COMD-400-F001 Course Outline

Course Content

All three disciplines will be working to a common macro schedule of one final project taking place over 3/4 of a year with the remaining 1/4 focusing on the grad show. This opens up the possibility of collaborative projects in cases where deemed appropriate. The following are shared benchmark dates in the first semester:

  • Week 1: Your 2 project ideas presented to your instructor
  • Week 2: Single idea presented to all section students - collaboration opportunity
  • Week 3: Submit Project Proposal document
  • Weeks 7-8: Mid-term one-to-one review
  • Week 12: Design mockup and process book due
  • Week 14: Final Presentations

This semester is the first of two that support the design of a project (or multiple projects thematically tied) to a high degree of detail resolution and design development. The first semester is devoted to a rapid cycle of research, proposal and brief writing, iteration and prototyping. In the second semester, students will take their projects through user testing, a refinement, detailing for production, and the creation of presentation and promotional materials. Students considering multiple projects under one thematic umbrella will need to consider revising this described process to ensure it is appropriate to your stated goals. Your undergraduate thesis is a process of looking at your research question (and sub-questions) self-critically while cultivating methods of using visual, written and verbal language to make the concepts in your work clear and coherent to your intended audience. Your thesis is a body of work in visual form that is supported by written documentation (such as proposals and process documents) and involves secondary research and, in some cases, primary research as well.
A great thesis is...
Innovative and relevant to design scholarship and practice. It is critical, focused on expanding or altering the field. It's informed by precedent and, where appropriate, consideration of disciplinary influences such as cultural anthropology, the behavioural and organizational sciences, the humanities, economic theory and sustainability. It's also articulate in all its visual, verbal and written forms. Finally it should be expansive enough to warrant substantial investigation and development yet not so broad that you cannot be engaged with your topic in a meaningful way.

Course Learning Outcomes

As a result of successfully completing this course, students will be able to demonstrate the following skills and abilities.

  • Research
  • The ability to conduct research that exhibits scope and depth: to use multiple sources, both primary and secondary and to analyze these sources to redefine thesis statements and suggest avenues for project development
  • The ability to describe and respond to audiences and contexts in need of design solutions, including recognition of the physical, cognitive, cultural and social human factors that shape design decisions
  • The ability to place works of design in historical, cultural and formal contexts
  • The ability to formulate design proposals and briefs, document process, and communicate research findings through means such as writing, bibliographies, summaries of readings, drawings, storyboards, flow charts, etc.; and using appropriate citation formats Understanding of, and experience in thinking about morals and ethics and the ability to engage in human participant research ethically
  • Conceptual Development
  • The ability to plan, analyze, create and evaluate visual solutions to communication problems for specific audiences
  • The ability to demonstrate understanding of the vocabulary of design and the interaction of design elements in terms of cultural, sustainable and formal analysis.
  • The ability to take risks and create imaginative visual form that informs, educates, entertains or persuades and to better understand the value of creative experimentation in design
  • The ability to apply research findings to the generation of concepts that are diverse and fertile, offering the potential for further development and implementation
  • The ability to select, manage and deploy software and digital technologies effectively
  • The ability to articulate the problem space in terms of collaboration and community, systems thinking, energy usage and sustainability
  • The ability to understand the roles of various tools and technologies in the creation, reproduction, and distribution of visual messages
  • The ability to think, speak, and write clearly and effectively, and to communicate with precision, cogency, and rhetorical force
  • Visualization and Ideation
  • The ability to create and develop visual response to communication problems, including understanding of hierarchy, typography, aesthetics, composition and construction of meaningful images
  • The ability to solve communication problems including identifying the problem, researching, analysis, solution generating, prototyping, user testing and outcome evaluation
  • The ability to experiment, think divergently, and take risks in the open-ended search for new ways of expressing ideas visually. The ability to demonstrate an understanding of how systems behave, and how to contribute to sustainable products, strategies and practices
  • Presentation
  • The ability to use tools and techniques fluently in order to communicate design concepts and user interactions
  • The ability to showcase the design process and design findings for the degree exhibit
  • The ability to structure presentations that demonstrate aesthetic quality, clarity (oral, visual and written), and technical competence; the ability to defend creative decisions and respond constructively to feedback
  • Project Management
  • The ability to apply basic professional practices, including time management, punctuality and consistent attendance, class participation, resourcefulness, ethical behaviour, and realistic self-assessment
  • The ability to lead and to demonstrate team-building skills when working with peers and colleagues on collaborative design projects
  • The capacity to explain and defend views effectively and rationally
  • Professionally present their learning to peers, faculty and review committee

Instructional Methods

Instructional methods for teaching this course may include faculty-led seminars, presentations, discussions, demonstrations, reviews, tutorials, in class studio work on projects and exercises, and student presentations and critiques.

Resource Materials

Reference materials, supplies and equipment will vary with each project. Students are advised that if their projects demand specialized technical resources, they should make certain that the University can accommodate their needs for the dates and times necessary. Students are required to ensure compatibility of personal equipment and software with that of the University.

Evaluation Critera

  • Participation 10%
  • Design Proposal (Weeks 1-3)20%
  • Mid-term Review (Weeks 7-8)20%
  • Final Design or Mockup + Interim Process Book (Week 12) 30%
  • Final Presentation (Week 14)20%
  • Total100%


Course Schedule

  • Week 1: Sept 13th: Thesis Project Ideas

    One-on-one meetings to discuss your thesis project ideas. Prepare a 11 by 17 poster for the chosen idea for week 2.
  • Week 2: Sept. 20

    Sharing ideas with the class and across sections: Bring your poster to class first thing in the morning to pin to the wall. Prepare a 5-minute overview of your idea for week 3.A.M. Share ideas with the rest of the class P.M. Cross-section studio visits to see project idea posters in COMD, IXD and ID
    12 noon-1pm: The British Invasion! Guest speakers in the COMD studio 1pm- 3:20 Cross-section studio visits to see project idea posters in COMD and IXD
  • Week 3: Sept. 27th: Short Presentations
    Phase One Ends
    Present informal overview of your project to the class for feedback and suggestions. Plan your participant research and ethics plan, if applicable. Project Proposal Due
  • Week 04: Oct. 4th: Research Methods Discussion

    Guest: TBD
  • Week 05: Oct. 11th

    Feedback and critique on research plans, review ethics application if applicable. Small group feedback and critique.
  • Week 06: Oct. 18th

    Work in-class or in the COMD studio
  • Week 07: Oct 25th: Mid-term Meetings

    Mid-term reviews: get approval for the overall direction of your project before moving into early design phase. Formulate a clear work plan for the weeks ahead. These are scheduled 1 to 1 meetings.
  • Week 08: Nov. 1st: Mid-term Meetings continued
  • Week 09: Nov. 8th

    Work in-class or in the COMD studio
  • Week 10: Nov. 15th

    Work in-class or in the COMD studio
  • Week 11: Nov. 22nd

    Work in-class or in the COMD studio
  • Week 12: Nov. 29th: Design work and process book are due

    Design work critique in class
  • Week 13: Dec. 6th

    Review and Assessment Week
  • Week 14: Dec. 13th: Final Presentations

    All 4th year presentations are scheduled between December 12th and the 14th. Attendance and participation mandatory.