Design Case: USI Programme, Module M7      

Panos Markopoulos

The design case is a team project executed by multi-disciplinary teams of 4-6 USI post-graduate students, in a period of 10 weeks.  This project provides an opportunity for USIs to execute a full user-centred design cycle where they can prototype and test their own design ideas.  All design case projects have a strong industrial relevance, innovative character and a research component.  A large proportion of past USI design cases have been published at international research conferences.

About the Design Case

Key points


This course gives the chance to USI’s to pull together the knowledge they have acquired in the taught modules of the programme.  They get hands-on experience in interaction design following a complete iteration of a design lifecycle, from requirements analysis to implementation and testing.

This design case aims to consolidate knowledge of user centred design by attacking a challenging, complicated and industrially relevant problem which is relevant to current state of the art in interaction technology.  Emphasis is placed upon having a good design and on good design approach.  Critical design decisions must be reflected on a prototype and tested with users.

Compared to the 9-month industrial project of the 2nd year of the USI programme, the design case aims to ensure an appropriate and complete execution of a user centred design lifecycle and to expose USIs to the practical difficulties of teamwork in a multi-cultural environment.  This may or may not happen in the industrial project, which can focus on a small part of the process, e.g., implementation or usability testing and where USIs are often working individually. 

This design case aims to provide students with a reference point as to what is ‘best practice’ for involving users and basing design on empirical user studies. so that they can transfer this knowledge to the industry during their industrial placement.


Project planning for Design Case 2006

The following time is currently allocated to the project

week 21(May 22-24)

week 24 (June 12- June 16)

weeks 34-35 (Aug 21 - Aug 25)

weeks 39-40 (Sept 25 - Oct 6)

weeks 43-44 (Oct 23 -Nov 3)

weeks 49-51 (Dec 4 - Dec 20)

USIs may be absent for a conference or holidays subject to agreement with Panos, Patricia and the rest of the project team.  USIs should however make sure they are not away more than once (e.g., don’t go to two conference during days allocated to the Case).

Roughly, the project should follow the following phasing:


Ending date

Project phase


May 23

Problem definition

Problem statement

1 A4 describing  the detailed problem statement and related work

Aug 25

Sep 1

Requirements Analysis

(define target users, tasks, needs, etc.)

20’oral presentation

Submit 2 page report describing process and results.  Interesting data should be included as an appendix. 

Oct 6

Concept Design

15’ oral presentation

Submit 2 page report describing concept, design rationale and initial evaluation plan.  Interesting information should be included in an appendix.

If appropriate, an appendix should include the equipment needed, supplier and cost.  Budget available should be discussed with academic coach, Panos and Patricia before this stage.

Dec 8

Detailed Design/Implementation

Demonstrate to supervision team + Panos on date due.

Submit 1 A4 max. with revised evaluation plan

Dec 20


Dorloge Zaal (Traverse Building)


Evaluation and report writing

30’presentation of whole project.

Submit 4 page report describing the whole project, with all relevant materials (and intermediate reports) as appendices.  A CD Rom with all relevant material (including the report) should be submitted.


Reports should be handed (both as electronic and paper versions) to the coach and to Panos on the day of the deadline.

Dropping out of the project or splitting a team is not allowed. 

Final Assessment

A.     Provisional marking right after the presentations. Dec 20

This is done by all coaches (TU/e and industry) present on the basis of the presentations – but taking also knowledge we have from our own coaching (where applicable).

After the presentations, all coaches, whether from the TU/e or from the industrial partners stay in the room for just 20 minutes.

We jog through each project as follows: Everybody present makes a (very) brief about the project, based on their total knowledge of the project (final and earlier presentations, meetings, etc.), so that Panos can compile a small list of qualitative comments to the students.  Specificity is helpful here rather than a general ‘good’/‘bad’ impression.  Inconsistencies do not have to be resolved to make the process fast – there is no enough time to debate at this point.

After we have collected opinions about a project, everyone suggests their grades for this project.  It is understood that we all have different levels of awareness of different teams, but we have to give a normative grade (A, B, C, F) based on the best of our ability at the moment.  Panos tries to record the opinions and consensus if any. 

A grade may be:

·         A (exceptional),

·         B (very good - the standard we expect from USI’s),

·         C- slightly below standard on one or more aspects of the design case.

·         D – way below standard but a pass

·         F – not sufficient (fail – no credits are earned by the students)

N.B. At this stage all grades are provisional.  Grades will be finalized after the reports have been read.  We do not disclose any grades to students yet.


B.      Qualitative Feedback (from coach to team only). By Jan 13.

Each coach (from the TU/e) provides feedback to the students about their own project discussing, performance, teamwork, originality/innovation, appropriateness of design approach, quality of evaluation, interim deliverables and presentations.  In the case where the team was supported by an industrial coach, it is up to the TU/e coach to collect and integrate comments from them.


C.     Integrated Assessment by Coach.  Deadline: Jan 13.

Coaches should read the final report from their own team only and should send a verdict to Panos (A,B,C or F), plus a 4-5 line justification.  


D.     Normalization of grades. Deadline: Jan 20.

I hope we are able to distinguish projects so that most get a B and only exceptions go for an A or C.  If not I shall have to do it, and I shall try to preserve the ranking from our first meeting.

Panos sends final results to students.