CS29/PBS19 Impact Design, F18

Impact Design: The psychology and design of user experiences that delight and inform.

Faculty: Thalia Wheatley and Lorie Loeb

3B - Kemeny 007

Class Website:

“People ignore design that ignores people.” Frank Chimero



Verb - please (someone) greatly. "an experience guaranteed to delight both young and old"

Noun - great pleasure. "the little girls squealed with delight"


Impact design is a recent term that refers to “design initiatives or projects intended to be evaluated according to qualitative and quantitative social and scientific metrics.” ( This innovative, project-based course is about impact- what it is, how you experience it, how you create it, how you measure it.  We focus on delight because we believe it is one of the most successful emotion to focus on to create impact. Students will learn how to combine core principles from human psychology with the tools of design to create products and user experiences that promote engagement, adoption, and learning.

Why delight? More and more attention is being paid to this emotion that, while not well-understood, appears to play an important role in learning, engagement, user experience, product adoption, business and a happy life.

In this class, small teams of students will work together to create experiences that engage and delight the user and have meaningful impact. To put this into practice, student teams will work with teens from the Hartford Autism Regional Program (HARP), designing and developing both a product and an experience that is emotionally meaningful for the HARP student. In addition, each team will create methods and metrics for measuring impact and do a presentation of their work with judges from Dartmouth and HARP.

Throughout the course you will gain knowledge about the power of impact, the definition of delight, the design process and how it is applied to building product and user experiences with a focus on creating delight, and you will have opportunities to practice creating and being delighted in order to understand and articulate why all this matters.

Along the way, the course will explore key questions, such as:

  • What makes something affecting?

  • What is the design process and how is it applied in this real-world setting to create positive impact?

  • Why are some moments meaningful and how might you create more?

  • Why and how does the brain reward anticipation?

  • What psychological principles lead to real attitude and behavioral change?

  • How can technology help create and measure delight?

  • How do businesses apply user experience design and delight, and why?


  • Term-long project with HARP

    • Meet with participant for one hour, three times, at HARP during specified times.

    • Follow HCD design process to create a product and experience for the HARP student that will create delight

    • Design and implement a way to measure impact

    • Create something to leave behind (e.g. “memory book”)

    • Presentation at end of term

  • Assignments to build personal capacity for noticing and creating impact/delight

    • Group Twitter “diary” with an average of 3 posts per week noticing delight and one noticing absence of delight

    • Readings and quiz on readings

    • Pits, Transitions, Milestone exercises (individual and group work)

    • Teams create delight experiences for the class (one per team)

    • Assignment on technology, UX, and autism

    • Assignment to Learn How to Measure Impact


15% Attendance and Participation

35% Homework assignments (twitter, delight challenge, storytelling, etc.)

40% Final Project, Presentation, Deliverable

10% Reading quizzes and class reflections

See Metrics of Success for specifics on expectations for the course

Weekly Breakdown

The class is designed with key three parts.  

  1. The first few weeks focus on introducing key concepts about impact, design, and autism that you will need for the term project with your HARP student.

  2. The second portion of the class deepens our understanding of impact, including science and applications (business and life) of delight, plus principles for building products and experiences.

  3. The last part is dedicated to measuring impact and completing your term projects.

Week One: Intro to Course, Delight and Powerful Moments

Tuesday, January 7

What is delight? Under what conditions does it happen? How do we measure it? This week we will introduce the core concepts behind this course.  Students will work on a short assignment to teach how the design process applies to creating powerful moments with positive impact.


  • Read chapter 1&2 of Power of Moments (Handout or linked HERE) before you do your assignment

  • Each of you will Identify an opportunity for delight for your assigned (Pit, Milestone, Transition) that is within scope and create a one minute pitch to present in class on Tuesday, Sept. 18

    • Be sure you can answer the question: Why is it a P, M or T worth creating a moment around?  (NO line anywhere and DO NOT come up with a solution)

    • Make a 1 minute (MAX) pitch with 1-2 slides

      • What is the opportunity - PMT?

      • Why it matters?

      • Why it is an opportunity?


Thursday, January 9

Reading reflection: Power of Moments (Chapters 1 & 2)

Pitch presentations. Short introduction to the Design Process. Begin working to build out the moment of impact/delight.


  • Reading homework: Autism research (click here) by Thursday Sept. 20

  • Build out delight experience with your team, build a prototype, test it, iterate, test again and create a video.  Due Monday, Sept. 24 in class.

    • In your team, do observation of the situation you are building a solution for, notice how it is an opportunity for a “delight” moment.

    • Brainstorm you P, M, or T solution

    • Build a prototype you can test.

    • Test it

    • Iterate in some way

    • Test again

    • Videotape the entire process and edit a three minute video showing the process and results.  Be sure to show reactions that demonstrate success...or not.

  • Twitter

Week Two: Moments of Impact, Design Process, and Intro to Autism Workshop

Monday, January 13 X-Hour

Present 3-min videos

Talk about reactions that were captured.  How do you know when you have been successful? The importance of metrics/rubric/affectiva/eye-tracking/Watson….


