Communication Design:

Interaction Foundations

Fall 2015

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Washington University

Abram Siemsen
James Fawcett
Stephanie Raumschuh



This course is a hands-on application of interaction design for digital media (primarily browser-based). We will explore how user-interaction adds bidirectionality to communication, examine the intricacies of seemingly-simple digital interactions, and familiarize ourselves with the attributes of digital device as ‘canvas’. We will work both independently and collaboratively to design interactive solutions for a selection of communication challenges.

Our focus will be to learn by doing: first-hand experience gained while undertaking hands-on exercises and real-world projects will provide the context and framework for discussion and instruction.

Work will likely be (but not required to be) accomplished with tools and software you already have (Adobe Creative Suite) or can download and use for free (Sublime Text, FileZilla). Web browsers on desktop computers and mobile devices will also be used extensively.


  1. Learn to make things. Develop the self-knowledge, conceptual and visual methodologies, and technical proficiency necessary to conceive, plan and execute screen-based interactive design projects.
  2. Be able to collaborate effectively. Understand the vocabularies, applications, and production environments associated with interactive design in order to effectively collaborate with people in related disciplines (creative directors, writers, web-developers, programmers, etc.)
  3. Build your portfolio. Produce work that demonstrates successful and effective application of interactive design to accomplish specific communication objectives.


  1. August
  2. September
  3. October
  4. November
  5. December

Means of Instruction

Class time will be divided between discussions, instruction, group exercises, critiques and studio time. Expect to spend time outside of class on self-instruction, research, and assignment/lab work in order to be prepared for each classroom session.

Homework assignments will typically be assigned during class on Wednesdays, and be due on Tuesdays to allow time for instructor review before the following class.


Class sessions meet weekly on Wednesday mornings from 8:30am to 11:30am. Lab sessions will occur weekly on Monday evenings from 6:00pm to 9:00pm.

Attendence to class sessions is mandatory. Lab sessions are optional, but will serve as your primary opportunity to receive feedback to work and answers to questions, so attendance is highly encouraged.

Absences will negatively affect your final grade, as will tardiness. Be on time to each class and stay until class is dismissed, even if class is occurring at your studio desk. If you have a schedule conflict, making prior arrangements with the instructor is advised, but does not exempt you from the responsibility of completing any work that occurred in or out of class.

Critiques and Assignments

Work will be evaluated on concept, investment (or process), form, and function. All assignments and projects will be turned in electronically as HTML pages uploaded to the class website

Due to the large class size and limited time, traditional critiques in class will be limited. Lab sessions will serve as the primary time for hearing feedback from your instructors.

At the middle and end of the semester, expect a one-on-one progress review with an instructor.

Late Work

Assignments are due at 8:00am on the date specified, whether or not you are in class. Late work will adversely affect your final grade.


Grades will be based on the following:

  1. Superior grasp and application of concepts; high level of exploration, thoughtful presentation of ideas, control and understanding of craft, timely completion of all projects. Serious and consistent effort, commitment, and participation.
  2. Strong grasp and application of concepts; good quality work that meets and often exceeds the basic criteria of assignment; good effort and participation, evidence of growth.
  3. Average comprehension of basic coursework and application of concepts, average level of investigation or initiative; some technical problems or trouble with craft; occasional participation.
  4. Evidence that concepts are not understood and/or not being applied; poor quality work, course or projects criteria is not fulfilled, weak effort or level of investigation; little or no participation; attendance problems.
  1. Failing, not acceptable for progress in curriculum, unacceptable deficiencies in process or final product.

Health and Safety

While materials, tools, and practices for this class are not likely to be health concerns, it's worth noting the high potential for inadvertent property damage. Take care with the placement and transport your computer. Tripping hazards created by charging cords and backpacks are of particular concern. Use caution, and be aware of your surroundings.

In cases of emergency, call campus Security: x5555 from phones located on every floor (or 935-5555). Security may be called for late-night escort back to on-campus housing.


Your mobile phones / devices are welcome in class, but using them to conduct personal conversations or business is not. Please do not engage in emailing, texting, instant messaging, or social media conversations during class, unless specifically class-related.

Please remove your headphones when you are conversing with the instructor or another student.

Please refrain from working on assignments for unrelated classes while class is in session.

Conduct yourself in accordance with Washington University's academic integrity policy.