Course Descriptions

Product Design

PRD 101 Introduction to Product Design

Who designs the items we interact with daily: cell phones, athletic shoes, chairs, computers, cars, bikes, headphones, mobile devices, space ship interiors, and even can openers? Product designers are responsible for many of the most exciting products in the world today -- products that transcend the sometimes mundane nature of their use. The best new designs incorporate not just beauty and utility but also a deep understanding of the user experience. They integrate sustainable design by minimizing their ecological footprint and maximizing energy and resource efficiency. In this hands-on studio, students learn and apply the fundamentals of the product design process: defining needs, sketching ideas, making physical models, and creating working prototypes that communicate their concepts with power, grace, and confidence.

Undergraduates only

PRD 201 Design Studio 1: Fundamentals

In the first studio course of the program, students learn the fundamentals of the design process and how it differentiates from other creative and artistic processes. The focus is on creating ideas, generating prototypes, and ultimately, understanding how to turn them into products. The essential elements of the design process - ideation (finding connections); conceptualization (sketching, sketch modeling); and prototyping (modeling for testing concepts) - are unpacked and experienced through a series of exercises that expand the students’ 2D and 3D skills in preparation for future studios.

PRD 202 Design Studio: Material & Prod

Building on the principles learned in the previous design studio, this course brings to discussion the material aspects of product design. Through a series of design exercises, students learn how objects and products are made, assembled, and produced, and the reasons behind evident and hidden material choices. They investigate the physical complexity of existing products by disassembling and re-assembling them to understand the relationships of parts to whole, etc. They experience the range of model-making and the various types of models available to designers, from quick sketch mock-ups to working prototypes, to high-quality look-like models, etc. The goal of this studio to help students achieve fluency in the use of mechanical machines and tools.

PRD 211 Material Matters

This studio focuses on how the environmental challenges of our time condition the work of product designers. Questions about the need for a sustainable mindset in design and manufacturing, human ecology, or social change, are brought to the table to help students develop individual perspectives on design committed to responsible materiality, user sensitivity, and social awareness. From that point of departure, this course reviews the basic categories of materials, their properties, and applications in product design, with a focus on functionality, efficiency, performance, and environmental awareness.

PRD 212 Universal Design

This introductory studio to human factors gives students the operational knowledge of the physical, psychological, and behavioral aspects of human interactions with their environment that will help them design new objects and products. Participants learn to be sensitive to how the objects they design complement the strengths and abilities of people who use them, and minimize the effects of their limitations. Built on a number of exercises focusing on universal design, accessibility, and inclusive design, this course explores how design must serve the needs of users of all kinds.

PRD 223 Design for a Circular Economy

The development of a new circular economy requires designers to take on new roles, develop new skills, and build new systems. This course explores what makes an economy linear or circular and how these models have evolved through human history. Students learn about cutting edge and traditional approaches to material use and reuse, and consumer trends. The course culminates in students envisioning and proposing circular systems of product design, production, use, and reuse. This course utilizes the frameworks created by the Fab City Challenge and Global Initiative to "[C]reate cities that produce everything they consume by 2054" and The Ellen MacArthur Foundation's Circular Design Guide.

PRD 301 Design Lab I

Focused on users; students respond to a project brief developed by an external partner in conjunction with their studio instructor. Potential partners include companies, non-profit organizations, research institutions, government agencies, etc. In addition to the design work of addressing the given project brief, students interact with the studio partner and target user groups as they develop their proposals. Critical feedback and field research are essential components of this course, in which students learn how real organizations respond to their everyday challenges through design.

Prerequisite: PRD 202, or permission of instructor

PRD 302 Design Lab II

As a sequel to Design Lab I, Design Lab II focuses on products emerging from entrepreneurial environments and venues, the startup world, maker communities, etc. Students are assigned to interdisciplinary teams that simulate the operational reality of micro or small enterprises. They participate in the design and development of disruptive products that respond to new market and social opportunities. Baltimore's incipient maker community is a key component of this course, as issues such as small-run production, customized fabrication, team design and dynamics, or digital output manufacturing, take center stage.

