Course Outline

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Website Catalogue Description

This team-taught course offers exposure to key aspects (values, concepts and skills) of 2D, 3D, and 4D Design. Students independently engage in design research and methods, analyze, design, present and evaluate ideas to meet required objectives through individual and group projects. Discussion and reflection help students make informed decisions about their personal and professional development. Collaborative and contextual project work is emphasized in order to develop students’ community-based multidisciplinary teamwork, project management and client management skills.

Course Content

Core Design Studio VI and VII are a two-part sequence of courses that support the design of a project to a high degree of detail resolution and design development. The first semester (Design Studio VI) is devoted to a rapid cycle of research, proposal and brief writing, iteration and prototyping. In the second semester (Design Studio VII) the student will take the project through detailing for production, a refined stage of prototyping, user testing, and creation of presentation and promotional materials.

Your undergraduate thesis project is a process of looking at your research question (and sub-questions) self-critically while cultivating a methodology using visual, written and verbal language to make the concepts in your work clear and coherent to a defined audience. Your thesis is a body of work in written and visual form that involves discursive practice and discourse, the physical production of making and takes into account technological and material innovation. It is the embodiment of the processes
of designing, design thinking, and cultural/contextual analysis.

A great thesis project is:

  • Innovative and relevant to the scholarship and practice of contemporary design studies and praxis
  • Critical, focused on expanding or altering the field
  • Informed by precedent and a broad consideration of disciplinary influences such as cultural anthropology,
    the behavioural and organizational sciences, the humanities, economic theory and sustainability models
  • Articulate, visually, verbally, and in writing
  • Independent, driven by method rather than style
  • Expansive enough to warrant substantial investigation and a generative practice that can be sustained
  • Not so broad that you cannot be engaged with your topic in a meaningful way

All three design disciplines will be working to a common schedule of one final project taking place over 3/4 of a year with the remaining 1/4 focusing on a final presentation and exhibit. This opens up the possibility (but not necessity) of cross-disciplinary collaborative projects, and gives faculty more flexible teaching options. The following are shared benchmark dates:

Phase One: Design Research
Phase Two: Design Refinement and User Testing
Phase Three: Interim Presentation
Phases Four: Final – Project presentation & Prototype
Phase Five: Documentation –
Phase Six: Exhibition

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon course completion students are expected to demonstrate the following learning outcomes with a high level of knowledge and skill:

  • The ability to conduct research that exhibits scope and depth: to use multiple sources, both primary and secondary; to analyze these sources to redefine thesis statements and suggest avenues for project development;
  • The ability to describe and respond to audiences and contexts in need of interaction design solutions, including recognition of the physical, cognitive, cultural and social human factors that shape design decisions;
  • The ability to describe and respond to issues related to the cognitive, social, cultural, technological and economic contexts for design;
  • The ability to formulate design proposals, document process, and communicate research findings through means such as writing, bibliographies, summaries of readings, drawings, storyboards, flow charts, etc.;
  • The ability to engage in human participant research ethically;
Conceptual Development
  • The ability to plan, analyze, create and evaluate visual solutions to design problems according to the audiences and contexts for which the design is intended;
  • The ability to take risks, demonstrate originality, and create imaginative visual form that informs, educates, entertains or persuades the target audience;
  • The ability to apply research findings to the generation of concepts that are diverse and fertile, offering the potential for further development and implementation;
  • The ability to select, manage and deploy software and digital technologies effectively with knowledge and skill;
Visualization and Prototyping
  • The ability to create and develop visual response to communication problems, including understanding of hierarchy, typography, aesthetics, composition and construction of meaningful images;
  • The ability to solve design problems including identifying the problem, researching, analysis, solution generating, prototyping, user testing and outcome evaluation;
  • The ability to experiment, think divergently, and take risks in the open-ended search for new ways of expressing ideas visually;
  • The ability to demonstrate an understanding of how systems behave and aspects that contribute to sustainable products, strategies and practices;
  • The ability to convey design intention by producing and demonstrating working prototypes;
  • The ability to use tools and techniques fluently in order to communicate design concepts and user interactions;
  • The ability to structure presentations that demonstrate aesthetic quality, clarity (oral, visual and written), and technical competence; the ability to defend creative decisions and respond constructively to feedback;
Project Management
  • The ability to apply basic professional practices, including time management, scheduling of deliverables and management of project scope;
  • The ability to exhibit punctuality and consistent attendance, class participation, resourcefulness, ethical behaviour, and realistic self-assessment;

Resource Materials

All course material and additional resources will be posted and archived on Course website:

Evaluation Criteria


The semester is divided into four distinct phases:

Phase 1: Design Development Research: Thesis Project Proposal

(10% of overall course grade)
Students initially present 10 slides in 100 seconds as visual panoply of their thesis possibilities. Students also prepare a Thesis Project Proposal that summarizes their design topic and frames a problem space or setting that legitimizes the project for two full semesters of an academic year. It must clarify what design problem is being solved and present a hypothesis and research questions. A reference list or bibliography is also required. Faculty will review this designed, formatted document (complete with cover, name, title, ECU email address, date, section number, instructor’s name, table of contents, page numbers, etc. and examples of visual precedents,) and use it as a basis for understanding your project concept and proposed direction.
Note: the instructor must approve the proposal before proceeding to the next phase.

