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A Culture of Care >> Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.

For Students

This is where deep disciplinary knowledge and cross-disciplinary interests come together in action. Human-centered design is an opportunity to critically and actively engage with the messy and challenging problems facing our world at a scale we can actually impact. This is a space for experimentation, exploration, cultivating creative expression, and messing around with materials and ideas responsibly. This is a place to get your hands on some real tools for making change.

We have a new, fully accessible makerspace at Capen Annex. Come check out our vinyl cutter, Glowforge lasercutter, Ultimaker 3D printer and sewing machine during open hours.


IDP 132 Designing Your Path

Fall 2021

Whether you are starting your Smith journey, embarking on or returning from an immersive experience abroad, weaving your interests through a Concentration or self-designed major, or wrestling with expressing what a Smith education has prepared you to do, this is the class for you. Test different integrative paths of your own design, tell your own story, and create a digital portfolio to showcase your work. By the end of class, you will be able to articulate connections between your work in and outside of the classroom, and to explain how Smith is preparing you to engage with the world beyond. Enrollment limited to 12. (E)

The Introduction to Human Centered Design course during Interterm 2021 is part of a three-part series offered with the Conway Center to help students think critically about the issues confronting communities across the globe and provide the methods and skill sets needed to devise equitable solutions, while prioritizing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) which address the systemic failures that COVID-19 has laid bare. Students can sign up for any or all of the independent courses offered in this series yet, we recommend taking the three in sequence.

“We need to turn the recovery into a real opportunity to do things right for the future.” – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

IDP 116 Introduction to Human Centered Design

January 4-15, MWF 9:20 a.m.-12:10 p.m. and TTh 9:20 a.m.-10:35 a.m. (remote instruction)

In this 1-credit, two-week introductory course we will take-on systemic challenges amplified by COVID-19 and explore what designing towards justice might look and feel like. Students will employ human-centered design, a process that centers the lived experience of people most impacted by a challenge in creatively addressing it. We will look at the implications of design in shaping the world around us and develop a critical lens on designs' role in making change. Students will explore what it means to re-frame challenges 
as opportunities, engage in humble inquiry, observe in new ways, synthesize qualitative research, co-generate ideas, prototype, and test their designs. 1 credit; S/U only. Course max: 16 students

IDP 155 Entrepreneurship I: Introduction to Innovation

January 19-29, MWF 9:20 a.m.-12:10 p.m. and TTh 9:20 a.m.-10:35 a.m. (remote instruction)

In this course, students will begin a journey towards developing an entrepreneurial mindset gaining immediate experience with entrepreneurial innovation by generating bold solutions to problems. Students will be challenged to think about ventures that address a new and just world post COVID-19 using the 17 UNSDGs as a framework for their projects. Students will also analyze cases about real entrepreneurs and explore their challenges, obstacles and ethical decision making. This course is designed around individual and team-based assignments that culminate in final team presentations. Enrollment in IDP 116 is encouraged but not required. 1 credit; S/U only. Course max: 30 students

IDP 156 Entrepreneurship II: Entrepreneurship in Practice

February 1-11, MWF 9:20 a.m.-12:10 p.m. and TTh 9:20 a.m.-10:35 a.m. (remote instruction)

Building on IDP 155, students will continue developing an entrepreneurial mindset by exploring the process of planning, testing and iterating on their unique ideas, and learning the innovative Lean Launch methodology. Teams will begin mapping their ideas using the Business Model Canvas and the Value Proposition Canvas. Students will be exposed to the Failure Spectrum and analyze cases about failure. Students work in teams to complete homework assignments and a final presentation. This course is designed around individual and team-based assignments that culminate in final team presentations. Enrollment in IDP 116 and IDP 155 is encouraged but not required. 1 credit; S/U only. Course max: 30 students

IDP 152 Introduction to 3D Printing Technology

February 1-11, MWF 9:20 a.m.-12:10 p.m. and TTh 9:20 a.m.-10:35 a.m. (remote instruction)

This class will teach students 3D printing literacy and introduce students to the contexts within which this technology is being used in different fields. We will explore the technology of 3D Printers and learn how to design and produce 3D printed objects. Students will be introduced to various software used to generate 3D designs,covering the basics of Computer Aided Design and Scanning. We will also learn how to prepare these models for printing using printer-specific software and finally create the 3D printed models. 1 credit; S/U only. Course max: 24 students


IDP 316 Critical Design Studio

Spring 2021
This 4-credit interdisciplinary project-based course emphasizes human-centered design process as well as critical social theory on the relationships between humans and our contexts. Through hands-on, individual and collaborative making, participants will learn qualitative research methods, rapid idea generation techniques, prototyping and iterative implementation. This learning will happen alongside rich class discussions of both seminal and contemporary scholarly work on design’s role in shaping the lived experience.


