Design Across Scales and Disciplines


Athina Papadopoulou and Alexandros Charidis

4.110J / MAS.330J / MAS.650J 

Instructors          Prof. Meejin Yoon        
                             Prof. Neri Oxman        
Class TAs  
Lab TAs              Alexis Sablone           
                            Alexandros Charidis   
                            Jessica Jorge             
                            Nicolo Guida              
                            Markus Kayser
                            Jorge Duro-Royo 
                            Laia Mogas-Soldevila
                            John Klein
                            Chikara Inamura
                            Will Patrick
                            Sunanda Sharma     
Schedule            Lectures                               Tuesday 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM     E14-633*
                            Labs                                     Wednesday 7:00 – 9:00 PM          7-429
                           *Class locations are subject to change 
Class Site 
                            4.110J / MAS.330J (Undergraduate Course Number)
                            MAS.650 (Graduate Course Number)
                            Prereq: None
                            Permanent website:
Inspired by Charles and Ray Eames’ canonical Powers of Ten, the course explores the relationship between science and engineering through the lens of Design. It examines how transformations in science and technology have influenced design thinking and vice versa. It offers interdisciplinary tools and methods to represent, model, design and fabricate objects, machines, and systems. Structured as core lectures and lab sessions, the course is organized by “systems”: Design of Data, Design of Matter, Design of Life and Design of Perception. World-renowned designers, scientists and engineers will contribute with guest lectures. We will design things – material and immaterial; we will learn new computational and fabrication tools along the way; we will develop methodologies for design research of interdisciplinary problems; we will practice what it means to think, live, and breathe Design. 
The course creates a new pedagogical paradigm for education, which cuts across various disciplines and scales to demonstrate that design is not a discipline but a way of looking at the world that promotes the synthesis of interdisciplinary knowledge across scales in order to create objects and systems for the greater good. This is partly due to the fact that such challenges – such as the race to cure cancer, the mars landing mission and the challenge to design sustainable cities and buildings – require, perhaps more than ever, an interdisciplinary skill set and an ability to operate across multiple scales with creativity. 
The history of design innovation provides endless examples of cross-disciplinary individuals and innovations. Buckminster Fuller, for instance, was a designer, a futurist, an inventor, an author and a systems theorist. His designs based on the geodesic dome has inspired not only generations of designers, architects, engineers and urban planners but also chemists, material scientists and physicists who were inspired by his representation of the physical world. Charles and Ray Eames were mid-century American designers working at a range of scales and in a variety of media, from furniture and military aircraft parts to films and exhibitions. Their experiments in design fabrication, and cultural media are a useful reference for design education today. An example of the value of learning across disciplines today is found in Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book, Emperor of All Maladies: a Biography of Cancer, which tells the story of how the process of inventing cell dyes to trace the growth of cancerous tissues was actually inspired by textile design. 
Design has expanded to include a broad range of scales and disciplines, shifting from the production of objects to the design of experiences, data, networks, territories, and social frameworks. Designers are no longer exclusively committed to design autonomous objects (buildings, cars, furniture and household products), but rather are conceiving and testing whole ecologies of design experiences (robotic construction systems, transportation systems, health care experiences, water distribution, and clean energy). This has prompted Tim Brown, CEO of the design consultancy firm IDEO to state, “Design is too important to be left to designers.” The scope of design ecologies is so broad and so integrated with other disciplines that traditionally trained designers are ill equipped to tackle the new breadth of design tasks at hand. Interdisciplinary teams must work together to design the systems, experiences, environments and futures for our increasingly complex world. 
Design Across Scales, Disciplines and Problem Contexts responds to this challenge by creating a course that is not a traditional design course for designers, but a design course about culture, science and technology to serve as a foundation for all students regardless of major. 
For Undergraduates, the final grade is distributed as follows: Assignment 1: 25%, Assignment 2: 25%, and Class participation: 50%. For Graduate students, the final grade is distributed as follows: Assignment 1: 25%, Assignment 2: 25%, Assignment 3: 25%, and Class participation: 25%. 


February 3        Tues     LECTURE 1- DESIGN ACROSS SCALES

                                       Prof. Meejin Yoon and Prof. Neri Oxman 
                                       Recommended Readings:
                                       Colomina, Beatriz. "Enclosed by Images: The Eameses' Multimedia 
                                       Architecture. Grey Room. (2001): 7-29.
                                       Paola Antonelli, et. al., Design and the Elastic Mind. New York: Museum of
                                       Modern Art; London: Thames & Hudson, 2008.Top of Form
                                       Morrison, Philip, and Phylis Morrison. Powers of Ten: A Book About the
                                       Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero.
                                       Redding, Conn: Scientific American Library, 1982.Top of Form
February 4        Wed     NO LAB. TAs to discuss course admission.
                                       Prof. Meejin Yoon and Prof. Neri Oxman 
                                       * Cancelled due to snowstorm, the lecture will be given in conjuction with
                                       "Design of Innovation".
                                       Issue Assignment 1: Design a Representational System 
February 11       Wed    LAB 1: Documentation, Video and Image Capture, Video Editing
                                       Image Processing and Illustration
                                       Lab Gurus: Steve, Markus, John
                                       Location: Long Lounge (7-429)
                                       Tools: Final Cut X - Video editing; Adobe Photoshop - Image Processing
                                        Adobe Illustrator - Vector drawing.