Phase 2: Concept Development/Visual Exploration and Summary of Research; Prototype Refinement

(25% of overall course grade)
Although students progress at different rates, the main goal of this phase is for students to have researched information and explored a variety of initial ideas related to their project, so that an appropriate design direction can be identified for Phase 3. By the due date, students must demonstrate the depth of their efforts through a formal visual presentation of at least three significantly different directions. Progress towards this resolution will be the subject of class work and tutorials. From this phase students should be able to determine an appropriate pathway for the next phase. Students are required to submit documentation of their design process for grading. This documentation should include a Summary of Research that outlines the research completed and its relevance and application to design decisions. It grounds and supports the project with a clear rationale for the final project. The length should be approximately 2500 words plus an annotated bibliography. MLA or APA standards may be used. Ensure that any references to web sites include retrieval dates. Include this Summary in a process book that also contains evidence of multiple preliminary explorations as well as three developed directions. The content from The Summary of Research and The Proposal can be used for the Design Brief. Plan for a panel review where you will present and defend your project.

Phase 3: Project Development: Modeling, Prototype Iterations

(25% of overall course grade)
Following from the direction identified in the previous phase, the main goal in Phase 3 is for students to develop a comprehensive visual prototype of their concept, embodying the conceptual, formal and technical considerations indicated by research. Key design decisions must be sufficiently evident to allow for refinement in Phase 4. Progress towards this resolution will be the subject of class work and tutorials. Students produce a testable prototype for refinement. By the due date students must demonstrate their progress in a formal visual presentation to the class and their instructor. Students are required to submit documentation of their process for grading (see Phase 2).

Phase 4: Testable Prototype and Creation of Presentation & Promotion Materials

(35% of overall course grade)
Following from developments in the previous phase, the goal in Phase 4 is for students to refine and complete their projects for public presentation. All of the conceptual, formal and technical aspects must be resolved. Students must be ready to justify their design decisions and provide fully visualized work for presentation during the last week of the semester. Students are required to submit thorough documentation of their design process for grading in a form that can be archived by the University for future students and instructors. Students are also expected to design a formal presentation to showcase and defend their decision-making.

Overall Grading Scheme

Attendance 5%
Participation 5%
Phase 1 Design Thesis Proposal 10%
Phase 2 Research Summary + Prototype 25%
Phase 3 Project Development, Modeling + Prototype Iterations 25%
Phase 4 Presentations + Working Prototype 35%
Total 100%

Evaluation Criteria Definitions

Research questions are appropriate, carefully framed and insightful. Sources are varied and reliable; scope and depth of research suits the project and time available. Research findings are selected and evaluated according to relevant criteria. Design shows evidence (through the process books) of being informed and improved through research and testing.
Conceptual Development:
Playfulness, experimentation, and intelligent development result in a wide range of possible solutions; the design process is both convergent and divergent, analytical and synthetic, as the project phase requires. Many iterations are considered and evidence of this is documented in the process books. More importantly, reflective notes show how ideas connect and why certain directions were chosen over others. Make connections.
Communication: Ensuring that the form of the message resonates with the intended audience.
Achieving an expressive unity between meaning and form.
Risk-taking; designing solutions that arise from insight, experiment and imagination.
Visual form:
Achieving engaging, meaningful solutions. Typography demonstrates a good understanding
of normative and expressive principles; images and other visuals illuminate ideas clearly and elegantly.
Technical accomplishment: Using technology competently and in a way that is appropriate to concept,
audience, objectives and visual form.
Effective interaction:
Considering the designed experience in interacting with the piece. Does it invite reading, is it clear, can the desired information be apprehended easily. Note: Research and Conceptual Development and Visualization are assessed by evaluating your Design Process Book, which must be submitted with each project for grading. See description below.

Giving a convincing explanation and defense of work; effective, professional presentation.

Project management:
Meeting deadlines; developing projects iteratively rather than at the last moment; organization of tasks using such tools as a Gantt Diagram.

Process Documentation
Students demonstrate the course learning competencies by recording their design process and methods
in a process book which forms an integral component of the course grade. It consists of:
Documentation of the project process including:
Summary of research (250 word written document summarizing literature and providing the context for your proposed solution.
Must include a bibliography. Include any primary research such as interviews or testing)
Visual research (the visual context for your work, context, moodboards, etc)
Exploration (sketches/drafts/layouts/ideation);
Refinement and conceptual development (show the evolution of the idea)
Final proposed solution (images of work with textual rationale)
Self-assessment: reflections on processes, methods, ideas, solutions and management strategies. (what worked, what didn’t, what you might do differently next time)
Important: the purpose of the process book is to show a reader the evolution of the idea/design. It is not enough to simply show images, you need to use words to draw parallels, to show how research influenced design, to point out strengths and weaknesses of various directions. Essentially you are telling the story of your project.