The aim of this course is for students to cultivate an appreciation of human-centered design in service of greater social issues and an understanding of design as a form of civic engagement, not just as the shaping of the world by some for others. Participants will put the skills of observation, active listening and overcoming confirmation bias into practice through field research. They will be asked to reframe their challenge and build design solutions iteratively, learning to push the boundaries of their initial conceptions. Participants will be exposed to making as a way of thinking and prototyping as a way of testing new ideas. Participants will be challenged to navigate team roles and dynamics through team collaboration. Ultimately these teams will reflect on and present their processes and learnings in a critical review.

Students will learn the following design practices:

  • Lateral thinking techniques for insight synthesis and ideation
  • Mindfulness practices for developing the capacity to observe without judgment
  • Active listening in field research
  • Navigating dynamic teams and providing peer reviews through constructive critique
  • Thinking and communicating visually through sketches and imagery
  • Modeling and rapid prototyping material manipulation and fabrication techniques
  • Use of narrative to frame problems, communicate ideas and reflect on the ethical, political, socioeconomic and social justice implications of design in the world

Students will cultivate the following design mindsets:

  • Attention and presence
  • Compassion and humility
  • Creative courage
  • Thinking through making
  • Experimentation and resilience
  • Embracing not knowing
  • Radical collaboration
  • Challenging assumptions

Throughout this course, it is expected that participants will adhere to the Smith College Honor Code. It is a violation of the Honor Code to submit another’s work as one’s own or to provide one’s work to another participant for submission. That said, collaboration is strongly encouraged, and indeed, the goal of the course is to facilitate opportunities to work with fellow students and explore concepts in imaginative ways. Team project submissions must outline the role and contributions of each team member. Where possible, acknowledge outside help and insights that led to breakthroughs in your work. If there are concerns about what is considered to be an Honor Code violation participants must refer to the college guidelines and/or talk to the instructor. Any violation of the Honor Code is serious and will be presented to the Honor Board for their adjudication.

Design Process and Projects (40%)

Emphasis will be placed on the design process and projects. Participants will be evaluated on how engaged they are in the process itself—their willingness to deeply examine a challenge, come at things from multiple perspectives, engage people most affected by the challenge in the process, adapt to new ideas and inputs, work effectively in a team, and come up with compelling and relevant design proposals.

Participation and Collaboration (40%)

The studio is a model for how human-centered design can make change. Making change is rarely a solo act. It requires navigating often complex social situations and the engagement of a wide variety of people. The studio itself requires a similar deep commitment to working together in small teams and as a class, which is why attendance is absolutely critical. Although not always easy, the skill sets that participants will acquire while navigating group work will contribute to the development of more rigorous and interesting design solutions. To facilitate cross-fertilization and exchange with peers, participants are encouraged to use Capen Annex as the primary work space in and out of class.

Read/Watch/Listen and Reflections (20%)

  1. Readings, videos and audio will be provided as handouts, digital downloads or links. We will discuss these, and participants will be evaluated on their engagement in these discussions as well as on how they demonstrate integration of the ideas into their work and written reflections. As the semester progresses, individual participants will be charged with leading the discussions of case studies, bringing research and reflection to spark the conversation.
  2. Participants will be expected to keep a sketchbook with weekly observations/reflections that will be periodically shared and reviewed.

Contact the Office of Disability Services in College Hall 104 or for any accommodations needed. This must be done as soon as possible to ensure accommodations can be implemented in a timely fashion.


Collaborative Leadership and Design Immersions


Collaborative Leadership and Design Immersions (CLDI) is an integrative cohort program sponsored in partnership by the Wurtele Center for Leadership and the Design Thinking Initiative. CLDI is for students who are looking for intensive opportunities to put collaborative leadership skills into practice. The program offers students an opportunity to learn, develop and apply human-centered design leadership in a real-world setting.


Student Project Awards

Are you looking for funding to complete a design or making- oriented project, to organize and coordinate a workshop or workshop series, or to attend a design/making related event, training, or conference? Student Project Grants are meant for small projects which use design thinking methodology or concepts, center making as a way of thinking, or are associated with a Design Thinking Initiative class. Typical awards range from $20-$100, but other award amounts will be considered based on the availability of funding. Funding is strictly limited to Smith College students. Students may re-apply during their time at Smith.

To apply, please submit both of the following:
  1. The Student Project Grant information form
  2. An itemized budget, including the item, dollar amount, and link, through email to and
You will be notified of your acceptance within 5 business days.



Learn More About the Design Thinking Initiative