Communication Design:

Interaction Foundations

Fall 2019

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Washington University

James Fawcett
Walker Hall 204
Abram Siemsen
Walker Hall 204

Course Description

This course is a hands-on application of interaction design for digital media (primarily browser-based). We will explore how user-interaction adds bidirectionality to communication, examine the intricacies of seemingly-simple digital interactions, and familiarize ourselves with the attributes of digital device as ‘canvas’. We will work both independently and collaboratively to design interactive solutions for a selection of communication challenges.

Our focus will be to learn by doing: first-hand experience gained while undertaking hands-on exercises and real-world projects will provide the context and framework for discussion and instruction.

Work will likely be (but not required to be) accomplished with tools and software you already have (Adobe Creative Suite) or can download and use for free (Sublime Text, FileZilla). Web browsers on desktop computers and mobile devices will also be used extensively.

Course Goals

  1. Learn to make things. Develop the self-knowledge, conceptual and visual methodologies, and technical proficiency necessary to conceive, plan and execute screen-based interactive design projects.
  2. Be able to collaborate effectively. Understand the vocabularies, applications, and production environments associated with interactive design in order to effectively collaborate with people in related disciplines (creative directors, writers, web-developers, programmers, etc.)
  3. Build your portfolio. Produce work that demonstrates successful and effective application of interactive design to accomplish specific communication objectives.

Required Materials

Students will be required to bring their laptop to class each day.

Course Fees

There are no course fees. All assignments will be turned in digitally.

Daily Work/Homework

There will be multiple assignments each week. Some will be completed and turned in during class, some will be due the following week. Assignments are due at 5:00pm on the date specified, whether or not you are in class. Late work will adversely affect your final grade.


All assignments will be posted this website.

Class Participation

Class time will be divided between discussions, instruction, group exercises, critiques and studio time. Expect to spend time outside of class on self-instruction, research, and assignment/lab work in order to be prepared for each classroom session.

Semester Reviews

All BFA Communication Design students, beginning with the spring semester of sophomore year will be scheduled for an end-of-semester faculty review directly following the final week of classes. All BFA juniors and seniors in Studio Art will be scheduled for an end-of-semester faculty review directly following the final week of classes. Please note: reviews are optional for students in the BA and Second Major tracks and will be scheduled by request only. If a review is desired, students must notify Kim McCabe ( no later than the midterm mark of the semester. Students must be in two studio courses to be eligible for faculty review

Grading Approach

The factors that will determine your grade are: overall investment, homework, design decision-making, technical proficiency, and attendance. Grades for the first half of the semester will rely heavily on participation and completion of assigned work. The second half of the semester will more heavily factor in your design and technical skills.

Grades will be based on the following:

  1. Superior grasp and application of concepts; high level of exploration, thoughtful presentation of ideas, control and understanding of craft, timely completion of all projects. Serious and consistent effort, commitment, and participation.
  2. Strong grasp and application of concepts; good quality work that meets and often exceeds the basic criteria of assignment; good effort and participation, evidence of growth.
  3. Average comprehension of basic coursework and application of concepts, average level of investigation or initiative; some technical problems or trouble with craft; occasional participation.
  4. Evidence that concepts are not understood and/or not being applied; poor quality work, course or projects criteria is not fulfilled, weak effort or level of investigation; little or no participation; attendance problems.
  1. Failing, not acceptable for progress in curriculum, unacceptable deficiencies in process or final product.

Course-Specific Support or Supplementary Instruction

Lab sessions occur weekly on Monday evenings from 6:00pm to 9:00pm in Steinberg 213. Lab sessions are optional, but will serve as your primary opportunity to receive feedback to work and answers to questions, so attendance is highly encouraged. Monday evening lab sessions serve as our office hours, so if you would like to meet with one of the instructors to review work or ask question, attend the available lab sessions.

Course Policies and Information for Students


The best learning environment––whether in the classroom, studio, laboratory, or fieldwork site––is one in which all members feel respected while being productively challenged. At Washington University in St. Louis, we are dedicated to fostering an inclusive atmosphere, in which all participants can contribute, explore, and challenge their own ideas as well as those of others. Every participant has an active responsibility to foster a climate of intellectual stimulation, openness, and respect for diverse perspectives, questions, personal backgrounds, abilities, and experiences, although instructors bear primary responsibility for its maintenance.

A range of resources is available to those who perceive a learning environment as lacking inclusivity, as defined in the preceding paragraph. If possible, we encourage students to speak directly with their instructor about any suggestions or concerns they have regarding a particular instructional space or situation. Alternatively, students may bring concerns to another trusted advisor or administrator (such as an academic advisor, mentor, department chair, or dean). All classroom participants––including faculty, staff, and students––who observe a bias incident affecting a student may also file a report (whether personally or anonymously) utilizing the online Bias Report and Support System


Attendance is mandatory and will be documented for all course meetings. Sam Fox students are expected to arrive ready to participate and be fully engaged in the day’s coursework during the entire scheduled class period. Participation in major critiques and reviews by all students is essential to the development of all of students. Failure to do so will have an impact on your final grade. Following university policy, class will begin promptly with the start time listed in the undergraduate bulletin.

Attendance to class sessions is mandatory. Lab sessions are optional, but will serve as your primary opportunity to receive feedback to work and answers to questions, so attendance is highly encouraged.

