Fall 2023 - IAT 201 D100

Human-Computer Interaction and Cognition (3)

Class Number: 7116

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Sep 6 – Dec 5, 2023: Fri, 10:30 a.m.–12:20 p.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    Completion of 21 units, including at least one lower division "W" course.



Introduces topics in human perception, cognition and embodied action as a foundation of design for human use. It explores the practical application of techniques for analyzing diverse interactive situations and designing effective user interfaces. Students will engage in the analysis and design of a simple user interface, gaining detailed knowledge and experience with the standard basic techniques for interface specification, prototyping and evaluation.


As the diversity of interfaces and uses of computing technology increase, interface design must take into account aspects of human experience that are not always intuitive to creative designers. This includes reflection on designers" cognitive processes  (“design thinking”) as well as an in-depth understanding of the abilities and needs of the diverse individuals and communities that will use the technologies we create. Cognitive abilities such as perceptual learning, embedded, embodied and enactive cognition, and interpersonal communication are part of modern interface design. 

Our approach to human-computer interaction will focus on scientific evidence, user outcomes, and the design processes that support them. The course begins with new approaches to "design thinking" based on Donald Schön's Reflective Practitioner method, cognitive engineering approaches such as Herbert Simon’s Sciences of the Artificial, W. Brian Arthur's Nature of Technology, and Donald Norman's many books.

The course continues with a focus on human information processing psychology as a scientific basis for interaction design. Using that perspective we will discuss human cognitive abilities such as perception, thinking, learning and remembering. We then introduce alternative perspectives from ecological perception and distributed cognition. Section activities ask learners to combine and contrast these different perspectives in the form of design actions that provide a scientific basis for design choices.

Throughout the course, learners are called upon to reflect upon their own personal approach to HCI design, to learn how to make informed design decisions, and to discuss design decisions with colleagues. Our overall goal is to support learners to build a reflective interface design process, grounded in an understanding of human cognition, that can be used to design stand-alone applications and components of complex software ecosystems.


Learning Outcomes 

  • Consider reflective human-computer interaction (HCI) design practices that are grounded in cognitive science
      • Understand and explain psychological science perspectives on human perception and cognition:
        • Human Information Processing approaches to understanding human perceptual, cognitive and social capabilities.
        • Ecological approaches to understanding perception and action in the environment
      • Use these perspectives to evaluate designs with regard to support for human capabilities and context of use.
  • Understand new ecological, embodied, and distributed cognition approaches from the interdisciplinary field of cognitive science
    • Describe these approaches and understand how they differ.
    • Understand how these approaches can be used in design of technologies for distributed and extended cognition
  • Overall, begin to develop your own individual reflective HCI design approach with an evolving personal "design reflection".



  • Reflective design paper (individual) 10%
  • Quizzes (individual) 30%
  • Active learning activities (individual, in sections) 60%


Marks in this course are rescaled ("curved") to SFU second-year norms. The first quiz covers design methods and cognitive psychology, with an emphasis on cognitive neuroscience of perception and attention. The second quiz covers distributed cognition with an emphasis on how thinking can be shaped by interactive technology environments. The remainder of the marks come from group learning activities and individual reflection on design theory and approaches.



"Designing with the Mind in Mind:  Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules" (2021) by Jeff Johnson; 3nd Edition; Morgan Kaufmann
Available as an ebook from the library
ISBN: 9780128182024

Online readings posted in CANVAS


"Unflattening" by Nick Sousanis (graphic novel)
ISBN: 9780674744431


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.