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Project Component I - Group Formation and Topic Definition

Group Formation

The project is to be completed in teams of three. The idea here is to work as a group to generate a wide breadth of alternate and varied design ideas -- just as you would in the real world.

Here are Randy Pausch's Rules for Working in Teams. I cannot emphasize this enough: those tips are probably some of the most important lessons you will get from this class.


Your team needs a binder to hand in the deliverables for each part of the project. The idea is to compile all your project material in one place so it will be easier and faster for the instructor to mark in the end.

Defining the Project

Standing in line is boring and frustrating. On many occasions in our life we have no choice but to stand in lines to accomplish a task, be in buying groceries, applying for a passport, accessing a museum, etc. The goal of the project is to figure out how to improve the experience of standing in line (any kind of line) with an app and a device of your choice (large display, watch, phone, ...). Your ultimate goal is to build a low-fidelity prototype for this app and demo it to the class.


In class we will start with some brainstorming activities. Follow them and submit your list of situations where people stand in line. Pick your favorite situation and list 5 assumptions you have about the people standing in the respective line (e.g. who are they, what devices would they have access to, what is their experience, ...).


Go out to observe people standing in a line at the situation you picked. E.g. if you picked a grocery store line go to look at one, if you picked tourist attraction go to a place that has a line, ... Watch people standing in line and report at least 10 different observations you made about how different people pass the time waiting in line.

Next choose two people who are not similar to yourself in some way (for example, they are studying different discipline, working a different type of job, have a different family situation). Ask them to participate in this assignment and get permission to observe and interview them. Tell the participants to stand in line as realistically as possible - that is, they should do what they feel like to pass the time (don't pick a line that is too short so you can collect observations). Participants should communicate with you as appropriate. While the participants are standing in line, observe them closely. During the observation, in addition to taking notes, use digital photographs or sketches to document activities participants engage in to improve their experience of standing in line. Do not use a video camera. This is because your choice of moments to capture with a photograph or sketch is what is important. After the observations, spend 10 to 15 minutes interviewing your participants about the activity you observed. It should take you approximately 1.5 hours total to make two observations if you have planned carefully. It will take longer if you haven’t!

Your Deliverables

  • Get a binder. In the binder put in the following order:
    • A piece of paper with the names and email addresses of all group members
    • A grading sheet: Download and print the grading sheet here
    • page 1: a list of 10 situations in which people stand in line. Describe the situation in a headline manner involving where and why people wait, e.g. "a supermarket checkout line where people wait to pay"
    • page 2: pick your favorite situation and list 5 assumptions you have about the people standing in the respective line (e.g. who are they, what devices would they have access to, what is their experience, ...).
    • page 3: list the place you chose to observe as well as the time of your observation. Add a picture of you and your teammates in front of the line you observed (selfie-quality from cell phone is sufficient).
    • page 4: list 10 observations you made about how people pass the time standing in line, bonus points for pictures taken of people's activities
    • page 5,6: A captioned photograph you took with date/time/place information or sketch from each person you observed. Describe how you chose the person you observed. The caption should explain what is happening in this situation. The photo and caption should capture a particularly interesting moment/breakdown/work-around from the observation that offers a design opportunity. (You should have a total of 2 photos with corresponding captions for each).

Handing-in Instructions

The binder is to be handed in at the beginning of the tutorial on March 1st.

Late Policy

For project deliverables we will deduct 10% for each day (including weekends) the deliverable is late.

Plagiarism Policy

Deliverables should consist primarily of your original work, building off of others' work--including 3rd party libraries, public source code examples, and design ideas--is acceptable and in most cases encouraged. However, failure to cite such sources will result in score deductions proportional to the severity of the oversight.


  • Q: Can I get an extension because I couldn't observe my "line" last weekend?
  • A: No you cannot - this is a four week assignment and you had plenty of time for your observations. Remember what I told you about planning this ahead of time?
  • Q: I don't have a group, what should I do?
  • A: You should have emailed everyone on this list to find a group - OR you should have emailed me a long time ago to help you find a group. In rare exceptions I will allow people to do the assignment alone or in groups of two but everyone else should be in a group of three people.
  • Q: I joined a group of three, is that ok?
  • A: No it is not. The ideal group size for this assignment is three, not four or any other number. If you have made a group of four without telling me I am going to deduct points from your assignment since a group of four should be able to accomplish more than required of a group of three or less.
  • Q: Is it ok to send you an email addressed "Dear Madam" ?
  • A: No, in the English speaking world this is considered impolite and it makes you sound quite uneducated. You know my name, so you write either Dear Ms. Isenberg, Dear Dr. Isenberg, or Dear Professor Isenberg -- I am not particularly picky about your choice amongst these but do note that if you ever apply for an internship or a position abroad some people with a PhD will be very upset if you do not add their title in the salutation. So Dear Dr. X is the safest to use in case you know the person has a PhD/Doctorate.

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