NMDD 1001

NMDD 1001 Explorations in Digital Design, Spring 2022

LL 308

Kara Van Cleaf, PhD


Course Overview

This course critically explores notable histories, geographies and practices of digital design. Students will gain an understanding of fundamentals of contemporary design paradigms, internet architecture and governance and the politics of designing media that operates at intimate, local and global scales.

Key Learning Goals

  1. Students will demonstrate critical understanding of digital design theory and practice through critical writing, group discussion, and design work;
  2. Students will understand basic web design standards and principles as well as internet architecture;
  3. Students will develop an understanding of the logic and potential application of design prototyping

Readings have URLs listed here or will be posted on the class website: fashioningsociology.com under the NMDD 1001 tab.

Course workload

Participation/Weekly Assignments (25%) I will base this grade on your thoughtful contributions to class discussions, activities and group work. I will not base this grade on mastery of the materials. Keep up with the readings to stay in the conversation! You will also help each other work through your projects by KINDLY and thoughtfully offering suggestions and critiques.

In addition to thoughtful class participation, the participation portion of your grade includes a concept-connect: a brief presentation on ONE idea/concept from our scheduled readings (we will sign up at our first meeting). You’ll explain one concept and then connect it to some example that illustrates the concept, think ‘show and tell.’ You do not need to present on the entire reading, and I will deduct points if you do! Instead, find a concept/idea/question from the reading and create a show and tell for the class. Please also have a discussion question, or two, ready for the class. You’ll need to lead a brief discussion after your presentation (I will help if needed!).

You will also have activities you’ll need to complete, usually in-class but sometimes the activities will be homework. We will spend class time sharing these with each other and giving and receiving feedback, please be prepared to share. Also, and most importantly, please don’t be nervous to share—I know that is often easier said than done! Working in new media requires sharing ideas and working in groups, so we will practice developing this skill together. The assignments will almost always be open ended, and open to interpretation. There is no right or wrong. Some of you will have more comfort with technology, software programs and others may be more advanced artists or writers. I want everyone to feel comfortable sharing, please reach out if this will be challenging for you.

Exams (midterm/final) (50%): multiple choice, short answer. The tests will be created through Google forms. I will send you a link to the test at 10 AM the day it’s scheduled and you will have until 8PM that evening to complete it. The tests are open note/open reading.

Final Team Project (and all the necessary stages of work) (25%):  For the final project, in groups of 2-4, you’ll need to articulate a problem, create a design solution, and present to the class. You’ll need to present a rough draft (prototype) and use the feedback your peers give you before finishing the final prototype (please detail how you incorporated their feedback into your final draft). Prototypes must be accompanied by a short proposal that articulates a clear design philosophy, your research methods, intended purpose and populations. Your prototype does not have to digital—we will discuss numerous ways to prototype and create all semester. We will discuss this project in class and work on them during class time, especially after the midterm. We will spend time creating the parameters of the final project together, as the semester develops. I want to give everyone a chance to explore their interests. We will create our groups the first few weeks in class, once we get a chance to hear and learn about each other’s interests. More to come!


100=A+                        79-77 = C+

99-93=A                       76-72 = C                                            

92-90=A-                      71-70 = C-

89-87=B+                     69-60 = D

86-83=B                       Below 58 = F


RULES/POLICIES: No cheating, no plagiarism. Respect each other and different opinions.


Fordham’s university-wide policy is that 4 unexcused absences results in a failing grade. If you miss four or more and due to an emergency, family, personal, or medical reason, you must notify both myself and your class dean of the issue at hand with appropriate documentation. It is your responsibility to get readings/assignments for missed days from other students, and you are encouraged to come to my office to discuss topics you’re unclear on.

Final grades are FINAL: I do not negotiate grades. Do not ask. I do not need to hear about your GPA, or what grade you need or must get. You are responsible for your grades. Regardless of what other faculty tolerate, I do not negotiate grades with students.  ALL GRADES ARE FINAL. If you wish to learn more about why you earned the grade you were assigned, you must see me in person during my posted office hours. Nonetheless, students should remember that coming early and often for help does not guarantee that I will pass you.  In the final hour, you need to demonstrate proficiency in the material, no matter how hard you tried. Coming to class, trying hard/studying many hours in college is a given.  In the end, you must produce college-level work.

