Course Overview

Ben Salinas
1 Credit Course, Fall 2014, Olin College AC326
Tuesdays, 7:00 PM - 8:50 PM

This course provides an introduction to several skills that are useful when designing software. The topics covered in the class augment those covered in other Olin design depths (such as ENGR 3220: HFID) and focuses on practical skills and general guidelines for designing beautiful and usable software. In particular, we will cover the basics of graphic design as it applies to software design, the importance of including real data in the design process, techniques for rapidly prototyping designs and how the software development process influences the user experience of software.


During this course, we will be covering 5 major topics (and one introductory one during the first week), outlined in detail on the topics page
  1. Software Design Process
  2. Graphic Design 101
  3. Designing With Real Data
  4. Rapidly Prototyping Software Experiences
  5. Data Visualization
  6. Software Development

Required Textbooks

We will be referencing the following books and there will be readings from each of them. However, feel free to share with your classmates if you prefer.

The Non-Designer’s Design Book (3rd Edition)

Robin Williams

Provides a great overview of design principles for non-designers. We’ll use this for readings during the first portion of the class.


Data Points: Visualization That Means Something

Nathan Yau

A detailed and approachable introduction to data visualization. Nathan Yau (of provides a great overview of visualization techniques and data exploration.


Other Good Resources (Not Required)

We won’t be doing any readings from these books, but they are great resources in general.

Design for Information

Isabel Meirelles

A lightweight textbook that looks at the principles behind data visualization while also exploring the history of various techniques. It has some amazing examples that it dissects. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to dive deeper into data visualization.


The Universal Principles of Design

William Lidwell

An encyclopedia of 125 principles that drive human perception of design. A good book to thumb through.


Hack Design

A collection of blog posts and articles on various subjects relating to software and interface design.

Grading Policy

This class is being offered Pass/No credit (which is different than Pass/No Record). I will be grading by participation, which will be largely based on attendance and the occasional assignment. To get a "Pass", I'll be looking for you to be in class at least 10 of the 13 classes during the semester. In general, if you are going to miss a class (for whatever reason), let me know so that I can give you any materials we go through. Likewise, if you need to miss more than 3 classes, talk to me and we can come up with something to make sure you get the "Pass".

About the Instructor

Ben is a designer specializing in engineering and holistic design. He currently works at Involution Studios where he designs software applications for clients including 3M, Walgreens, and marketing analytics firm, DataXu. Prior to working at Involution, Ben was worked at Parietal Systems where he designed and developed software for the Department of Defense. Ben graduated from Olin in 2010 with a degree in Engineering with a focus on Product Design. While at Olin, he co-founded Luminaire Coffee Equipment, an engineering consulting company which focuses on the specialty coffee industry.