Ease into Digitality
Instructed by Mianwei Wang
Room 620, Parsons School of Design
Tuesdays / Thursdays 7–9:40 PM EST

Let’s spend some time contemplating for our digital world.

We are extremely skilled and experienced in this world, and often excited about the technology and logic. Well-made digital products allow us to navigate the digital world with ease, and we naturally accepts so many premises that are embeded in these systems.

In this class, we will take steps by achieving each project and workshop. We will mainly use webpages as the tool to explore and find out these hidden premises, and to talk about materiality in the digital spaces. We will discuss in-depth on how a project could live digitally. We are going to ask where the digital products come from, and what they were made of. Ease into the digital world—if it's not too late.


School of Art, Media, and Technology: BFA Communication Design
PUCD 3095-H
Fall 2021
Meeting Days
Tuesday & Thursday
63 Fifth Ave, 620
Mianwei Wang, wangm@newschool.com
Class Website

download full syllabus


No previous coding experience is required. The course will offer some HTML/CSS learning sessions both in and out of the classroom, but programming is neither required for independent projects, prototyping and other design methods are welcome; However, you are encouraged to learn HTML and CSS or other coding languages along the course.

materials and preparation




There will be 1–2 assigned readings for most classes. Students are responsible for writing one short reading response due before class. Reading responses should include your thoughts on the material (2 sentences minimum) and 2 questions for discussion. Submit your reading response here before class.



week1–4 week5–9 week10–16
week 1

08/31 (On Zoom)

All-Topics (zoom link): Kick-off
All-Class (zoom link): Introduction, expectation, adjustment & etc.

For next class:
  • Reading: “Introduction" Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
  • Submit your reading response here
  • Research a digital project that you like.
  • 09/2 (On Zoom)

    Reading response review and discussion;
    presentation of research projects;
    Introduce Project 1.1;

    For next class:
  • Watch Form and Content lectures
  • sign-up for your presentation slot.
  • Reading:
  • Nill, “Contest 4 Kids", Digital Kids, Edition Digital Culture 4
  • Zittrain, “Tethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement", The Future of the Internet—And How to Stop it.
  • Reading response is due 9/09 here

  • week 2

    09/07 (In person)

    All-Class: Form and Content Discussion
    All-Class: Project 1.1 presentation

    09/09 (In-person)

    All-Class: Reading response review
    p1.1 recap, p1.2 introduction
    Individual: Form and Content exercises
    For next class:
  • Sign up for individual meeting
  • Watch Typeforms lectures, do exercise.
  • Reading:
  • Zittrain, “Battle of the Boxes" and “Battle of the Networks" (p. 11-35) The Future of the Internet—And How to Stop it.
  • Barlow, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

  • week 3

    09/14 (In-person)

    All-Class: Form and Content, Typeforms discussion
    Reading response discussion
    Individual meeting
    Reading: John May, Signal. Image. Architecture., Chapter 0-1.

    09/16 (In-person)

    Individual meeting
    For next class:
  • Watch Motion lectures
  • Sign-up for your presentation slot.

  • week 4

    09/21 (On zoom)

    All-Class: Motion discussion
    Group 1: Project 1.2 presentation

    09/23 (In-person)

    Group 2: Project 1.2 presentation
    For next class:
  • Watch Digital Product Design lectures
  • Reading responses due next Thursday here
  • Laurel Schwulst, My website is a shifting house next to a river of knowledge. What could yours be?
  • Rob Giampietro, I Am A Handle
  • (optional) Codecademy Learn CSS cheatsheet

  • week 5


    All-Class: Digital Product Design discussion;
    CSS workshop: grid.
    For next class:
    Resume the class exercises and build at least 3 webpages for your site.


    Reading response review;
    Exercise: Playfic Tutorial
    In-class working time and optional 2 on 1 meeting.
    For next class:
  • Watch Editorial Design Systems lectures
  • Reading:
  • The Interface Experience
  • Apple WatchOS Human Interface Guidelines

  • week 6

    10/05 (On Zoom)

    All-Topics: Cohort-wide learning

    10/07 (In person)

    *Guest lecturer: Nick Massarelli*
    For next class:
  • Watch Editorial Design System lectures

  • week 7

    10/12 (On Zoom)

    P2 Checkin
    *Guest lecturer: Katie Colford*
    Drawing workshop

    For next class:
  • Sign-up for your meeting slot.
  • 10/14 (In person)

    Reading response discussion
    In class working time: Wireframes and layouts
    For next class:
  • Watch Brand (Internal) lectures
  • Submit work-in-progress here
  • Sign-up for your meeting slot.

  • week 8


    Group of 3: project critique
    Midterm review and assessment discussion
    Sign-up for your meeting slot.


    Group of 3: project critique
    Midterm review and assessment discussion
  • Sign-up for your presentation slot.

  • week 9 (Midterm)


    Group 1: p2 presentation


    Group 2: p2 presentation

    week 10


    In class working time for Cross-topic Exercises > Doc for all the exercise links.


    Introduce Project 3
  • Homework: prepare at least 3 content anthology ideas;
  • Readings here and here, and one case-study here.
  • Sign upfor the meeting slot.

  • week 11


    Individual meetings: discussion on reading responses; Concept drafting


    Group of 3: Content drafting

    week 12


    All-Topics: Cohort-wide learning


    All class: Content presentation
  • Sign-up for your meeting slot.

  • week 13

    11/23 (On zoom)

    Individual meetings: Wireframes and typography


    No class (thanksgiving)
    For next class:
  • Sign-up for your meeting slot.

