Final Exam: Great Stanford Design Challenge

Overall Format

This is a take-home final. We are expecting that the design challenge should take you 6-8 hours and you will go through at least one full cycle of the design thinking process. You will complete a design challenge that is assigned the Monday of dead week at lecture and is due at 11:59 pm on the Monday of finals week. We designed the final to be completable in a 48-hour window; we are giving the week of time in case it helps coordinate the final around your other classes.

The main skill being tested in this final is your ability to reason through the large set of methods and skills you have acquired in your HCI classes thus far, and apply them in the correct circumstances and for the correct goals. Not every method is appropriate for the type of problem you are solving or the data you have gathered. Your grade will depend principally on how you make decisions about which approaches to apply and your ability to motivate them.

The design challenge is individual with a group option. This means that each student can choose to do the whole design challenge by themselves, or do some or most of it in collaboration with others from CS 247 (the description below identifies which parts must be done 100% individually and which can be done collaboratively). At the end, each person must submit an individual write-up of the design challenge that they have written on their own. Document who you worked with. Working with a team can be helpful in the execution of this design process, but each team member will need to write up their submission individually — which means being able to clearly describe why certain decisions were made, without relying on other teammates' reports to pick up the slack.

The final has 4 parts.

Part 1: Select a topic

First, select a topic for your design challenge from the list below. Group option: If you plan to work on the design challenge with a group, choose a topic in collaboration with your teammate(s).

Design challenge topic options:
  • Exercising regularly
  • Meeting new people
  • Keeping in touch with old friends
  • Moving to a new house/apartment
  • Planning a party
  • Listening to music at work
  • Commuting
  • Connecting with volunteering opportunities
  • Planning a vacation
  • Learning a new language
  • Grocery shopping on a budget
  • Recycling/composting easily
  • Exploring your own city or town
  • Preserving memories
  • Friday night

Part 2: Individually make project plan

Individually make an initial one-page project plan, even if you are in a group. The plan should communicate how you would proceed with a design project for your selected topic to research and define the problem, come up with a solution, and test it.

Your plan should use the tools & techniques that you learned in CS 247 and CS 147 for research, insight synthesis, modeling, ideation, prototyping, testing, etc...Think about what tools are going to be most appropriate for the type of problem you are solving and the data you plan on gathering/have gathered. For a refresher on the tools used, you can take a look at past assignments for 147 and 247. Consider what information you need to learn, who your target audience is, and what the best way is to collect information and then test design ideas.

Your plan at a minimum should include the following components. For each component, explain WHY you selected the tools you chose to use:
  • Conduct needfinding research of some kind (what kind?)
  • Synthesize the research and develop a point of view on the problem using the some of the synthesizing tools you’ve learned (which ones?)
  • Ideate and explore the design space (how?)
  • Prototype and test solution(s) (how?)

Group option: Everyone should make an initial individual project plan on their own to start. If you are planning to work with a group, you can then come together with your group and make a joint project plan, changing your individual plan as you and your teammates see fit.

Part 3: Complete the design challenge

Execute your project plan. At each step, document the artifacts that you create and be clear on what you are doing when, and why. As the project proceeds and you learn new information, it is fine (and even encouraged) to change your plan as long as you have clear reasons for why you are doing so and can explain them later.

Given the tight time limit of the final — which mirrors what you often have in real-life design scenarios — you will need to be very strategic about focusing your analysis, prototype and test.

Note that when choosing analysis methods, more is not better. We are not looking for how many methods you can use, but rather how you choose a method and execute effectively.

Group option: None, some, or all of the design challenge execution can be done in collaboration with others in the class. Note, however, that each of you will be individually responsible for your own final report write-up.

Part 4: Submit an individual final report

Submit a final report that is completed individually without assistance from others. Imagine that you have been asked to share the results of your research and design work on this design challenge with a group that is going to take over from you. You need to tell them what you’ve done so far, how and why you’ve done it, what you learned from all your user research, and what you think the next steps should be. In this case, understanding the journey is much more important than where you ended up at the end.

