Udacity design course emphasizes design for everyone

Understanding what constitutes good design isn’t just important for technology startups and enterprise companies  — it’s important for the rest of us, too. Design — both good and bad– is a larger part of our daily lives than you might think, from the apps we use for banking and buying to the considerations we make when presenting information to colleagues or inviting them over for dinner.

With that in mind, Udacity is hosting a free online course called The Design of Everyday Things this fall to teach people to critique design and learn how it affects them. While designers are likely to take the course, it’s open to those with no design experience whatsoever.

Kritsian, Don and Chelsey Glasson at IDEO with Tim Brown. We feature interviews with Tim and other IDEO designers in the course.

(L to R:) Don Norman, IDEO CEO Tim Brown, Kritsian Simsarian and Chelsey Glasson standing in front of IDEO, which is included in a course interview.

“Everyone makes design decisions in their lives, whether or not they have the word design in their title,” said Chelsey Glasson, the course developer.

Already 25,000 people have signed up for the course, which is made up of, for now, four mini courses on design fundamentals, interaction, real-world design and human error.  They will involve lectures, design exercises and discussions with design leaders. (We’ll cover the intersection of design and experience at length at Roadmap in November in San Francisco.)

The course is led by California College of the Arts Interaction Design program founder Kristian Simsarian as well as cognitive scientist and former Apple User Experience Architect Don Norman. The course coincides with an updated edition of Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things, which has been a staple design text since it was first released in 1988 and from which the course takes its name.

Don interviewing Bruce "Tog" Tagnazzini at his home about design concepts taught in Course 1.

Norman interviewing Bruce “Tog” Tagnazzini at his home about design concepts taught in Course 1.

Glasson, who is also lead user experience researcher at Udacity and associate managing editor of User Experience (UX) magazine, sees the course not only as a way to goad people into the design field but also a way for them to better their everyday lives.

“We’re all impacted by design decisions every day of our lives, many times throughout the day,” she said. “Poor design in many of these situations could be disastrous.”

“With so many people using mobile technology, and now even wearable technology, there’s more opportunity than in the past for design decisions to help us live safer, healthier, more efficient, and even more meaningful lives,” she said.

The course began at the behest of Udacity VP of Product and Design Irene Au, formerly head of user experience at Google, who wants to start a design track at Udacity.