Prerequisite: FF 130 (or FF 130A/B)

PRD 303 Collaboration + Furniture

Designing a piece of furniture is like designing hundreds of products at once. They are complex devices, meant to make our lives more comfortable and productive. The intersection of the human body and the surfaces it rests itself on, or support itself by, invite a myriad of solutions, materials, and processes. Working with an external industry partner this course introduces students to the art and process of designing and making prototypes that are tested and revised using thoughtful design processes and iterative approaches. A focus from conceptual to mass production may be employed. Material and processes foci is defined by the industry partner(s) and can range from metals to woods to composites to natural materials in small to large quantities.

PRD 311 User-Centered Design Workshop

This is a pivotal course in the program as its main driver is to raise awareness of the value of understanding users in the product design process. Some specific aspects of this course include the engagement with, and study of, different users; the creation of fictional personas that shed light into product usability; and the introduction of ethnographic research methods. Students learn the value of early user focus leading to empirical measurement and testing of product usage in relation to the four stages of the user-centered d21esign process: analysis, design, evaluation, and implementation. Additionally, students experiment with how to apply user research to the different phases of the design process leading to the creation of innovative products.

Prerequisite: PRD 212, or permission of instructor

PRD 312 Entrepreneurship Workshop

The links between design and entrepreneurship are the focus of this workshop, in which students learn key aspects of self-generated businesses enterprises that permeate the spirit of innovation and start-up mentality. By participating in a team project that spans the semester and brings to focus the entrepreneurial process and its social and economic dimensions, students are exposed to the different types of entrepreneurial ventures -small-business venues, innovation clusters, social entrepreneurship, etc.-and review the bases of the entrepreneurial culture including mentorship, networking, risk-tasking, etc.

PRD 321 Design Studio 3: Communication

This processes and methods of communicating design intentions and engaging different audiences are the central focus of this class. Students explore a number of non-digital and digital tools and platforms, including product photography, writing, portfolio development, social networks, and web design. The emphasis is on finding clarity in presenting individual work in different media, and being sensitive to the possibilities and limitations of both digital and non-digital platforms. Recommended for students of all disciplines.

PRD 401 Design Lab III

The final studio in the Design Lab sequence is at the intersection of market and social systems. Students respond to a given challenge that is strongly dependent upon defining the right context for the design of innovative products. This context is the broadest possible: one of systems and flows that operates invisibly to bring impactful products to mass markets at the global level. The expertise that the sponsoring partner brings to this class is fundamental in helping students understand how to respond to the challenge at hand and develop a working understanding of the role of the product designer in systems-driven, market ecosystems.

Prerequisite: PRD 302, Graduate student standing, or permission of instructor

PRD 411 Social Innovation Workshop

With a clear focus on social change toward sustainability, this studio brings to the students' attention the new design paradigms resulting from incipient social experiments in collective participation, collective behaviors, sharing frameworks, and anew forms of interacting with people. There is a global culture that generates activities which are intrinsically appealing to more people and often attached to the physical proximity and community interactions that cities offer. In this class, the experience of co-producing something tangible as part of a group of equal peers intersects with Baltimore's social challenges in establishing an overview of the links between the city's pressing social needs and the objects, services, interactions, and behaviors necessary to address them through design.

PRD 451 Thesis Seminar: Megatrends

The Thesis Seminar is a space where thesis students find their voice and develop original research to fuel their individual investigations. It is a forum for discussion and co-creation that informs individual and collective thinking. It helps students frame their problems and define the conceptual underpinnings of their thesis work. The seminar has a megatrend component that relates to collective ambitions and collective behavior of different kinds, visible across the board and across countries. This component of looking out complements the inward-looking Thesis Seminar as students identify and become familiar with the most current thinking defining the individual and collective behavior of our time and learn how to incorporate it to their thesis investigations.

Prerequisite: PRD 302

PRD 452 Thesis Studio

The Thesis Studio is the culmination of the BFA program and a requirement for graduation. Each student works with a departmental advisor and a number of in-house or external advisors to develop a project resulting from a self-generated investigation. Results are broad and far ranging, from products to furniture, services, culture-driven explorations, products for social impact, etc. The onus of defining and managing the process is on students. The thesis project is an independent endeavor to demonstrate that students have acquired the fluency necessary to join the professional world of product design. Like previous studios, the Thesis Studio is allotted 3 credits, although it is highly personalized and has a greater flexibility of schedules and methodologies.

Prerequisite: PRD 401