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DESIGN 478 A: Information Design

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:00pm - 3:50pm
ART 247
Karen Cheng
Karen Cheng

Syllabus Description:

DESIGN 478: Information Design is an advanced visual design course in information visualization. The course is restricted to undergraduate and graduate students in the UW Division of Design, School of Art + Art History + Design and selected students in the UW MHCI+D program. The course is full.

If you are not a UW Design or UW MHCI+D student and you wish to request a seat in the class, please email me at In your email, please include a link to your online visual design portfolio, or attach a PDF (10MB maximum) of your design work. Please also explain your prior experience and qualifications in visual design.

Enrolled students, please note the UW Design Division First Day Policy.

Available here as a Google spreadsheet.
This calendar is subject to change by faculty as needed.

Professor Karen Cheng | 
Office Hours before class on Tuesday, or by appointment via Zoom.

Special Guest Bill Flora |
Office Hours by appointment.

The purpose of this class is to help students develop the skills necessary to research, analyze, and present information in a compelling visual narrative. Specifically, students will:
—Research and assemble a comprehensive set of information and data
—Transform this research into clear and persuasive information/data graphics
—Organize information/data graphics (and text) into an engaging story
—Discuss, analyze and evaluate effective and ineffective information design

Previous examples of student projects from this course may be viewed at:

Students will design an infographic narrative that examines the landscape of design internships in the United States. Initially, students will work individually or in assigned pairs to research answers to specific internship questions. See your partner and assigned questions on the "DataQuestions" tab of the course calendar Google spreadsheet. You and your partner will present your answer to the rest of the class on Tue 10/10. 

**Suggested Data Sources**
You and your partner can use any source of information that you find credible to answer your assigned data question. I have provided the following data sources for the course:

1_Internship listings from the UW Career Center from 2022-23 and 2018–22
2_Listing of internships (and other design work) held by the 2023–2019 alums of UW Design
3_Listing of "design internships" in the US scraped from Linked-In Jobs on 9/18/23
4_Listing of "design internships" in the US scraped from on 9/20/23
5_Videos of UW Design Pecha Kuchas from 2022, 2021, 2020, [no 2019] and 2018–2015
6_Results from the design internship survey

To further expand the qualitative information on design internships, each student is also responsible for reporting information about their own internship (if applicable). Each students is also required to interview three other UW design students or alumni about their internships, and watching a video presentation about a UW Design student's internship. Please use this Google form to enter in all internship interview information. The data from all design internship interviews will be posted on Canvas here

**Final Deliverables**
Students may choose to work individually or in pairs. Due to the size of the class, it would be helpful to have 6-8 pairs (12–16 students who work as pairs), while the other 6 to 12 students work alone. These pairs do not have to be the same as the assigned research pairs.

The student or pair of students is responsible for proposing a specific storyline/communication that is supported by the data that they (or their classmates) have researched and analyzed. The final product has two parts:  

A broadsheet newspaper (measuring 350 x 500mm or 13.8 x 19.7") that could be printed digitally via The Newspaper Club. You can imagine that this broadsheet would be distributed in-person to design students at an event (such as our annual UW Design Pecha Kucha, or an design education conference), or mailed to design students (upon request/payment, or as a benefit to student members of the AIGA, IxDA, IDSA, etc.) Pairs are required, at minimum, to make an eight-page broadsheet; individuals should plan for a four-page broadsheet. You may increase your page count if desired. Note: in order to be available at our course final, you must place your order for a broadsheet from The Newspaper Club by Tue 11/28. Alternatively, you can make a plotter print that emulates a newspaper broadsheet. 

This companion digital communication should seek to expand the distribution of your story/information, as digital formats can be more widely shared on social media, text, email, etc. The broadsheet and digital communication should complement each other—clearly belong to the same visual system. However, you should take advantage of the possibilities of digital interactivity (scrolling, swiping, click-through stepping, etc.), as well as time-based updates/changes that could be made to the content (user commenting/sharing, etc.). To keep the project manageable within our quarter-long time frame, please limit interactions to "one level down" from the main flow.

**Client and Target Audience**
You (and your partner) should imagine both a client and a target audience for your publication. The client is the entity that is paying to write, design, and distribute a publication/communication about design internships. The personality and motivation of the client should inform the visual communication design. For example, if the guide is written by UW Design seniors for incoming UW Design sophomores and juniors, it could be friendly, funny, direct, and even irreverent. However, if authored and published by one of the major design associations (AIGA, IxDA, IDSA)—or the faculty of UW Division of Design—the tone would likely be more neutral, and perhaps the design and content would be less "confessional."

