Communication Design:

Interaction Foundations

Spring 2023

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Washington University

Class: Wednesday 8:30am CST/CDT
Lab: Monday 6:00pm CST/CDT

James Fawcett


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.

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 Texts, Materials, Software or Equipment

Work will likely be (but not required to be) accomplished with tools and software you already have (Adobe Creative Suite) or can download and/or use for free (VS Code, Sublime Text, GitHub). Web browsers on desktop computers will also be used extensively, and other devices as your work warrants.

You also will likely use paper to draw out conceptual sketches and generate low-fidelity wireframes, as well as to take notes. You may alternatively use tablets or other design software to sketch out your ideas. Occasionally, you will be asked to show your sketches as part of your deliverables to demonstrate your design process. These should be scanned, photographed or exported as image documents, and need not be printed. As such, printing costs should be minimal/nonexistent.

Course Fee

$0. Hurray for the cloud!

Daily Work/Homework

Class sessions: Wednesday mornings, 8:30am–11:20am CDT/CST in Walker Hall 204

Lab sessions: Monday evenings, 6:00pm–9:00pm CDT/CST

Instruction, discussion, independent exercises, and critiques will occur in class. Expect to be present for the full duration of the scheduled class session.

Homework assignments will typically be provided on Wednesdays (when class meets), and be due by 5pm the following Tuesday, in order to allow time for instructor review before the following class.

Assignments and Virtual Platforms

Assignments will be communicated to you via the class website (, and you will deliver all work by uploading to GitHub.

This class includes two major website projects, with many shorter assignments that build on each other and lead up to the larger projects.

To get credit for your work, you must follow the directions for each project/deliverable in order to successfully link your work to the class website.

Understand that your work will be public, and hosted on your own account. When the semester is over, you'll retain full control over what you've made.

Slack will be used for posting and sharing references, contributing to written discussions, and for communicating with your classmates and instructors.

You may occasionally use Figma to generate prototypes and/or use as a virtual pin-up space to post progress work.

Class Participation

Time spent as a large group (lectures, etc) will be kept at a minimum, but expect to be in class for the full schedule session. Class instruction will happen through in-person lessons and self-guided exercises. Attendance is required. Your instructor will regularly have short meetings with small groups of students during class for discussion, critique, and progress checks. You may also sometimes work in small groups independent of instructors. Like any studio class, expect to make an appreciable time commitment outside of class sessions for homework and projects.

Lab sessions are primarily intended to provide additional real-time access to the instructor for assistance and feedback related to assignments and project work. Lab sessions are optional; think of them as office hours. They are an excellent time to work through problems you've had with assignments before the assignment is due

Everyone learns more when critiques occur as a discussion rather than a one-sided evaluation. Expect not only to receive constructive feedback, but to provide it to your peers. This may occur in class discussions, one-on-one discussions with peers, or in the form of written notes.

Course Grading

You will receive feedback on the work through individual and group critiques as it is developed. Grades will not be given for individual assignments. Faculty will arrange midterm conferences if desired, and will also be available during lab sessions to discuss assignments and overall course progress as needed. At the end of the semester, you will receive a final letter grade, determined by a combination of objective and subjective factors:

Grading Philosophy

Grades will not be assigned on a curve, nor is any other particularly mathematical device applied. If you have an expectation of a strictly numbers-based grade, now is the time to let go of that expectation. We're talking about art here! At a high-level, final letter grades attempt to reflect the following standards:

  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.

If grades are important to you, be proactive about ensuring they are as you expect them to be.

Support and Supplementary Instruction

Inclusive Learning Environment Statement

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.

Anti racism, Fairness, and Diversity

The faculty in this course are committed to the ongoing work of anti-racism and we ask students to do the same. We acknowledge that designers have contributed to the creation and perpetuation of unjust systems and institutions. We also acknowledge that designers have a responsibility to shape ethical practices and be part of long-term societal change. This work takes time and sustained involvement. Let’s work together to approach new knowledge with an open mind and heart. Here are some ways that we can work in this class to dismantle white supremacy:

Financial Support

Students in need of financial support to complete the assignments for this course should visit this website to learn more about undergraduate funding opportunities:

Covid-19 Heath And Safety Protocols

Familiarize yourself with the 2022-2023 plans at and check back often to learn updates and recent changes.

Exceptions to course policies, expectations, and requirements (including attendance and assignment deadlines) because of COVID-19 diagnosis, symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or exposure to a person with a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 diagnosis that requires quarantine or isolation will be made in collaboration between the student and instructor. In these cases, please notify your instructor as soon as possible to discuss appropriate accommodations.

While on campus, it is imperative that students follow all public health guidelines established to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission within our community. The full set of University protocols can be found at

Attendance Policy

Attendance is mandatory and will be documented for all course meetings. 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. 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.

Lab sessions are optional, but serve as an excellent opportunity to receive feedback to work and answers to questions, so attendance is highly encouraged.

Absences: Your priorities are yours, and I expect you to manage them like the adults you are. As such, I don't arbitrate what constitutes an 'excused' absence. My expectation is that you keep up with scheduled course work. If circumstances dictate missing a session or an assignment deadline, the severity of that impact is largely controlled by you, and how well you make accommodations — making a plan ahead of time, getting assignments from peers, getting caught-up on work, etc. I am happy to help you plan these accommodations ahead of time in order to minimize adverse impact. Racking up multiple absences will impact the evaluation of your investment in the course. Missing class sessions is also a disservice to yourself and your peers, as this time is largely dedicated to reviewing student work.

Emergencies and Severe Illness: In situations of emergency or extreme illness, please 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. Should you become ill with the COVID-19 virus, informing Georgia is an appropriate course of action. While we hope very much that none of us find ourselves dealing with Covid or any other serious health issue, we will certainly make accommodations as needed should that occur.

Late Work: All deliverables are due at 5pm CDT/CST on the date specified, whether or not you are in class. Late work will adversely affect your final grade.


The instructors reserve the right to make modifications to this information throughout the semester.

Standard Policies for Sam Fox Classes

Please review these standardized course policies for classes throughout the Sam Fox school.