  • week 14


    Individual meetings: Visual iteration I


    Individual meetings: Visual iteration II

    week 15


    Group of 3: Project presentation critique
  • Sign-up for your presentation slot.
  • 12/09

    Group of 3: Project presentation critique
  • Sign-up for your presentation slot.

  • week 16


    Core 3 Final review I
    *Guest Critic: Luiza Dale*


    Core 3 Final review II
    *Guest Critic: Luiza Dale*

    Project 1.1 > Recording–Playback

    Make a recording that contains a small but unique experience or observation from your life. It could be:

    A small journal
    A grocery list
    A photograph
    A print
    A drawing
    A video clip
    An audio clip
    An object
    A series of little gadgets

    You will be presenting this piece in the next class, keep your presentation to 3–5 minutes, and envisage a second iteration of the presentation with or without a language component. You are welcome to present either 1 or 2 iterations, but please still keep them in the designated time length.


    1. What is included in the presentation from the initial happening? (a. What was included the initial happening, but got lost in the recording process? b. What was included the initial happening, but got lost in the presentation process? c. What wasn’t in the initial happening, but emerged from the presentation process?)

    2. What is your intention of making this recording, and to what extent does the final presentation meet your plan?

    Project 1.2 > Recording–Transmission–Playback

    Recap: describe a main component(s) in your last Recording–Playback project, and think about the relationship between the main component(s) to the process. Consider:

    1. At which step can you make changes to make this major component stand out more in your project?

    2. Think about the relationship between this new finding to your larger interest in design, are they overlapped or staggered?

    Consider adding at least one digital step in the Recording-Transmission-Playback cycle. You can make:

    A website,
    A mobile app prototype,
    A performance,
    A dance choreography,
    A book,
    An interactive text,
    A physical machine,
    An interactive object,
    A Java program

    and don’t set yourself in the box yet, try to think about the potential materials like:

    wood sticks,
    light bulbs,
    a pool of water


    Coding languages (HTML, CSS and etc.),
    Adobe suite,
    Robofont (or Glyphs)
    Rasperry Pi

    And to envisage:

    1. It has to be interactive, although the user/demonstrator could be yourself. Think about the accessibility and performative factors in your design when think about interactions.
    2. Inputing environment: what are the digital and physical environments? For digital, what’s the inputing device (i.e a keyboard)? For physical, what’s the connection between your setup to the data that you hope to extract? what are the gestures to input? and who (i.e user or author) is going to do it?
    3. Playback environment: what is the final output through your system? Does the playback have to be in a specific environment? how about the audience? what are the gestures to play back? what are the interactions in the playback process?
    4. How much do you “control” your data from the recording to the playback, do you expect it to change or stay the same? Or, what are the two forms of information that you extract and translate from input to output in your system?

    read more:

  • Dexter Sinister, On a Universal Serial Bus* (read more)
  • James Bridle, “Encoded Experiences,” Mieke Gerritzen (ed.)
  • Orit Gat, “Data Roaming: Orit Gat and artist Julia Weist travel to Havana in search of El Paquete Semanal, the Cuban offline internet,” Frieze (July 30, 2016)
  • references:

  • Boxify (bookmarklet)
  • Project 2 > Website as Architecture

    How do you perceive a space?
    Think about this classroom—

    The physicalities consist our perception of a “space,” but how do you depict one that lives digitally? As we previously discussed, digital world contains no borders, no walls neither no floors.

    Prepare a piece of writing depicts an architecture(s), a street view or a space.
    We will use this piece of writing as the starting point to imagine a digital architecture. Elaborate a “space” living inside the browser in the ways of digital design.

    guest lecturer:
    Nick Massarelli
    Katie Colford

  • Web design as architecture
  • To Hear No Echo
  • eSsEnS eSsEnTiAls (sound)
  • umhi.xyz
  • UCLA DMA Salon (sound)
  • Leviathan Cycle
  • MOS architecture
  • Hakunamatata House
  • Poetic Computation 2016
  • MCA
  • Canadian Centre for Architecture
  • Project 3 > Independent Project

    The time has finally come: spanning over 7 weeks, you are going to develop an independent project. You are responsible for the independent concepts, independent sketches, and independent project developments. Maybe it’s good to think these questions:
    Who do you work for, and what are your (unaccomplished) ambitions in digital design systems?


    1. Talk to the public:
    Who do you plan to speak to through this project, and what storytelling strategies are you going to use?

    a. Curate your content:
    Don’t overwhelm yourself, narrow it down to a choice of 3 articles: text, videos, photograph et al. Rationalize why the selection of the content makes sense to yourself, then you can think how could it make sense to your audience.

    b. Strategize your design:
    What are the strategies you can recall from your previous projects for structuring a narrative? Think about the Recording-Playback technique or the spatial thinking inside a broswer. You can make a list of them, and see if they are useful for this new project. Make your design to “lure” your audience, get them to think on the same page with you.

    2. Responsiveness:
    No matter what formats you are going to use, the final design must include at least 2 displays on different devices—this does not mean more functions, but typography and layouts that are presented differently.

    3. Print on Screen:
    Integrate all the editorial design and typography knowledge that you have learnt earlier this semester, decide your typography carefully that substantiates your concept, you need to be able to articulate the reasons for your type choices as well as other styles in your design system.

    Final Review Guest Critic:
    Luiza Dale


    resources for code learning
    recommended bibliography

    This course is greatly inspired by sessions created by Sarah Oppenheimer, Brad Rosen, Laurel Schwulst, Mindy Seu and Geoff Han; and generously supported by Luiza Dale and Tuan Quoc Pham. Special thanks to Kelly Walters for exclusive planning and organizing work.