We prefer not to be the arbiters of what constitutes a legitimate 'excuse' for missing class. Your priorities are yours to determine, and the consequences are yours to manage. We therefore make no distinction between excused and unexcused absences, and our policy is that every absence has an adverse impact. The size of that impact, however, is controlled by you. You have the ability to mitigate an absence by planning ahead, working with peers, coming to lab, doing excellent work, and delivering it on time.

Absences will negatively affect your final grade, as will tardiness. You are tardy if you are not present when attendance is called at the beginning of the class session. Be on time to each class and stay until class is dismissed, even if class is occurring at your studio desk. If you have a schedule conflict, making prior arrangements with the instructor is advised, but does not exempt you from the responsibility of completing any work that occurred in or out of class, nor does it change the adverse grade impact.

In situations of emergency or extreme illness, contact Georgia Binnington and she will let all of your instructors know. Circumstances of severe illness or other emergencies will be handled on an individual basis.


Work and assignments turned in late may receive partial credit.

    Due to the large class size and limited time, traditional critiques in class will be limited. Lab sessions will serve as the primary time for hearing feedback from your instructors.



The Sam Fox School aims to provide each student with a fair assessment of their academic work and studio. Students have the right to dispute their overall course grade (not individual assignments) if they believe that grade does not accurately reflect the quality of their work. A grade dispute must be submitted to the faculty member who assigned the grade within 30 days of receipt of the grade. The School stresses that every effort to resolve this dispute be made by the faculty and student involved. A student’s eligibility for advancement in sequential coursework requires timely resolution of the grade dispute. For more information visit



The Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Art recognizes the individual student’s choice in observing religious holidays that occur during periods when classes are scheduled. Students are encouraged to arrange with their instructors to make up work missed as a result of religious observance, and instructors are asked to make every reasonable effort to accommodate such requests.


Computers or other electronic devices, including “smart pens” (devices with an embedded computer and digital audio recorder that records the classroom lecture/discussion and links that recording to the notes taken by the student), may be used by students at the discretion of the faculty member to support the learning activities in the classroom. These activities include taking notes and accessing course readings under discussion. If a student wishes to use a smart-pen or other electronic device to audio record lectures or class discussions, they must notify the instructor in advance of doing so. Permission to use recording devices is at the discretion of the instructor, unless this use is an accommodation approved by Disability Resources.

Nonacademic use of laptops and other devices and use of laptops or other devices for other coursework is distracting and seriously disrupts the learning process for other people in the classroom. Neither computers nor other electronic devices are to be used in the classroom during class for nonacademic reasons or for work on other coursework. Nonacademic use includes emailing, texting, social networking, playing games, instant messaging, and use of the Internet. Work on other coursework may include, but is not limited to, use of the Internet, writing papers, using statistical software, analyzing data, and working on quizzes or exams. The nonacademic use of cell phones during class time is prohibited, and they should be set on silent before class begins. In the case of an emergency, please step out of the room to take the call. The instructor has the right to hold students accountable for meeting these expectations, and failure to do so may result in a loss of participation or attendance points, a loss of the privilege of device use in the classroom, or being asked to leave the classroom.

The Sam Fox School Information Technology Infrastructure has many services for your benefit. Visit for more information.


James Fawcett and Abram Siemsen have non-exclusive right to reproduce and distribute work produced in this class as part of a publication or body of work, which may include products from this course or other works. Students retain ownership of all rights held under copyright. This permission is revocable for 3 months following the conclusion of this course via notification in writing to James Fawcett and Abram Siemsen.


Ethical behavior is an essential component of learning and scholarship. Students are expected to understand, and adhere to, the University’s academic integrity policy: Students who violate this policy will be referred to the Academic Integrity Policy Committee. Penalties for violating the policy will be determined by the Academic Integrity Policy committee, and can include failure of the assignment, failure of the course, suspension or expulsion from the University. Additionally, students should If you have any doubts about what constitutes a violation of the Academic Integrity policy, or any other issue related to academic integrity, please ask the instructor.

Learning through examination of other people's work (peers, online references, viewing source code, etc.) is an expected and welcome part of the educational process, particularly in the web-development community, which tends to recognize the benefit of sharing. Recognizing this does not excuse the outright copying of anybody's work and claiming it as your own, or circumnavigating the learning process by simply dropping somebody else's work in 'under the hood.' Expect dire consequences from such behavior.

There are many free resources available to us, such as open-source code libraries and web-fonts. Use of these resources is often appropriate, but steer clear of digital assets which are not intended for unlicensed use. Easy-to-get does not mean ethical or legal to use. Cite references, provide links to sources, and clearly delineate what is your work and what isn't. This is particularly easy in a digital environment, where links and references can be written directly into your code as comments.


If English language proficiency is such that the student may need special assistance in lectures, reading, written assignments, and/or exam taking, please communicate these needs to the instructor who may refer the student to the English Language Program (ELP). ELP is a University-wide resource that provides classes and academic English language support designed to increase non-native English speaking students' English language proficiency and to facilitate their academic success at Washington University. Other Academic Assistance resources are available through the Office for International Students and Scholars.

Resources for Students

For information on all available student resources, including disability accommodations, campus safety, mental health resources, writing assistance, grievance procedures, and much more, please go to


The instructor reserves the right to make modifications to this information throughout the semester.