Human-Centered Design 201: Prototyping

Learn from designers to make your ideas come to life

Course Details

  • Price: FREE
  • Start Date: June 9, 2020
  • Time: 4 hours/week
  • Duration: 5 weeks
  • Partner:

What You’ll Learn:

  • Practice the mindsets and methods of human-centered design to produce tangible results quickly
  • Experiment with methods to prototype products, services, interactions, and environments
  • Gain valuable feedback from the people you’re designing for and incorporating that feedback into new iterations
  • Demonstrate how the cycle of prototyping, feedback, and iteration leads to concept refinement


Prototyping is the stage of the human-centered design process where ideas come to life. Building prototypes is a low-cost and risk-averse way to get your ideas into the hands of the people you’re trying to change. 

This is an intensive, hands-on learning experience that will equip you to prototype products, services, interactions, and environments. You’ll learn methods that designers use to quickly build prototypes, learn best practices for testing those ideas in the field, and collect real user feedback to iterate efficiently.

We recommend that you take Introduction to Human-Centered Design before enrolling in this course.

Format and Timing:

  • Team-Based Course: We strongly encourage (but do not require) that you take the course with a team of 2-8 people. We recommend working with friends or colleagues in person.
  • Platform: NovoEd (+Acumen and developed the course. We host this course on the NovoEd platform.)
  • Timing: This course will be open for 5 weeks. You can work through the materials at your own pace while the course is open. There are suggested weekly deadlines to help you stay on track. The only firm deadline is the final day of the course.

Course Syllabus

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  • 4 reading guides
  • 4 workshop guides to structure your own prototyping process
  • Short instructional videos produced by designers
  • Supplemental resources
Section 1: Make It Real
  • Warm-Up Exercise
  • Activity: Start with an Idea
  • Activity: Prototype a Product
  • Discussion: Feedback from Your Team
  • Activity: Iterate
  • Discussion: Debrief
Section 2: Build to Think
  • Activity: Plan Your Service Prototype
  • Activity: Create a Journey Map
  • Activity: Role Play
  • Discussion: Feedback from Your Friend
  • Activity: Iterate and Refine Your Plan
  • Discussion: Debrief
Section 3: Plan for Field Tests
  • Activity: Prototype a Space
  • Activity: Plan Your Field Tests
  • Activity: Sketch It
  • Activity: Mock It Up
  • Discussion: Feedback from Your Team
  • Activity: Iterate and Refine Your Plan
  • Discussion: Debrief
Section 4: In the Field
  • Activity: Prototype in Context
  • Activity: Feedback from Real Users
  • Activity: Co-Creation
  • Activity: Iteration on the Fly
  • Discussion: Debrief
  • Reflections
  • Discussion: Moving Forward
The course already started. Can I still enroll?
You can enroll up to 2 weeks after the start date of the course.
When will the next course be offered?
We offer our courses a few times a year. Sign up for our emails to be notified of the next time the course will be offered.
Do I get a certificate for this course?
You will earn a Statement of Accomplishment if you complete 5 of 6 assignments, including the final assignment, by the last day of the course.
How do teams work?
We recommend you find friends or colleagues for your team that you can meet with in person each week. Each team member should register for the course individually. You’ll then be able to form your team on the NovoEd platform once the course begins.
Do I have to complete the course with a team?
While we believe taking the course with a team will give you the best experience and chance of completing the course, it is possible to complete the course individually if you wish.
What should I expect from the assignments?
You will create a Life Map, develop your own personal story, integrate it into a larger presentation, and record your presentation for feedback from your classmates. You should allocate at least one hour a week to complete each assignment.

Supported By is the nonprofit arm of the world-renowned design firm, IDEO.  They design products, services, and experiences to improve the lives of people in poor and vulnerable communities. They are experts in human-centered design, a creative approach to problem solving.

What People Are Saying

Kevin Schneider, Professor of International Business

"This class has been extremely relevant for prototyping multiple elements of the cashew cookstove we are developing in small Brazilian villages. We are using all of the frameworks to develop our prototype."

Kevin Schneider, Professor of International Business