ME397 Design Theory & Methodology Seminar

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This is the homepage for the ME397 Design Theory & Methodology Seminar. 

Instructors: Greg Kress & Martin Steinert, Ph.D. 

Location: Center for Design Research (Bldg. 560), first floor common area

Session: Wednesdays, 3:15-5:05PM

Credits: 1-3

Term: Autumn Quarter, 2011

Overview: This course will explore several factors that help designers and design teams from cognitive and educational perspectives. In particular we will explore the meaning and manifestations of factors like empathy, "social sensitivity" and "extraverted feeling," which have been shown in practice and prior research to impact design performance. Students will participate in reflective design activities to understand and model the cognitive processes behind design. We will explore links to other schools of thought, including the Taoist concept of "human-heartedness." 

Class Project: Each student is expected to participate in and complete the class project. This will include the design and pilot test of an experimental metric for observing cognitive preferences manfiested in teams, or possibly other measures of team effectiveness. A successful project should include:

  • Prior work. What similar experiments have been conducted in the past? What can you learn from this prior work? What aspects of the methodology can you borrow? What is new or different about your application? What other similar concepts are out there?
  • Pilot test. What is the fastest and simplest way to test your experimental setup? How will you know if it is working? Test your setup with classmates or others (not on yourself!). What did you learn? What would you change or improve?
  • Experiment design. How would you conduct this experiment if it were to be carried out in full? What sample size would you need? What variables would you concentrate on, and how would you isolate them? What are your hypotheses?
  • Question-driven process. Please note and record questions that come up during your investigations. Their nature can be practical in terms of the experiments or data gathering, or more focused onto future research (e.g. identifying knowledge gaps).
  • Idea log. Keep a list of everything you come up with. This will help you to be reflective in your thinking and give you a useful record of your design process. Ideas that do not seem immediately relevant or possible to accomplish can still have tremendous value.


  • Nov. 2: A collection of possible approaches in your idealog (at least five); pilot test design and rough sketch of experiment design. Have at least one outside reference. Be ready to run a pilot test in class. 
  • Nov. 9: Pilot test results and plans for second iteration; revised draft of experiment design; updated idealog.
  • Nov. 16: Polished draft of experiment design and pilot test results.


  • Woolley, A.W. et al. "Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups." Science 29 October 2010: Vol. 330 no. 6004 pp. 686-688.
  • Kress, G. & Schar, M. "Initial Conditions: The Structure and Composition of Effective Design Teams." Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED) 2011, Copenhagen. 
  • Selections from Teamology
  • Selections from Psychological Types
  • Selections from Tao: The Watercourse Way (A.W. Watts)

Credit Breakdown: Participation in in-class discussions, activities and reading assignments is required for 1 credit. Students wishing to take the course for 2 or 3 credits should expect additional requirements to be discussed with the instructors.

Enrollment: Enrollment to this class will be limited. It is recommended that interested students attend the first class session on Sept. 28th.

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