Submit a report that explains what you did in each step of your approach to this design challenge and why you did that. Submit ONE PDF of a maximum 15 pages single-spaced text and images that includes:

  • Selected topic for design challenge
  • Initial project plan that you created individually. If you worked on this project with a group: also include the updated group project plan.Note that in the past to save space some students have indicated on one project plan how things changed from individual to group.
  • Description of WHAT you did in each step of approaching the design challenge and WHY you did it that way
    • If you ended up deviating from your original project plan, why you decided to do things differently
    • If you made assumptions or leaps of faith, explain what led you to them and how you tested them or would test them if you had the time
  • Insights you uncovered that influenced your design decisions and how you got to them
  • Each iteration of your design solution with clear descriptions of how and why you made changes to the design
  • Documentation of any artifacts you created along the way, e.g., photos of your process, design artifacts & prototypes, excerpts from a discussion guide, etc…
  • If you worked on this project with a group: list the people that you worked with and what portion of the project they worked with you on (could be all or some of it)

Be honest about what happened. You are not being graded at all on the success of the design but on the journey to get there. Take creative risks — it’s okay if your final design fails as long as you had a reason for that design and now understand why it’s not working. The goal of this final is to test your understanding of how the design process works and how and why you make decisions within that framework. It is not a test of having the best design in the world.

Turn into Canvas:

  • One PDF per student that is a maximum of 2500 words, and a maximum of 15 pages including images. This max includes any piece of content that you would like us to read. We will not read past page 15 of the PDF / 2500 words.

Sample time distribution (total 6-8 hours):
  • 0.25 hr - make a plan
  • 1.5 hr - needfinding
  • 1.0 hr - synthesizing
  • 0.5 hr - ideation
  • 0.5 hr - select ideas and explore design space
  • 0.5 hr - plan how to test the design
  • 0.5 hr test prep / create prototype
  • 0.5 hr - test design
  • 1.5 hr - prepare final report

Grading rubric

Category Scores
Individual plan
5 pts
[1 / 5 pts]
Plan does not correctly follow the design thinking process or doesn’t make any sense.
[3 / 5 pts]
Plan has some appropriate parts and other parts that don’t make sense, are not thought through, or or seem inappropriate for the selected topic.
[5 / 5 pts]
Plan is a strong, comprehensive approach to solving the selected design challenge that is well explained.
[1 / 7pts]
Decisions about methods and what to move forward with seem random or inappropriate and there is no justification.
[3 / 7pts]
Decisions about methods and what to move forward with do not make sense and justification is poor or absent.
[5 / 7pts]
Decisions about methods and what to move forward with are mostly reasonable with short or confusing justification.
[7 / 7pts]
Decisions about methods and what to move forward with are insightful and logical with clear and thorough justification.
Design process execution
[1 / 7pts]
There are few if any design artifacts / deliverables created as part of the design challenge.
[3 / 7pts]
Design deliverables shared in the report are generally poor and not well executed. Examples: surface-level insights, incoherent storyboards or flows, poorly executed interviews.
[5 / 7pts]
Design deliverables are uneven. Some are well executed and appropriate while others are too minimal or poorly executed.
[7 / 7pts]
Design deliverables are exemplary. Every artifact shared shows a deep understanding of the goal of that type of deliverable and the way it should be executed.
[0 / 3pts]
Documentation is vague, opaque, missing, misspelled or illegible.
[1 / 3pts]
Documentation is poor. All components are there but many are confusing, or hard to review.
[2 / 3pts]
Documentation is uneven. Some areas are well documented and clear while others are confusing, grammar/spelling, or polish.
[3 / 3pts]
Documentation is extremely clear. All pictures are captioned and/or annotated. It is easy to read and understand what happened. There are no typos or grammatical errors.