Senior Studio 2018: Objectives, Policies, Grading

Carnegie Mellon School of Design, Professors Kristin Hughes & Molly Wright Steenson

Photo by Yousef Espanioly on Unsplash

BUILD framework

BUILD stands for:

  • Bold: ___________ that bring forth new ideas in small ways.
  • Upbeat: Uses the power of kindness and play.
  • Intermingles: ____________outside of the ____________.
  • Local: Start where you are, right now.
  • Design: Demonstrates the practice of design in action.


You will aim your efforts toward realizable, concrete, design-centric solutions, understanding both the potential and constraints of design in addressing the opportunity..

Course Objectives

To highlight an emergent opportunity, research the topic thoroughly, and articulate the challenges and opportunities associated with it; To propose a realistic and appropriate design intervention that focuses on small and simple change; To apply lessons learned throughout your undergraduate education to advance the semester-long project in a logical, consistent manner; To demonstrate your ability to self-direct and manage yourself and your team (if applicable), making continuous, steady progress throughout the term; To develop a system of artifacts that effectively address the issue To effectively describe your solution through the text you write, the presentations you give, and the artifacts you make.

Course Deliverables

We’re not sure what will constitute the design artifacts for this project. However, we’re confident that your research will lead you to develop innovative and appropriate ways of addressing the issues at hand. We do know that you will: Design artifacts for your project will vary greatly. We’re confident that your research will lead you to develop innovative and appropriate ways of addressing the issues at hand. We do know that you will: Develop a coherent hypothesis and project response depicting the role design can play in addressing the issue; Develop a project timeline and calendar for final rollout Mayxx; Make working, interactive prototypes and designed artifacts that address the issue; Document your process (week 4, midterm, final, and weekly blog entries); Present your work to internal and possibly external audiences at a final review.

Course Structure

The course will be team taught — each instructor bringing their own expertise to the class. At times, the design direction we give you may not coincide. Use the differing feedback to your advantage. Consider multiple perspectives and allow them to foster confident, informed decisions. This is a studio course, which means that much of the class time will be spent working in studio. We place a great deal of importance on student/teacher interaction during the design process. Therefore, we will often meet with you to discuss the direction of your project. As a class, we will frequently discuss relevant topics and conduct in-progress reviews throughout the semester. Please us them as an opportunity to articulate your ideas, assess where you are in the project, ask questions, and accept constructive criticism from your peers. Your verbal contributions will be expected and are always welcome. Also note that this course will move very quickly throughout the spring semester and will be peppered with interruptions such as Confluence and Carnival. As a result, it is critical that you stay focused on the tasks at hand and vigilant of your progress. You must come to each class prepared to discuss your work to obtain the feedback that you will need to move your project forward.

Please take care of yourself

Remember the mail art exercise? Many of you wrote about how you want to care for yourselves and those around you. Self care is important, and you can make that a value in how you design this semester.

Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress. All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. Depression and anxiety are real and more common than you might think. You are not alone, even when you feel alone.

There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the school experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you feel overwhelmed with the demands of this course, if you feel like you might miss a deadline or that you might need to copy work in order to get things done, contact us right away and we will work out a plan. It is better than plagiarizing or not coming to class.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412–268–2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.


We will distribute a list of readings, documentaries, design artifacts, etc. that we believe will help you in the work you conduct throughout the semester. Please don’t hesitate to ask us to suggest additional references that will be most helpful for your specific design direction.

Process Documentation

We are asking you to document your process in a blog that you will update weekly. Ideally, your process documentation should describe the steps you take throughout the project. It should include your research, analysis, sketches, ideas, inspirations, and notations of what you learn. Think of this as an opportunity to track your design process and progress throughout the semester. Keep in mind that it’s wise to organize your process documentation in a manner that is logical, clear, and includes only pertinent information. We believe it’s also helpful to use your process documentation as a way of revealing the breadth and depth of your ideas to people unfamiliar with your project, which could ultimately be a valuable component of your portfolio. In addition, if done well, your process documentation will aid the development of your design proposal.

Project Submission

Visual documentation of your team’s final working, interactive prototype as well as your design proposal and any additional process work must be on BOX (for the archives) prior to the final course presentation. The files should be well organized, easily identifiable, and function properly.

Class Policy

Since this is a studio course, everyone’s contributions are vital to the success of the class. Please feel comfortable asking questions and helping one another when possible. This does not mean completing someone else’s tasks for them but rather answering questions or conducting out-of-class reviews. Collaboration often spawns wonderful ideas that cannot be achieved in isolation. Although a large portion of class time will be spent working on the project, you will be expected to devote no less than an equal amount of time to the course outside of scheduled class meetings. This time should be spent completing readings, conducting research and analysis, making, making, and making, and learning any necessary software.


To utilize the studio environment your timely presence and participation are necessary. Studio meetings begin at 1:30 p.m. and continue until 4:20 p.m. It is vital that you arrive on time because we will often discuss important topics at the start of the session. Although we will often work with each team independently of others, we ask that you devote the entire class time to this project even when we are not meeting with you. Keep in mind, frequent absences and late arrivals are disruptive and inconsiderate to the rest of the class and will adversely affect your grade. If you can’t attend class, inform us in advance either by email or by calling the design office at 412–268–2828. After two unexcused absences your grade will drop by a letter grade. Three late arrivals will count as one absence. You are responsible for information you miss through absences or lateness. Work that is incomplete or improperly done due to missed or misunderstood information will result in a lower grade. Work that is not turned in will be graded as failing.


If you have questions outside of class we ask that you email all instructors. This enables us to stay informed about issues that naturally arise and respond to them as a team. The questions and comments we receive from students are often relevant to the entire class. Therefore, we frequently use email as a means of distributing pertinent project information to all of you. It is your responsibility to check email often to obtain this information.


This is an interdisciplinary project. Therefore, we encourage you to utilize the diverse strengths of your team, and those of the entire class. Building on differences in approaches often leads to rich concepts. Also, much of your professional career will require you to work effectively with a range of people. Take advantage of this opportunity to improve your collaboration skills. Recognize and appreciate your strengths and weaknesses and those of your peers.

Professional Conduct and Attitude

Over the past four years you have all done a wonderful job of creating a community of practice with your classmates and teachers, based on relationships of mutual trust and respect. We hope that you will continue working in this manner, fostering your professional development and ending your undergraduate education on a high note. Please approach us if you have any concerns, problems, or questions. You may also contact us for a meeting outside of scheduled studio hours. We don’t mind putting in the extra time, and we expect that you won’t either, as long as it doesn’t conflict with anyone’s other scheduled courses or meetings. We are committed to offering you a good educational opportunity and look forward to working with you this semester!


You will receive a mid-term and final grade for the course based on the following criteria (each counting 33%). Given the self-directed focus of this class, you will weigh in on these expectations for evaluation as well.

Design Process: breadth and depth of idea generation and exploration, evaluation of ideas, and development and refinement of a selected idea

Your Work: quality, relevance, and innovation of your final pieces, clarity and completeness of documentation, craftsmanship employed, verbal presentation of your work, and evidence of understanding of the key points in the project

Your Participation: articulation of ideas, contribution of constructive criticism, value and frequency of comments given, and complete a fair share of the project, attention to class activities, attendance, and meeting of deadlines, and commitment to your work. If at any point you’d like feedback on your performance don’t hesitate to contact us.

Vice Provost for Faculty, Carnegie Mellon University. Author of Architectural Intelligence (MIT Press 2017). Girlwonder.