University of Technology Sydney

89111 Interactivation Studio: Autumn

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Design, Architecture and Building: Design
Credit points: 12 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks

There are course requisites for this subject. See access conditions.


This studio is dedicated to the relationship between people and technology, in particular the design of interfaces connecting technological environments with their inhabitants. Interactivation is a design approach to creating distributed interfaces which enable better designed interactions in electronic ecosystems. This involves interactions in ecologies, from the intimate (on and around the body) to the spatial (rooms and buildings), to the urban/landscape scale and beyond. Examples of such intimate interfaces are phones and other objects, wearable interfaces and interactive jewellery. The spatial scale is concerned with interactive spaces (indoor parameters such as light, temperature and data flow) and buildings (interactive architectures), while the urban scale can be, for instance, interactive facades and long-range spatial information radiation including the natural landscape.

This subject covers a broad field of design and study involving a variety of disciplines. Students gain and develop knowledge and insights in human factors, engineering, art and design. The subject guides individual and group development of a new type of designer who is equally confident in understanding and applying technology, human factors and artistic–conceptual thinking. The outcomes of this process involving research and design are presented in the studio in the forms of working demonstrators, interactive presentations and reflective writing.

Students are given a tailored project (1, 2 or 3 based on individual level of development, determined through prior learning) that is expanded on through their remaining Interactivation Studio subjects.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

1. Have developed technological skills and insights
2. Be able to undertake design research including social and cultural relevance
3. Have developed knowledge and insights in human factors
4. Be proficient in forms, shapes and aesthetics related to interaction and design
5. Understand multimodal interaction theory and interface design
6. Have an increased ability to develop concepts and abstract thinking
7. Have demonstrated the ability the ability to undertake design research and user testing
8. Be able to present findings in reflective writing and audiovisual presentation media

Teaching and learning strategies

The Studio offers one of the three projects (as described in the next section), matching the stage of individual development. At least on of these projects will have an external client. Students work individually or in groups on their project, guided by the studio leader, tutors and guests. There are lectures and hands-on tutorials. In the projects students develop new ways of interacting with our technological environment.

At the beginning of each semester the student and studio leader together set up a ‘learning contract’, a plan of how to support the development of competencies, skills and knowledge through a range of activities during the semester.

In each project (see below) the student aims to develop all of the following competencies, but with different levels depending on the project.

1. technological skills and insights

2. social, historical and cultural factors

3. human mind and body understanding

4. forms, shapes and aesthetics of interaction

5. multimodal interaction and interface design

6. abstract thinking and conceptual development

7. design research techniques and practices

8. presentation in writing, speaking and other media

To complete this major a student would in one semester typically engage in the following activities: participating in one project of an Interactivation Studio subject (as described below), participating an Interactivation Seminar subject or Technology and Techniques Workshop (if available), core subjects and electives.

The basis for this course is self-directed learning, guided by the studio leader and / or tutors. During the semester there will be 2 – 3 progress and planning meetings, and at the end of the semester there will be a final meeting when the progress achieved will be discussed.

Content (topics)

The MDes Interactivation Studio is developed to suit a wide range of disciplines, including designers (industrial, interior, landscape, graphic, multimedia, fashion, architecture), artists (visual, musicians), engineers, scientists, etc. Because of the strong interdisciplinary nature of the course, successful applicants usually have a broad background, stretching beyond their individual discipline(s). Participants will be prepared to become the leading innovators in industry (creative and technological), academia and education. This Major consists of three studios, seminar subjects and technical / technique workshops. In each Studio the student in consultation with the subject coordinator chooses one of the following projects:

Interactivation Project 1 - Design Research This studio is a design research project, in which the theoretical background from the design seminars can be applied. In the studio there will be further study and application of areas of design research, such as structured design methods, user studies, user experience, and usability. The design research project is usually carried out in multidisciplinary teams and has a focus in a social-cultural context. Reflective writing carried out throughout this studio contributes to the final report.

Interactivation Project 2 - Design for Expression Expression is a fundamental need for people, it is what we do - whether we create an artwork, a poem, a meal or write a shopping list. Current technologies have great potential but at present the full potential has not been reached. If one studies these tools critically, they seem to mostly inhibit creative expressions. In this studio students work individually or in pairs on the development of new design proposals for more optimal, intuitive, effective and expressive interfaces. In this studio students will be able to apply their knowledge of technology, human factors, communication theory, semiotics and multimodal interaction. Projects can be about the design of functional tools, interactive architectural spaces, new musical instruments, interactive installations, physical computer games.... or a new paradigm for spreadsheet manipulation. Reflective writing carried out throughout this studio contributes to the final report. A paper may be prepared to present at a relevant conference or workshop. The studio includes (guest) lectures on interactive architecture, art, musical instruments, game design, multimodal interaction and sonic art and design.

Interactivation Project 3: Final Project The degree is rounded off with this project, in which the knowledge acquired throughout the course culminates and complements participants existing knowledge and skills. It is an opportunity to demonstrate abilities, and more importantly contribute to the research field of the e-cology through practical solutions, new ways of interaction, novel interfaces etc. A written thesis presents the theoretical foundations of the project, and the design is presented as a working prototype, proof-of-concept real world experience. An academic paper may be written about the project, resulting in publication in a relevant journal or conference proceedings. The Final Project can work with industry and institutional 'clients', in areas such as IT industry, health & medical institutions, creative industry, community etc.


Assessment task 1: Research Report

Weight: 15%

Assessment task 2: Final Presentation

Weight: 25%

Assessment task 3: Assessment 3a: Prototype or demonstrator technical / conceptual. Assessment 3b: Report and reflection.

Weight: 60%


Bongers, A. J. 2004, Interaction with our Electronic Environment; an e-cological approach to physical interface design. Cahier Book series, Hogeschool van Utrecht.

Bongers, A. J. and Veer, G. C. van der 2007, Towards a Multimodal Interaction Space, categorisation and applications. Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, special issue on Movement-Based Interaction, 11/8, pp. 609-619

Buxton, W. A. S. 2007, Sketching User Experiences, getting the design right and the right design. Morton Kaufmann.

Dix, A., Finlay, J., Abowd, G and Beale, R. 2004 Human-Computer Interaction. Prentice Hall, 3rd edition.

Gibson, J. J. 1966, The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems, Houghton Miffing, Boston.

Gibson, J. J. 1979, The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.

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McCullough, M. 1996, Abstracting Craft, The practised digital hand. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

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Mumford, L. 1952, Art and Technics. Columbia University Press.

Norman, D. A. 1990, The Design of Everyday Things. Doubleday.

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