InterFace De/sign
Section E
Critic Professor Terry Towery

There is also general syllabus written by all of us teaching the course.
I have also created a page of related links


Studio meets on Thursday for from 3:00pm to 5:40pm. As per University policy 3 absences constitutes an automatic failure. There will also be time before class every week for individual or group meetings outside of the classroom. Attendance is mandatory for these times.

During the semester there will be 2 major critiques. All students are required to present at these reviews. Any student who does not present at a major review is open to a failing grade at the discretion of the instructors.

Assignments will be weekly as well as multi-week and there will also be readings given in conjunction with this class. Required readings will be on reserve for copying through the library, books may be purchased through Posman Books on 13th Street. I have also pu together a recommended reading list for you. Throughout the semester you will be asked to visit gallery and museum exhibits as well as attend lectures related to our areas of inquiry.

The class will be run in a studio format, while there will be seminar sessions during the semester, in general each student will be expected to present and discuss work and ideas during each class in either group or "desk" critiques with individual instructors. Students are expected to participate actively in class discussions and critiques. You are asked to keep an online sketchbook/journal during the course of the semester. The directory for this will be:
It will be reviewed periodically as part of your overall grade.

Conceptualizing, designing and producing interactive media requires time outside of class hours - usually quite a bit more time - keep in mind the hours of the computer labs, the equipment available to you in those labs, and get to know the technical support staff who can help you. Also remember that as MFA students you have access to all major Parsons computing labs. These include:

55 West 13th St.
3rd floor - the University Computing Center
8th floor - the Knowledge Union
9th floor - Modeling and Animation Computer Center

2 West 13th St.
10th floor open lab

uptown (Times Square)
the Fashion and Textiles Lab

General lab hours are from 9am to 10:45pm. Hours may be extended before major reviews, check with each individual lab to determine access and availablity. Be aware that you do not have preferential access to equipment and that you are sharing the labs with several hundred BFA and MA Media Studies students. All MFA students should stop by the front desk at the UCC and open an account with this lab.

Each student will be given a public folder in the Digital Department's directory on the Parsons web server. It is expected that your work will be made available by you for review, by the instructors and your fellow classmates in the studio99 directory mentioned above. You will also be given an email address and telnet access. You are expected to learn enough UNIX early on in the semester to participate in "talk" sessions and to use Pine.

Software design has historically been the intellectual domain of the computer sciences, a compendium of physiological and cognitive factors. Only recently - and coincidentally with the advent of multimedia computing - have concerns of the visualist been taken into account: composition, color, typography, imagery, structure, sensuality, aesthetics, movement, scale, etc. This studio has many objectives, but the most fundamental attempt to bring the sensibilities of the sensual to a high-tech communications arena governed by principles such as efficiency, heuristics, and optimization, often the only guiding principles in software/interface design.

This studio explores the relationship between media, specifically interactive media and human perception and reaction, but this area of inquiry is the making of such relationships. We are the makers, the poets, the composers, the theoreticians. Our challenge is to separate ourselves from what we already know - that which is common, and accepted - and to explore not yet known. The evolution of technology over the last ten years has been staggering, yet even with the maturity of tools and techniques, there are still countless avenues of form and expression in new media yet to be explored.

Weekly Abstract  
Week 0
The first assignment should have been distributed to you during registration week. students are asked to bring in 3 examples of interface, this can be in any non-digital form.
Week 1


Course objectives set forth. Introductions.

Discussion: Interface discussion, students show and tell. Examples of digital interface may be shown by instructor.

Reading: Chapters 1 and 2 in Johnson's Interface Culture
Required Visitation: Go see the Keith Piper show at the New Museum. Your New School ID gets you in for free.

Assignment: Synthesize an interface; students are asked to make a single interface out of the three they have collected. This can be in digital or non-digital form as specified by the instructor.

Interface links of interest:

Don Gentner and Jakob Nielson's article on the antimac interface is a good place to begin to understand the lack of recent innovation into the human computer interface issue.

ACM has a special interest group in Computer Human Interaction.

The Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HITLAB) maintains the incredibly useful Knowledge Base. There are also a number of interesting research projects going on there.

MIT's Media Lab has many research groups that you should familiarize yourself with.

Week 2

Interface design

Critique of synthesis assignment, discussion. Take the composite interface and begin to dissect it. What is it beyond a planar element, can it be cut up, broken into discrete objects occupying different spaces, or serve different functions, can it be folded in space? Add interactivity to your interface - what are the functional aspects of your interface - what are the tools that can be built into it? Discussion of the desktop metaphor and other computer GUI.

Reading: Chapters 3 and 4 in Johnson's Interface Culture

Assignment: Document the interface project; students are asked to place images/drawings and written description of their interface on their studio99 website.

Week 3
Identity Design
In class design, visualization, and modeling project Storyboards, structuring information, etc. as specified by the instructor.

Reading: Chapters 5, 6 and the conclusion in Johnson's Interface Culture

Assignment: Introduction to narrative/ information modeling assignment. Text/content is given. Students are asked to provide a one page written analysis of the text/content for next week.

Week 4

Information Design

Discussion, reactions to the text/content

Reading: assigned by instructor

Assignment: For next week, students are asked to prepare two separate types of visualization of the content:
1. an interpretive media piece
2. a structural construction based on the content's information and the student's interpretation. This should be architectural, diagrammatic.

Week 5

Interaction Design

In class critique of the interpretive and architectural forms of the assignment.

Reading: assigned by instructor

Assignment: Final project - introduction. Students are asked to bring in several (3-5) ideas for their major project for discussion next week.

Week 6

In class discussion of final project proposals. Focus groups.

Reading: assigned by instructor

Assignment: Semester Final Project.
A final project will be developed by each student. For next week, students will write a proposal indicating their topic of interest to be investigated and designed, and a design document describing the planned stages of the development process. The proposal and design outlines will combine to articulate the concept, design direction, and significance of the work as the project is completed for the end of the semester.

Week 7-Midterm

Students meet Individually with instructor on final project proposals and student's mid-semester progress.

Reading: assigned by instructor

Assignment: Students begin detailing their final project; research, technical reviews, visualization and planning for the first prototype. Next week, students should be ready to present a rough draft of their project to the class. This can be sketches, experiments, demonstrations, sound effects... but should give a macro view of the project as a whole.

Week 8

In class critique of final project drafts.

Reading: assigned by instructor

Assignment: from the critique, students revise their projects. At this early stage, changes should be substantial, yet easy to implement because of the rough nature of the project so far.

Week 9

continued critique of final project.

Reading: assigned by instructor

Assignment: continued work on final project

Week 10

continued critique of final project.

Reading: assigned by instructor

Assignment: continued work on final project

Week 11
First Review

First Review. Guest critics and schedule to be announced.

Week 12
11/25 - no class, thanksgiving

No class, thanksgiving. You are all invited to my place for Dinner!!!

Assignment: continued work on final project.

Week 13
12 /2

continued critique of final project.

Reading: assigned by instructor

Assignment: continued work on final project.

Week 14

continued critique of final project.

Reading: none

Assignment: final project completion.

Week 15
Final Review

Final Review. Guest critics and schedule to be announced.

Assignment: Students master 2 copies of their final project on appropriate media (zips, jaz disks not accepted - use a CDROM) for the instructor, and the digital design department archives.

Week 16 - postmortem


In class discussion of review, or, individual interviews with instructor.