Selected student projects, course descriptions, and course history

Student Work

Coming of Age
by Cassidy Carpenter

Integrative Project, Senior Thesis Course
University of Michigan, 2019

Comfort Words
by Paige Wilson

Integrative Project, Senior Thesis Course
University of Michigan, 2019

Delayed: Concept Art for a Proposed Animated Short
by Tyler Krantz

Integrative Project, Senior Thesis Course
University of Michigan, 2019

Feast for Tiny Farmers
by Courtney Ignace and Siena Mckim

Integrative Project, Senior Thesis Course
University of Michigan, 2019

Wear Your Identity On Your Sleeve
by Adrianna Kusmierczyk

Integrative Project, Senior Thesis Course
University of Michigan, 2019

by Katie Spak

Integrative Project, Senior Thesis Course
University of Michigan, 2019

Course Descriptions

University of Michigan

Sign & Symbol

Fall 2020

Sign & Symbol is a course in visual semiotics that addresses the relationship between gestalt and meaning-making. This course uses the term gestalt in the broad sense. Gestalt refers here to the overall perception that an artist or designer can produce through a composition, whether such a composition is visual, aural, olfactory, or tactile.

However, this course focuses on visible signs and visual compositions and their application in projects of graphic design, communication design, user experience design, and information design. By the end of this course, students should understand and articulate how visual composition generates meaning, and how they influence culture and behavior.

Studio 2D

Fall 2017, Fall 2020

This introductory course in two-dimensional visual communication and creativity is part of Stamps’ required Foundations curriculum. I focused not only on introducing a range of materials, basic formal approaches, and terminology, but also utilizing these in order to integrate form-making with concept and meaning. This was underpinned by initial individual exercises in values introspection and how to visually depict and communicate students’ personal values. Students progressed to collaborate in pairs on a printmaking, writing, and layout project exploring underrepresented artists and designers through image juxtapositions in order to rethink the typical ‘canon’ of art and design. The final project engaged small teams of students in activating the campus community around issues of common concern. Project addressed topics such as mental health and microagressions.

Interaction Design

Winter 2018, Winter 2019, Winter 2020

In teaching Interaction Design, I introduce students to industry-standard user-centered design research methods and design approaches while seeking to expand their definition of ‘interaction design.’ While most students come in with an assumption that this area of design involves only designing mobile applications, projects in this course merge digital and screen-based design with interpersonal interactions between humans and interactions between people and environments. Students work in collaborative teams throughout the course in order to build these competencies and more closely emulate interaction design in industry. Along these lines, I integrate into this course unique community partners, stakeholders, and other collaborative opportunities. Guest critics at students’ project presentations have included faculty and staff from Stamps, Urban Planning, School of Information, Public Health, College of Pharmacy, PeriOperative Services at Michigan Medicine, and local UX industry professionals.


Fall 2018

This introductory course sets the stage for students to fall in love with letters and learn to use typography—words, phrases, and blocks of text—in both functional and expressive ways. Students designed modular typefaces and created calendar layouts using their letterforms. We turned these into magnesium printing plates and worked with Jamie Vander Broek to print them on the letterpress in the Book Arts Studio. I also utilized my 2018 Stamps Inclusive Teaching Grant to develop new content for my section of Typography centered around intercultural learning. In addition to researching and sharing examples of non-Latin typography with each other, students had an opportunity to collaborate with design partners at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. Teams of 2–4 students focused on various topics of discrimination as they worked together to design unified pairs or trios of light post banners to express their ideas using only letters and colors.

Integrative Project

Fall 2018, Winter 2019

In this year-long interdisciplinary senior thesis course, I introduced project management strategies; mentorship maps; and many playful approaches to ideation and critique to help students define and progress in their creative research projects accompanied by written theses. Guest critics: Stamps faculty (Carol Jacobsen, Marianetta Porter, Ron Eglash, Brad Smith, Michael Rodemer, Nick Tobier, Sophia Brueckner, Annica Cupetelli, Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo, Hannah Smotrich); Stamps alumni (Sam Bertin and Rachel Krasnick); and a Decipher conference guest (Sudebi Thakurata). In winter, invited guests included Holly Tienken (Kutztown University), who delivered a Professional Practices workshop and Richard Greeley (UM Tech Transfer) to talk about intellectual property.

Independent Study – Maddi Lelli

Fall 2019

This was a continuation of a project Maddi started while she was a student in my Winter 2018 interaction design course. Through contextual research at the hospital and regular conversations / critiques with me during the semester, Maddi created a new set of hospital maps to be more inclusive and legible.