******I will probably change, delete or ADD readings to this schedule.  I will always give you notice but you must come to class to stay abreast of any changes.

******Do not be offended if I call you and do not be offended if I do not call on you! I will try to call on everyone at least once over the course of the semester so be prepared.

******Please email me if you are having trouble with the course material in anyway.

****** Academic Integrity/Plagiarism: Plagiarizing in any way, shape or form will result in a zero for that assignment or test. I will report it to your advisor, class dean, and fill out a report for the academic integrity committee to review. I take this very seriously so please see me if you’re nervous about properly citing your work. By being enrolled at Fordham University students are bound to comply with the University Code of Conduct, which includes, but is not limited to the Standards of Academic Integrity as outlined in the Student Handbook.If you have any question concerning the plagiarism policy or about documentation of sources in work you produce in this course, speak to me about it. Plagiarizing includes passing off any work you have not created as your own (scholars, bloggers, people you pay to write a paper, etc.), as well as turning in papers you’ve written for another class.

Preferred Name Policy: Some members of the Fordham community are known by a name that is different from their legal name. Students who wish to be identified by a chosen name can contact their CMS faculty members via email and request their chosen name and pronoun be used.[Faculty are welcome to supplement this as well]

Disabilities: All students, with or without disabilities, are entitled to equal access to the programs and activities of Fordham University under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If you have, or think you may have, disabilities, please get in touch with The Office of Disability Studies at disabilityservices@fordham.edu or 718-817-0655. The office will coordinate with faculty, staff, and administrators to ensure that the facilitation of reasonable and appropriate accommodations for students with documented disabilities is provided. We encourage faculty to add more than the required legal language related to disabilities, and to invite students to come to you with any difficulties related to ODS or their disabilities.

Student Resources

Writing Center: If you struggle with the writing required in this course, please make use of the Writing Center. For more information about their services see https://www.fordham.edu/info/20126/writing_center

Counseling and Psychological Services: University life is full of challenges. Fordham offers support for anyone who feels like they need help dealing with the pressures of life as a student. 

CPS offers resources on issues like anxiety, coping strategies, COVID and mental health and so on on its website, and provides individual and group counseling and therapy in a safe and confidential setting. For more information about their services see: https://www.fordham.edu/info/20031/counseling_and_psychological_services

There is also a Crisis Text line available—text START to 741-741 to use it. 

Food (shelter, etc) insecurity Any student who faces challenges securing their food or housing and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to contact your class dean for support. I also urge you to contact me, or our dept chair, about this. I understand you may not want to share such information with professors who you see all the time, but Fordham has few policies in place, and our support may be helpful.

Academic Coaching: Any student who struggles with time-management and/or organization is invited to one-on-one academic coaching sessions (typically once a week for 45 minutes). Please contact disabilityservices@fordham.edu for more information.

Course Schedule and Layout

IMPORTANT!! Each class period will be a blend of discussions of readings and in-class activities. This course requires you to share your work, as well as offer kind critiques of your peers’ work.

1/19                             Intros, Tech survey, tech set-up

“What The Hell Was Megadeath, Arizona?” URL: https://medium.com/@robinbechtel/what-the-hell-was-megadeth-arizona-3519a751149d

*In-class activity:find remnants or examples of Megadeath Arizona on the web today. Screen shot, hyperlink, or document what you find.

*In-class activity: find examples of good design online, websites you like or think work well. Why? Explain!

1/26                             “What Designers Do” by Amy Ko, URL: https://faculty.washington.edu/ajko/books/design-methods/what-designers-do.html

                                     “How to be creative” by Amy Ko, URL: https://faculty.washington.edu/ajko/books/design-methods/how-to-be-creative.html

                                    Why I am not a maker, URL: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/why-i-am-not-a-maker/384767/

*Activity for next week: look up jobs on places like Linkdin, Indeed, or any other digital job listing platform and try to find jobs in the areas described by Ko. Which jobs sound exciting to you and why? What are some of the qualifications listed? What are some of the duties/job requirements listed?