  • Twitter.

  • January 14

Reading reflection: Autism paper (Cognitive deficit or cognitive style? by Francesca Happe)

Guest lecture by Professor Bill Hudenko

Introduction to autism and workshop on working with autistic kids


Teams are created and participants assigned.  Students have their first observational meeting at HARP between Sept. 28 and October 3rd.

Tue. Sept. 25

Screening of “Life Animated”

Teams announced.


Week 3: Power of Observing and Documenting, More About Autism and HARP

Thurs. Sept. 27

Reading reflection: Being vs Appearing Socially Uninterested (Jaswal & Akhtar) and excerpt from The Design of Everyday Things (Don Norman)

Guest lecture by Jessica Poludi, Director of HARP

Empathy in the Design Process

Team intros and prep for first meeting with HARP student


  • Read To Siri with Love (NY Times linked article or chapter in To Siri With Love by Judith Newman) - Due Thursday, October 4th

  • Read “Sensory Perception in Autism” review paper by Caroline Robertson

  • First Meeting with HARP Participants (before October 4th)

  • Twitter

Week 4: Science of Delight and Autism

Tuesday, October  2

First Class Delight Experience


Reading reflection: Sensory Perception in Autism (Caroline Robertson)

Guest lecture by Professor Robertson (PBS) on Sensory Perception in Autism


  • First Meeting (for remaining teams) with HARP Participants by October 3rd

  • Twitter

  • Reading — To Siri with Love Essay from the NY Times (Judith Newman), Due Thursday, October 4

Thurs. Oct. 4

Reading reflection: To Siri with Love (Judith Newman)

Defining delight exercise (Wheatley)

All teams report back on first visits to HARP (informal, no slide presentations)

User experience design and tools (Loeb)


Week 5: Applying the Design Process

Tuesday, October 9

Class Delight Experience

Mind Mapping.

More on UX and Product Design applications.

Thinking ahead (presentation elements —what to keep in mind for your remaining two HARP visits)


Thursday, October 11 (Thalia away)

Reading reflection: Case studies readings

Business of delight (Case studies).

Discussion and presentation of To Siri With Love Homework  

Prep for 2nd meeting with HARP student (October 15-19)


  • Readings (Play & laughter, Dopamine & prediction error)

  • Prototyping and Prep for HARP Visit 2 (Due October 15 during X-Hour)

    • Articulate variables of what you will test with your HARP student.

    • Build 2-4 prototypes to test variables

    • Create way to collect results

  • Twitter

Week 6: Measuring Delight

2nd meeting with HARP student (October 15-19)

Monday, October 15 (X-Hour)

Prototype review with TA

Tuesday, October 16

Class Delight Experience.

Reading reflection: Science of delight readings (play & laughter, dopamine & prediction)

Guest lecture: Dr. Adrienne Wood on the science of play and laughter

Neurobiology of delight (Wheatley)


Thursday, October 18

Reading reflection: Presentation design

Presentation design:  How to make it stick

Creating rubrics and other ways to measure impact.


  • HARP Rubric

  • Twitter

  • 2nd HARP visit this week

Week 7: Building the Solution

Tuesday, October 23

Class Delight Experience.

Report Back from 2nd visit

Rubric —group work

Analyzing Results


  • Twitter

Thursday, October 25

Site visit to restaurant


  • Twitter

  • Reflection 2

Week 8: Deliver delight (Final HARP presentations between October 30 and November 9

Student teams will meet back with the participant and their caregivers to present their solution.  They will test their solution using qualitative and quantitative methods.

Tue. Oct 30

Class Delight Experience.  

Information visualization and behavior change


  • Twitter

Thursday, November 1

Social Impact (Delight at Scale)


  • Twitter

  • Presentation sketch /storyboard (peak-end, STAR, emotive story arc, clean visuals)

Week 9: Delivering Delight and Analyzing Results

Tue. Nov 6

Class Delight Experience.

Group work/ share presentation sketch with T & L


  • Twitter

Thurs. Nov 8

Broader Implications (product next steps, envisioning at scale)

Review and Reflect

Group work


  • Prepare 10-15 minute presentation on team project

    • Presentation needs to cover process, challenges, solutions, results, learnings, future work

  • Write team report (Due Tuesday, November 20)

  • Prepare a short summary of the project (process, product, and delight experience) to give to the HARP (Due Friday, November 16)

  • Choose a photo for student gift (give to Thalia by November 12)

  • Create shorter presentation and something wonderful to leave behind for the participants To be given on November 12

  • Twitter

Week Ten: Presentations

Monday, Nov. 12 (X Hour)

Final Presentations (3 groups)

With Judges

Tue. Nov Nov. 13

Final Presentations (5 groups)

With Judges

Friday, Nov 16

12:30-1:30 Celebration at HARP

What to turn in by November 20:

Slide deck

Team report

Self and Team Evaluation (Google Form)