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)

Interactive Media Design

This new sophomore-level course introduces graphic design majors and minors to screen-based design. Design projects are created with HTML and CSS, with an emphasis on applying formal design and typographic principles to functional interactive designs through typical UX methodologies, as well as consideration for crafting optimal user experiences. The course will introduce a variety of hands-on methods for creating interactive experiences, including working with augmented reality and designing for the Internet of Things, in an effort to expand students’ ideas of tools and possibilities that they can carry with them as they progress through the upper levels of the GD curriculum.

Web and User Experience Design

This course explores the research, planning, design, and production of screen based design; the primary focus of this course is user experience (IxD/UX) research processes and human-centered design (HCD). The course includes some instruction in responsive web design (RWD) and visual prototyping. Students continue to delve into web design concepts and principles in site design, page design, graphical user interface (GUI) design, and usability. Projects explore challenging contemporary topics, such as climate change, and reinforce how UX research methods and principles can apply to experiential design approaches both on and off-screen. Collaborative and interpersonal skills are reinforced throughout the course.

Advanced Interaction Design

This “end-to-end” interactive course mimics the culture of innovative startups and leading-edge design firms such as IDEO and Frog. The challenge is to explore ways design can make our lives better, and use research findings as inspiration for unpredictable design interventions. Through ongoing research, a series of explorations in audience engagement, and iterative form-making, collaborative teams aim to arrive at meaningful, sophisticated systems or services that extend beyond one mere product or interface solution and use design to address behavior change on multiple levels.

California College of the Arts (CCA)

Interactive 1

This course, taken primarily by sophomores and juniors majoring in the Graphic Design curriculum, introduces students to screen-based design for the first time. Through the lens of UX research and structure, students explore visual design approaches for interactive experiences on a variety of devices, including a redesign project in which they re-imagine an existing online experience, and a civic minded social innovation project in which they prototype an app geared toward a selected social issue.

University of San Francisco (USF)

Design & Code for Civic Engagement

I taught this experimental course the first semester it was offered at USF. Design & Code enrolls both Design and Computer Science majors (upper-level undergraduates and graduate students). The course is highly collaborative and modeled after startup culture, teaming designers and developers together to identify a social issue in their local community, research it, and engage in human-centered and generative co-design processes to create, develop, and launch a functional solution.

Visual Communication 1 & Design Media 1

Design Media 1 was absorbed into Visual Communication 1 during a change in the Design curriculum. However, both courses introduced design history, theory, criticism, concepts, and software from a print media perspective. The course was required for Design majors and minors, as well as majors from several other related fields, including Fine Art, Art History, Art Management and Advertising, so courses were often comprised of students from different programs and levels.

Visual Communication 2

As a follow-up to its precursor, Visual Communication 1, this course is offered to Design majors and minors as an introduction to screen-based design. The course introduces HTML and CSS as well as time-based design, and touches briefly on user experience (UX) design.

Class History

In reverse chronological order by school, 2011 – present

UM: University of Michigan
RIT: Rochester Institute of Technology
CCA: California College of the Arts
USF: University of San Francisco

School Course title Term Level
UM Sign and Symbol (211 Sect. 1) F20 200
UM Sign and Symbol (211 Sect. 2) F20 200
UM Interaction Design (345) W20 300
UM [Research Leave] W19 ...
UM Integrative Project (499, Sect. 1) W19 400
UM Interaction Design (345) W19 300
UM Integrative Project (498 Sect. 1) F18 400
UM Typography (210 Sect. 4) F18 200
UM Independent Study (Maddi Lelli) F18 400
UM Interaction Design (345) W18 300
UM Studio 2D (115 Sect. 1) F17 100
RIT Interactive Media Design (Sect. 1) S17 200
RIT Interactive Media Design (Sect. 2) S17 200
RIT Advanced Interaction Design S17 400
RIT Web & User Experience Design F16 300
RIT Advanced Web & UX Design F16 400
RIT Web & User Experience Design F15 300
RIT Web & User Experience Design F15 300
RIT Advanced Web & UX Design F15 400
RIT Interactive Media Design S15 200
RIT Advanced Web & UX Design S15 400
RIT Web & User Experience Design (Sect 1.) F14 300
RIT Web & User Experience Design (Sect 3.) F14 300
RIT Advanced Web & UX Design F14 400
RIT Interactive Media Design (Sect. 1) S14 200
RIT Interactive Media Design (Sect. 3) S14 200
RIT Advanced Web & UX Design S14 400
RIT Independent Study S14 400
RIT Web & User Experience Design (Sect 1.) F13 300
RIT Web & User Experience Design (Sect 3.) F13 300
RIT Advanced Web & UX Design F13 400
CCA Interactive 1 S13 300
CCA Interactive 1 F12 300
USF Design & Code for Civic Engagment S13 300-500
USF Visual Communication 2 S13 300
USF Visual Communication 1 F12 All levels
USF Visual Communication 1 S12 All levels
USF Design Media 1 F11 All levels