2/1                               “Introduction: #TravelingWhileTrans, Design Justice, and Escape from the Matrix of Domination” by Sasha Costanza-Chock  URL: https://design-justice.pubpub.org/pub/ap8rgw5e/release/1

                                     “The Accidental Power of Design” by Michael Rock, URL: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/15/t-magazine/design/bathroom-debate-accidental-power-of-design.html?mcubz=0

*Activity for next week: find an example of gender design in a current public space. What does the design say about gender? Does it reinforce the gender binary or complicate it? Can you find examples of designs that challenge gender norms?

2/9                               “A Cautious Prometheus? A Few Steps Toward a Philosophy of Design.” By Bruno Latour, 2008 URL: https://fashioningsociology.files.wordpress.com/2019/08/latour-prometheus.pdf

2/16                             Want to fight inequality? Forget design thinking. https://www.fastcompany.com/3068235/want-to-fight-inequality-forget-design-thinking

                                    Discrimination by design: The Many Ways Design Decisions Treat People Unequally. ProPublica https://www.propublica.org/article/discrimination-by-design

2/23                             MIDTERM

3/2                               Project Time! Brainstorming session

                                    How to Design, By Amy Ko URL: https://faculty.washington.edu/ajko/books/design-methods/how-to-design.html

“Participatory design in Practice” URL: https://uxmag.com/articles/participatory-design-in-practice

3/9                               “How to Understand Problems” by Amy Ko, URL: https://faculty.washington.edu/ajko/books/design-methods/how-to-understand-problems.html

                                    “How to Define Problems” by Amy Ko, URL:


                                    *Activity: sketch out how to investigate your problem. This does not have to be anything you can do this semester, but think about the best way—use your imagination—to study/approach your problem.

3/23                             Why I won’t “try on” disability to build empathy (and you should think twice about it). https://www.uxnightschool.com/notes/2018/5/1/why-i-wont-try-on-disability-to-build-empathy-and-you-should-think-twice-about-it

  Project workshop/Figma/Adobe play day

3/30                             Building a Better User Experience with C.R.A.P Principles

How to Design User Interfaces by Amy Ko, URL: https://faculty.washington.edu/ajko/books/design-methods/how-to-design-user-interfaces.html

“How to Prototype” by Amy Ko, URL: https://faculty.washington.edu/ajko/books/design-methods/how-to-prototype.html

                                    *Activity: Design a poster using the CRAP principles (or landing page) for your project. Be ready to share and be ready to offer critique to your classmates. Whatever critique you receive, please use it to make your next version even better.

4/6                               The Usability of Handbags by Sam Lander: http://www.samladner.com/the-usability-of-handbags/

                                    The Desirability of Handbags by Sam Lander: http://www.samladner.com/the-desirability-of-handbags/

*Activity in class: Usability Scale: create a unique usability scale for an object of your choosing. If you can, perhaps make one for a product/website etc similar to your prototype. No worries if this doesn’t make sense for your unique project.

4/13                             “How to be critical” by Amy Ko, URL: https://faculty.washington.edu/ajko/books/design-methods/how-to-be-critical.html

4/20                             Presentations—Feedback day

4/27                             Presentations

5/4                               Presentations, projects due

Extra Readings:

SOUND: http://avant.org/project/things-that-beep/

UX WRITING https://medium.com/@lmsanchez/what-is-ux-writing-1eb71b0f0606

“How to do nothing” by Jenny Odell, URL: https://medium.com/@the_jennitaur/how-to-do-nothing-57e100f59bbb

Crip for Day: The Unintended Negative Consequences of Disability Simulations 

“Steve Jobs Did Not Invent the iPhone” by Brian Merchant, URL: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/steve-jobs-did-invent-iphone-brian-merchant/

“Human Centered Design Considered Harmful” by Donald Norman, URL: https://interactions.acm.org/archive/view/july-august-2005/human-centered-design-considered-harmful1

                                    “Four Things Working at Facebook Has Taught me About Design Critique” https://medium.com/facebook-design/critique-is-an-important-part-of-any-design-process-whether-you-work-as-part-of-a-team-or-solo-ef3dcb299ce3