Grade Scale

Letter Grade Grade Points Percentage Description
A+ 4.33 95-100 Distinguished Achievement
A 4.00 90-94 Outstanding Achievement
A- 3.67 85-89 Excellent Achievement
B+ 3.33 80-84 Very Good Achievement
B 3.00 75-79 Commendable Achievement
B- 2.67 70-74 Good
C+ 2.33 65-69 Competent
C 2.00 60-64 Satisfactory
C- 1.67 55-59 Pass
D 1.00 50-54 Marginal Pass
F 0.00 0-49 Fail
P/F 0.00 Pass/Fail
I Incomplete Grade
W Withdrawal from a course

Additional Policies and Information

University Attendance Policy

You are required to attend all classes. Absence and lateness will affect your grade for the course. Therefore, you should be aware of the following criteria:
You will receive a 5% penalty for each absence and a 2.5% penalty for each time that you are late for class. You will be considered late if you arrive after attendance is taken, when the class has formally begun. Furthermore, you are subject to the same penalty if you leave the session before it has properly ended. Being more than one hour late is equivalent to being absent. More than three unexcused absences in a class will result in failure of the course. To formally excuse an absence due to illness or emergency, students must phone or send an email to the instructor by the end of the day. You may be required to give proof of a legitimate excuse, such as a doctor’s note. It is also your responsibility to determine what you missed and what you must do to complete any assigned work.

University Participation

100% attention is required during critiques and meetings. Thoughtful and serious engagement, critical thinking and sensitivity regarding other students and their work are crucial. You are expected to be present and engaged in every class, and well prepared for every meeting and critique.

Academic Accommodations

The Disability Service Office provides services to and prepares Accommodation Notices for students with speech, hearing, visual, physical, mental health and neurological disabilities (learning, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders), as well as chronic health conditions and acquired brain injury. Faculty will accommodate students who have established their eligibility by evaluation with Disability Service and who present an Accommodation Notice at the beginning of the semester, and no later than three weeks before the first scheduled test/exam or assignment requiring accommodation. Students cannot expect accommodation unless they establish their eligibility and register with Disability Service. If you have a disability and have not yet registered with Disability Service, please contact Heather Mitchell, Disability Service Coordinator, or 604.844.3081.

University General Policies

  • Students must maintain an appropriate standard of conduct. They must demonstrate respect for all persons on the campus, and display mature conduct. All students must abide by the university’s Student Conduct Policies and the university’s Harassment Policies (see Emily’s A to Z). Failure by students to maintain appropriate standards of conduct may result in the initiation of disciplinary action by the university. Instructors are responsible for managing the classroom. Students whose behaviour is disruptive, challenging or intimidating will be addressed and may be excused from class. If the behaviour continues, disciplinary measures (see Emily’s A to Z) will be employed.
  • The instructor may modify the material or schedule specified in this outline. Any changes will be announced in class.
  • Late assignments or projects may be penalized as specified in the course outline.
  • It is plagiarism to present someone else’s work or ideas as one’s own. Plagiarism may result in failure of an assignment, of the course, and, if repeated, expulsion from the university. Assistance with the ethical practices of attribution and documentation is available from the Writing Centre or online at
  • A student may be required to provide proof of a legitimate excuse, such as a doctor’s note, for illness or absence which causes any missed assignments, tests, projects, exams, etcetera, or for absences of more than two classes. At the discretion of the instructor, the student may complete the work for a prorated grade.
  • Students must demonstrate that they understand and practice the safe use of tools and other equipment, materials, and processes used in their course projects. They must conduct themselves in a responsible manner that does not endanger themselves or others, and must adhere to area procedures regarding authorized operation of equipment, handling of materials, and use of space.
  • Professional counselling and therapy is available at no charge to students who have concerns of a personal nature. Information shared is held in strict confidence. To make an appointment, call 604-630-4555 or email or come in to the Counselling Centre.
  • The Writing Centre is a service that Emily Carr provides to all students, staff, and faculty from every program area who would like to improve their reading, writing, critical thinking, and research skills. This is a free, voluntary, and confidential service. Writing Centre instructors can help you at every stage of your writing, from developing ideas to final revision. This applies to any kind of writing, from a three line artist’s statement to a twenty page academic paper. Please check out the Writing Centre blog site for more information and to sign up for an appointment Telephone: 604-629-4511; Coordinator: Heather Fitzgerald
  • Email is an official means of communication with Emily Carr students by faculty, administration and other service providers on campus. Email routing will be confined to the university’s internal communication network, and delivered to an officially assigned and verifiable University Email Address. All users are bound by the provisions of Emily Carr Policy 415: Code of Conduct for Appropriate Use of Information Technology Facilities and Services (outlined on the Emily Carr website and in Emily’s A to Z). Instructors will outline and detail the expected extent and parameters of email use in the course in the first class, and clarify the timeframe for checking and responding to emails.
  • Emails will be answered in a timely manner, usually within 48 hours after receiving the email. Emails will not, however, be answered on weekends or the day before an assignment is due if the email relates to the assignment.

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