Spring 2021 - IAT 884 G100

Special Topics IV (3)

Research through Design:Theory,Methods,Pract

Class Number: 6693

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM




This course will cover historical and current theoretical perspectives on how RtD produces knowledge and the implications these differing viewpoints have for how RtD is translated into particular methods for practice. It will also review a range of design-oriented methods that can be applied at different stages of the research process. In this, we will attend to different types of research questions that RtD is well suited to investigate. These methods will include: experience prototyping, user enactments, cultural probes, constructive design research, research products, the designer-researcher stance, and others. We will also cover case examples of RtD from the Human- Computer Interaction community that highlight a diversity of ways in which RtD can be applied in practice. These case examples will explore topical themes that include: ludic design, design for the self, slow technology, and speculative design. This review of prior work is intended to set the stage for the main part of the course: a hands- on application of an RtD as a form of research inquiry.


  • Develop an understanding of the main movements in Research through Design in the Human-Computer

    Interaction Community: Where did it emerge from? Why? What kinds of research questions is it well equipped for exploring?

  • Develop an understanding of breadth and depth of methods encompassed within Research through Design and how they can be appropriately applied to research problems and practices.

  • Actively apply and relate a carefully selected RtD method (or combined set of methods) to address research question(s).


  • Participation in project critiques and seminar presentations/discussion: 30%
  • RtD Project proposals (written): 10%
  • RtD Final Project Proposal Presentation (presentation + slides): 10%
  • RtD Final project: 50%


Participation in Seminar Presentations / Discussion &  Student Roles
Presenters: The role of the presenter is to lead an analysis of a paper that is assigned each week. For example, in weeks in which we have 3 assigned papers, there will be 3 presenters. This includes: presenting a summary of the reading in a 10-15 minute presentation that provides context for the reading and provides background author information. The Presenter will need to lead an oral presentation. You do not necessarily have to make slides, although it may be useful. The Presenter will also be responsible for highlighting and logging any terms or concepts that ought to go into the course Glossary. The seminar presenter(s) will email the instructor this information and the presentation, and it will be made available via Canvas.

Discussants: Some students will be assigned as discussants rather than seminar presenters. The role of the discussant is to summarize the discussions of the readings. A discussant will lead a discussion on connecting themes and analysis across of the group of readings. The discussant(s) will email the instructor their questions, thoughts, or critiques for all readings prior to class (i.e., by Sunday evening at the latest). This information will be made available on Canvas.

RtD Project Proposals

The RtD project proposals are intended to help structure the process of working toward the Final Project and Paper with attention to the research motivation, background, and rationale for the proposed project and selection of method(s). The RtD project proposals will be in the form of 2 page (or longer) document. It will also be presented in class to receive critique, feedback, and guidance from the class. The students should write 2 proposals that offer different examples of they could do for their final project. Due as per schedule.

The Final Project and Paper
The RtD final project will be a project that demonstrates the productive application of a carefully selected method (or set of combined method) to address specific question(s) related to the student’s interests. This will require the student to engage hands-on in designing and making a design artifact to support her or his research. Each student will present/demo in class at the end of term, and also submit a final report.

The final report will be approximately 5000 words written as an academic conference paper both in terms of content and style. Depending on the nature of the final project – and in particular if the content of the final work is highly visual – the student may have the option to produce a Pictorial report that includes visual imagery and written text.

Throughout the semester, you will read numerous journal and conference papers which should serve as models for your report. The format of your report must adhere to the Association for Computing Machinery standards for scholarly papers in conference proceedings.



This course will involve designing, making, and building an RtD project; however, the specific materials and supplies required will highy depend on the nature of each student's respective project. For example, some may require the making of physical, tangible computing artifacts, while others may be only software-based, or focusly largely on video or print materials.


All readings will be organized via Canvas. Also see:

Pieter Stappers and Elisa Giaccardi (2017) Research through Design, 43, The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd- ed/research-through-design

Ilpo Koskinen, John Zimmerman, Thomas Binder, Johan Redstrom, and Stephan Wensveen. (2011). Design research through practice: From the lab, field, and showroom. Elsevier.

John Zimmerman, Jodi Forlizzi, and Shelley Evenson. (2007). Research through design as a method for interaction design research in HCI. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems, pp. 493-502. ACM, 2007.

William Gaver. 2012. "What should we expect from research through design?. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems, pp. 937-946. ACM, 2012.

William Odom, John Zimmerman, Scott Davidoff, Jodi Forlizzi, Anind K. Dey, Min Kyung Lee. 2012. A fieldwork of the future with user enactments. In Proceedings of the Designing Interactive Systems Conference, pp. 338-347. ACM, 2012.

William Odom, Ron Wakkary, Youn-kyung Lim, Audrey Desjardins, Bart Hengeveld, and Richard Banks. 2016. From research prototype to research product. In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 2549-2561. ACM, 2016.

Erik Stolterman. 2008. The nature of design practice and implications for interaction design research. International Journal of Design 2, no. 1.

Horst WJ Rittel and Melvin M. Webber. (1974). Wicked problems. Man-made Futures 26, no. 1 (1974): 272-280.

Donald Scho╠łn. 2017. The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Routledge.

Herbert Simon. 1996. The sciences of the artificial. MIT press.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2021 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).