February 17       Tues  NO CLASS (MIT Monday schedule of classes)

February 18       Wed  LAB 2: CAD TOOLS
                                     Lab Gurus: John, Chikara, Will
                                     Location: Long Lounge (7-429) and E15-341
                                     Tools: 2D and 3D CAD: Autocad, Rhino, 3DSMax, Solidworks
                                     Notation, Information and Communication
                                     Prof. Meejin Yoon and Prof. Neri Oxman
                                     Prof. Cesar Hidalgo, Macro Connections Group at Media Lab 
                                     Recommended Readings:
                                     Daston, Lorraine, and Peter Galison. Objectivity. New York:Zone Books, 2007.
                                     Maeda, John. The Laws of Simplicity. The MIT Press.
                                     2006.Books24x7.Web.Feb. 1, 2013.
                                     McLuhan, Marshall. "The Medium is the Message". Understanding Media: 
                                     The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet, 1964.
                                     Tufte, Edward. Envisioning Information. Cheshire, CN: Graphics Press, 1990.
February 25       Wed   LAB 3: Data Processing and Visualization
                                      Lab Gurus: Jorge, Laia, Alex
                                      Location: Long Lounge (7-429)
                                      Tools: Processing (Data streams, sound inputs, and visualization)
March 3              Tues  LECTURE 4: DESIGN OF DATA
                                      Computation, Visualization, and Big Data
                                      Guest lecturers:
                                      Jer Thorp
                                      Ben Fry, Fathom (co-developer of Processing)
                                      Recommended Readings:
                                      Maeda, John. Creative Code. London: Thames & Hudson, 2004.
                                      Reas, Casey, and Ben Fry. Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual
                                      Designers and Artists. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2007.
                                      Fry, Ben. Visualizing Data. Beijing: O'Reilly Media, Inc, 2008.
March 4              Wed   LAB 4: Design Development Crit for Assignment #1                                        
                                      Location: Long Lounge (7-429)



March 11            Wed    LAB 5: Fabrication Workshop 1
                                       Lab Gurus: John, Chicara, Will
                                       Subtractive Fabrication Tools: Laser Cutting, 3D Printing, File Set-Up &
                                       Exchange Demo
March 17            Tues   LECTURE 5: DESIGN OF INNOVATION
                                      Design as Practice
                                      Lecturer: Prof. Meejin Yoon
                                      Guest lecturer: Lee Moreau, Principal of Continuum
                                      Recommended Readings:
                                      Brown, Tim and Barry Katz. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms
                                      Organizations and Inspires Innovation. New York: Harper Business, 2009.
                                      Mau, Bruce, and Jennifer Leonard. Massive Change. London: Phaidon, 2004.
                                      McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart. Cradle to Cradle:Remaking the Way
                                      We Make Things. New York: North Point Press, 2002.
                                      Issue Assignment 2: "Re-Design the Wheel"
March 18           Wed    LAB 6: Fabrication Workshop 2
                                       Lab Gurus: Will, Steve
                                       Location: Long Lounge (7-429)
                                       Additive Fabrication Tools: Additive Manufacturing, Molding, Casting
March 24           Tues    SPRING BREAK- NO CLASS
March 25           Wed    SPRING BREAK- NO LAB


The workshops for this module will take place in room 68-074

March 31           Tues    LECTURE 6: Designing with DNA
                                       Lecturer: Prof. Neri Oxman
                                       Additional speakers: Steven Keating and Will Patrick
                                       Introduction to Synbiota 
                                       With David Sun Kong, Ph.D., Technical Staff, MIT Lincoln Laboratory
April 1               Wed    LAB 7 - SYNBIOTA SESSION 1: Programmable Bacteria
                                     Lab Gurus: David Kong, Sunanda
                                     Location: 68-074
                                     DNA Design: Concepts, Methods, Tools and Example Applications
                                     *This lab session will be 7 - 10pm
April 7               Tues    LECTURE 7: Designing with DNA
                                      Guest Lecture:
                                      David Sun Kong, Ph.D., Technical Staff, MIT Lincoln Laboratory
                                      Tal Danino, Postdoctoral Fellow, Bhatia Lab, MIT
April 8               Wed    LAB 8 - SYNBIOTA SESSION 2: Programmable Bacteria
                                     Lab Gurus: David Kong, Sunanda
                                     Location: 68-074
                                     DNA Design: Concepts, Methods, Tools and Example Applications
                                     *This lab session will be 7 - 10pm
April 14             Tues    LECTURE 8: MEMBERS WEEK
                                      Guest lecturer:
                                      John Snavely
April 15             Wed    Brainstorming Session for Assignment 2 - work in groups
                                      (Non-obligatory for ML students during sponsor week)
                                      Lab Gurus: Architecture TAs 
                                      Location: Long Lounge (7-429)
April 21             Tues   PATRIOTS DAY HOLIDAY - NO CLASS
April 22             Wed    LAB 9: ARDUINO KITS
                                      Lab Gurus: Will, Steve
                                      Location: Long Lounge (7-429)



                                      Guest lecturers:
                                      David Edwards, Director, Le Laboratoire
                                      Skylar Tibbits
                                      GRADUATE ASSIGNMENT DUE (Designing Life with David Kong)
April 29             Wed    LAB 10: Design Development Crit for Assignment #2
                                      Location: Long Lounge (7-429)
May 5                Tues    LECTURE 10: DESIGN AS RESEARCH
                                      Prof. Meejin Yoon and Prof. Neri Oxman
                                      Recommended Readings: TBD
May 6                Wed    LAB 11 - Design Development Crit for Assignment #2
                                      Location: Long Lounge (7-429)
May 12              Tues     ASSIGNMENT 2 DUE - Class Presentations
                                       Redesign the Wheel
* Changes to the schedule, if necessary, will be announced via email.
* Supplemental Graduate Student Assignment due date will be determined in advance of the due date.