missing a significant percentage of class sessions or we see a decline in your work, we will request a meeting with you to discuss the cause.  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 2016 Academic Calendar and Finals schedule.

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