Course Description

Through a group-centered structure students will explore, present, debate and write about human-derived systems and their relationship to urban communities. Projects will result in an understanding of system overlap through graphic explorations, sketching, mapping, and model building. Students will gain an understanding of how designers operate within and alongside systems as modern thinkers and organizers of information, people, and political media. A deeper understanding of the crossover of professional disciplines will be reached.


You must complete ENGL 100 or ENGL 110 with a “C” or better before taking this class.

Learning Objectives

This course will encourage students to think critically about the world around them. By guiding students through the observation and analysis of human-derived systems they will learn a method for identifying problems and opportunities within communities. Upon the completion of the course students will be able to employ the following methodology:

Required Texts

You will be required to read one of two books. The choice of which book is up to you and the merits of each will be discussed during class.


You will need the following supplies.

Policy on Classroom Expectations

24 hours prior to a project or exercise being due I will not answer assignment related questions via email or before/during/after class. You should not be starting an assignment 48 hours before it’s due! I will still answer assignment related questions regardless of deadline if you stop by during my office hours.

5 classes is considered a typical course load 15 credits a semester × 8 semesters = 120 credits. Each class is 4 contact hours 4 hours × 5 classes = 20 hours. Each class also has 4 hours of outside work each week 20 classroom hours + 20 outside work hours = 40 hrs). I will assign projects and readings each week to fit within that formula. If you can’t commit to a minimum of 4 hours of outside work each week you won’t do well in this course.

Finally, read the class blog carefully before asking questions. 99% of your questions have already been answered and are on the blog, including your grades and my office hours and contact info! If you email me a question that is already on the blog I’ll remind you to read the blog.

Policy on Grading

Students will receive a weekly process grade worth 66.6% of their total semester grade that will be equally weighted/evaluated on their ability to demonstrate use of the learning outcomes.

Students will receive a single grade worth 33.3% of their total course grade on their ability to successfully fulfill the Entrepreneurship learning outcome that will be assessed on the artifacts/services/prototypes they produce. Examples of this can include but are not limited to:

Points will be assigned on the degree of difficulty to complete the assignment.

The grading scale is as follows:

Policy on Late Work, Incompletes, and Make-Up

Professionalism will be stressed. Treat this class as you would a job. Late arrival to a client meeting or missed deadlines will cost you a job and your ex-employer a client. Therefore, all assignments must be completed on time, and are due at the beginning of class.

An assignment not ready for the start of class will be considered late. Assignments lose 10% each day not class period they are late. Assignments over 7 days late will be given a 0, no exceptions. Turn in your Assignments even if you aren’t finished, it’s better to turn in something. Getting partial points is better than getting a 0.

Policy on Attendance

Students must be on time to class, prepared with all the tools and materials necessary for that day’s work and have completed personal conversations so class can begin on time. If a student does not have materials to work with, or is talking away ignoring the start of class, it will be noted. Unless UMBC officially closes, there are no excused absences for weather.

You get two personal days (unexcused absences). On your third absence your final course grade will be lowered by one full letter grade. Your fourth unexcused absence will lower your final course grade by two full letter grades, meaning if you had an A, the highest grade you can receive is a C. Your fifth absence will result in a failing course grade. There are no exceptions to this policy. The only excused absences—illness or participation in UMBC organized mandatory activities—must be accompanied by a note from the UMBC Student Health Center, another health care provider, or UMBC faculty/coach.

Attendance will be taken within the first 10 minutes of class. Students who show up after attendance is taken are already marked absent. Being late disrupts the flow of class for the students who are on time if I have to stop everything to update your attendance from absent to late. To avoid disrupting the class to change your Absent to a Late you will need to use the class blog to submit a late notification. Failure to do this in a timely manner upon arrival to class will result in your late arrival remaining an absence. There are no exception to this policy. Lates will be recorded in ten minute increments. For every ten minutes you are late, you will receive one-tenth of an absence. Ten one-tenths of an absence equal one full absence.

Just as important as being on time is staying for the entire class period. By the latter half of the semester I will give open class time at the end of each period for working on class related projects. You are expected to be working during this time. Leaving early will be treated the same as a late. Two early departures from class will result in one absence.

A grade of Incomplete will only be assigned to students who currently have a passing grade of a B or higher who are unable to complete the course due to a serious illness or personal tragedy that is well documented and out of their control.

Policy on Final Exam Attendance

The final exam will be held during the final exam period posted on the UMBC website for our class. The final exam could consist of a critique, in class quiz or simply turning in assignment files. In person attendance for the final exam is mandatory. Failure to attend the final exam will result in lowering your final course grade by one letter grade.

The only excused absences—illness or participation in UMBC organized mandatory activities or a common final exam with an overlapping time—must be accompanied by a note from the UMBC Student Health Center, another health care provider, or UMBC faculty/coach.

UMBC Statement of Values for Academic Integrity

By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UMBC’s scholarly community in which everyone’s academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong. Academic misconduct could result in disciplinary action that may include, but is not limited to, suspension or dismissal. To read the full Student Academic Conduct Policy, consult UMBC policies, or the Faculty Handbook (Section 14.3). For graduate courses, see the Graduate School website.

Course Calendar

Week 01

Introduction to class and Community Observations

Weeks 02–09

Discussion of the following human made systems: Governments/Utopias, Socio-Economics, Commerce, Food, Waste, Transportation, Politics, and Media.

Weeks 10–12

Group Projects

Weeks 13–15

Individual Projects

Week 16

Final Critique

Visiting Artists and Designers: Spring 2016 Schedule

Tim Nohe: Sounding Botany Bay

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 time: 4:00–5:30pm Library and Gallery, Albin O.Kuhn : Library Gallery

Ben Marcin

March 10th, 2016 time: TBA Fine Arts Building, Room 221

Colin Ives

April 7th, 2016 time: 7:15pm Fine Arts Building, Room 107

Ram Devineni

Dresher Center Humanities Forum April 13, 2016 time: 7:00–8:30 pm Performing Arts & Humanities Building, Room 132

Film Presentation April 14th, 2016 time: 1–3:50pm Fine Arts Building, Room 221

Anything and Everything is Subject to Change and posts to the class blog supersede the syllabus!*

*The Really Big Disclaimer