Beyond Design Thinking (NWMEDIA 198) Syllabus

M 5-7pm, Moffitt 340

Course Description

This decal will question the relationship between technology, design, and our inherited value systems. We will use design as a critical lens to understand current technological developments and how they embody our values and beliefs. Topics want to cover are critical theory, science and technology studies, design ethics, postcolonial design, and speculative design.

Course Philosophy

  • “We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities."          — Pope Francis

More than ever, we must ask ourselves: what are the limits of technology, and who is responsible for technology? At what points do technologies fail those for whom it is intended to support, and what does it mean when this happens? And the question perhaps closest to us — as designers and technologists, creators and future leaders of Silicon Valley, what is our role? Are we complicit in the creation of destructive technologies, whether intentionally or not? 

By traversing speculative design, STS, and critical theory, we seek to create a space of open dialogue, to reflect on and critique our commitments and impacts as designers and technologists. We hope that students will walk away with a new perspective on how the objects they use in daily life and their entire environment is designed and constructed, and how those design choices are justified or not.


Tonya Nguyen,
Lian Song,
Kevin Pham,
Marissa Wu,
(Note: please direct non-urgent course-related emails to


  • Weekly bCourses reflection (~200 words) responding to all readings of that week, and posing discussion questions based on the reading onto this doc.
  • Late Assignment Policy: Late assignments will be docked 10% for each day they are late. 

Final Project

Students will be expected to respond to the following prompt:

Choose any real-world object/space and analyze its design through the theories we’ve discussed in class so far. How does this item support or subvert stereotypes? How does its design serve its intended function? How could this object/space be reimagined? 

[Extra Credit] Redesign this object/space in response to your analysis above.

Your analysis is expected to be 3-4 pages long, double-spaced, 12 pt. font. You may use any medium for your redesign as long as you can describe it in depth or attach a photo or video of it. Be prepared to present your project in a 3-5 minute presentation on the final day of class. Due 5/6 by 5pm.

Class Management Policies

  1. Office Hours are by appointment.
  1. Anonymous Course Feedback Form — we would love to hear from you!
  1. Technology (laptops, phones) allowed if related to course material, but be respectful.
  1. We follow the Berkeley Honor Code for academic honesty.
  1. In order to pass the course, no more than two absences (excused or unexcused) are permitted.
  1. If you require DSP accommodations for the assignments, please contact the facilitators.

Grading Policy

Students will receive 2 units of pass/no pass academic credit upon successful completion of this course. To earn a passing grade, students are required to earn above a total of 70% in the weighted categories below, with no more than two absences.

Discussion: 20% (66)
Attendance: 20% (66)
Homework and In-Class Design Exercises: 30% (100)
Final Project: 30% (100 pts, +20 extra possible)
Total: 332 (extra credit ~6%)