The audience for your communication should be more distinct than a "general audience of design students." For example, you could focus on design students seeking internship opportunities in a specific field (VCD, ID, or IxD) or from a specific type of employer (government, non-profit, studios/consultancies, branding agencies, advertising/PR firms, etc.). Some students are focussed on the full-time internships during the summer months; others look for part-time hours during the academic year. Still other students want to work in a certain city (New York; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Portland) or region (Pacific NW), or perform a certain kind of work (illustration, videography, photography, type design, etc.)

Alternatively, the guide could be written for prospective employers rather than design students. Startups, entrepreneurs, or other first-time design clients may want to hire design interns for specific projects, but don't know how to scope an internship, recruit design students, or plan for a efficient and effective design process. They may value a resource that shows how other companies plan and execute their internship programs. 

Note that guide written for design students might also have a secondary audience, such as the parents of the design student, or the direct supervisor ("boss") of the design student. You might consider (to a lesser extent) how to adjust the design, content, and tone of your publication to accommodate the secondary audience. 

This course is being taught in-person. Students have the best learning experience when all class members are on time and prepared with their work at every course meeting.

However, if you become infected with COVID-19 or any other illness, please do not come to class; follow the guidelines on this COVID-19 flowchart. Note that I will mask during the first two weeks of the quarter, because case counts typically spike at UW when more than 12,000 students arrive after traveling nationally or internationally. UW encourages all students to get the CDC recommended COVID booster and annual flu shot

If you have a personal or medical issue that causes intermittent or chronic lateness and/or insufficient preparation, please let me and your teammates know as soon as possible so that we can adjust our expectations and accommodate your needs.

In the event that you need to miss class, please let me know as soon as possible via email. Also, please be sure to have at least two other student colleagues in the class who you can contact (via email and/or text) to review any missed discussions or assignments. If your absence is caused by an unexpected illness or personal emergency that will have ongoing impacts, I am happy to discuss providing appropriate accommodations for your situation.

Please note the UW Design Division Final Exam Policy.
Please note these UW SOAAHD policies, including the form to fill out for after-hours swipe card access at the Art Building loading zone doors. 

Grading is based on: 1)The quality of the final project—both visual and conceptual; 2) The design process—i.e., the extent of exploration and variation completed over the quarter; 3) Class participation, as assessed by peer evaluations and during critiques.

3.9–4.0 is given to a student who has exhibited the highest possible performance in all aspects of the course — the final project, the design process and class participation are excellent. Work is prepared with care/attention to detail and presented on time for all critiques/work sessions. This student independently seeks out additional information on design topics related to the course and is highly committed/passionate about their work.

3.5–3.8 is given to a student who exhibits superior performance in all aspects of the course—the final projects, design process and class participation are of high quality. Work is well-prepared and presented on time for all critiques/work sessions. This student has a thorough understanding of concepts being presented and is strongly self-motivated to improve and succeed.

3.2–3.4 is given to a student who has good performance in most aspects of the course. This student follows a thorough design process, produces solid design work and consistently participates in class. Work is prepared properly and presented on time for almost all critiques/work sessions. This student clearly understands most design concepts being presented.

2.8–3.1 is given to a student who has fair performance in most aspects of the course. This student follows a design process that could be expanded/improved. Work is not always prepared properly and/or presented in a timely manner. The resulting design work is fair, with inconsistent participation in critiques/work sessions. This student demonstrates an incomplete understanding of the course concepts being presented.

2.5–2.8 is given to a student who has low performance in the course. The final work is weak in quality, with a design process that reflects inadequate exploration and development. Class participation is minimal, and reflects an incomplete understanding of concepts being presented. The student has been unprepared for critique/work sessions on several occasions (late or improper presentation).

2.0–2.4 is given to a student with poor performance in the course. Projects are of an inferior quality, and reflect a sub-standard and incomplete design process. Preparation for critique/work sessions is inadequate (late or improper presentation). This student seldom participates in class, and fails to demonstrate adequate understanding of concepts being presented. This student is not prepared for subsequent courses in design.

0.0–2.0 is given to a student with very low performance in the course. Projects are deficient and/or defective in quality. The design process is negligible and/or very weak. Preparation for critique and/or work sessions is inadequate (late or improper presentation). This student rarely participates in class and demonstrates little understanding of the concepts being presented. This student is not prepared for subsequent courses in design.

Catalog Description: 
Exploration of strategies for enhancing and visually presenting complex statistics and data. Various information subjects are selected and formed into charts, diagrams, graphs, tables, directories and maps. Identify, through personal investigations, the principles which provide the most successful means for presentation of information. Prerequisite: DESIGN 466.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
June 29, 2023 - 11:24pm