Herron School of Art and Design

Designing People-Centered Experiences

Syllabus / Fall 2018


HER-V 400




MWF (8w1)


Aaron Ganci
Helen Sanematsu


Designing People-Centered Experiences is a succinct, 8-week course that introduces students to the approaches and tools of Experience Design. It provides a methodological overview of experience design from the perspective of a visual communication designer. By exploring a range of activities associated with experience design, this course prepares students to make an informed decision about what approaches and outcomes they would like to purse during their capstone project.


In this course, students learn experience design through human-centered, contextually-grounded design research. Special attention is devoted to exposing the similarities and differences between the Service Experience, Interaction Design, and Interface Design professions, and 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 applying appropriate tools and methods to investigate design contexts
  • visualize an existing experience and its parts
  • draft a plan for how to address weaknesses in an experience
  • describe the relationship between people, interfaces, interactions, artifacts and experiences
  • enact a problem solving process that involves the simultaneous creation and evaluation of multiple alternatives
  • propose solutions that are cohesive and contextually relevant
  • identify personal strengths within the experience design field to better inform decisions about how to approach a 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), We 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 and attentive in class, during critique, and in discussions and we 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. We 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. Aaron recommends 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 us. We've heard it all and that's okay.

Honesty also works both ways. If something is not going as you would like in this class, tell one or both of us. I'm ready to talk about it and work through it.

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 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 activity 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

20 Aug

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

Sets exercise

22 Aug

"Show and Tell" Exercise

24 Aug

Observe and Document Exercise; Introduce Articulating Experiences Assignment

The Mezzanine Chapter 1


26 Aug

Review Observe and Document Exercise digital maps (printed drafts); introduce Articulating Experiences; Form teams and discuss potential experiences to observe

Observe and Document Maps, printed

Mapping Experiences Chapters 1 & 2

29 Aug

Lecture: Tiered user goals; Review experience and research plan with instructor; conduct field research if time allows

31 Aug

Review initial draft of analog map

Initial map, drawn


3 Sept

Labor Day, No Class

5 Sept

Review initial draft of digital map

Initial map, digital

Mapping Experiences Chapters 6

7 Sept

Critique Maps

Almost-done maps


10 Sept

One-on-one meetings to refine Articulation maps

12 Sept

Introduce An Experience and Its Parts
Form groups, Discuss problem spaces in large groups. Narrow

Articulating Experiences Printed maps (in-studio prints) for critique

14 Sept

Discuss problem spaces and research plan


17 Sept

Discuss initial sketch of experience as you understand it

Rough sketch of experience sequence

19 Sept

Designing Desirable Products lecture

Review and refine work with instructor

21 Sept

Review and refine work with instructor


24 Sept

Review and refine work with instructor

26 Sept

Review and refine work with instructor

28 Sept

Aaron at AIGA Decipher; Helen will be present and available for feedback


1 Oct

Titled full group display (posters) for critique

3 Oct

Review and refine work with instructor

5 Oct

Review and refine work with instructor


8 Oct

Review and refine work with instructor

10 Oct

Review and refine work with instructor

12 Oct

Hang poster display in hall; Review final solutions

An Experience and Its Parts due


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

Category % of total
Articulating Experiences 40%
An Experience and Its Parts 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

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 will not receive an standalone "Attendance grade" however, most/all projects will include 'soft skills' points that will factor in attendance. Missing class will ultimately result in lower grades.

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 2018 Academic Calendar and Finals schedule.

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