Inspirational Designs

Due: Monday September 17 as a submission to the student work google drive folder >>here<< + (when the website is available) posting it to your group web site (in html with inlined images).

*This is a combination of an individual and a group assignment.


  • Observing the world around you, identify inspirations for your group's project. These may be either competitor products, related products, or apparently unrelated objects or interactions from which you can nonetheless draw inspiration.


  • You have been observing users participating in your target interaction and thinking about how and why they do this. You have also been looking for current solutions to your project problem as well as at related technologies. Hopefully, you've also kept your eyes open for apparently unrelated objects and interaction that might also help users who share your target users' goals.

In this assignment, you will begin by collecting the ideas you've already encountered as well as the ones you can find by searching the web, talking with users, or any other means you think appropriate.

Here is how professor Scott Klemmer describes the idea -

"[I]nspirational designs [are] existing products or services that relate to your concept. Remember, web search is your friend. This activity is similar to what business folks call 'competitive analysis' and academics call 'related work.' Find as much as you can."

Some things you find will be quite related (i.e. a typical reaction to your idea is “Oh, you’re doing a facebook for pets!”), but it is important to interpret “related” broadly. It may be that a carrot-peeler or a measuring cup is your inspiration for an elegant and ergonomic design. Try the related product or service out. Read reviews (both amateur and professional). Some photos of the inspirations should be posted on your team's studio display space.

As a group, pool your list of inspirational designs. This list will be one part of your deliverable: a list of competitor systems, related systems, and other designs from which you might draw inspiration, along with (an optional image and) a sentence for each explaining the connection or inspiration.

Your group should select one item that each member of the team will write more detail about. This is the individually-graded portion of the assignment. One students' name will be associated with one related design and they will specifically write about aspects of the system that the team might want to incorporate into the project.

A specific example from Klemmer:

For example, if your idea was for a location-aware mobile ice cream shop search interface, you might choose Google mobile search as an inspirational product. For the analysis, you might discuss how the service integrates the search results with maps, and point out how this would be useful for your own product but that the map would also have to visualize the places where your favorite flavor, super-duper chip, was available. Each analysis should include images (pictures, screenshots, etc.) of the product you are analyzing. The text may discuss which design elements were good, which were bad, and how you plan to use those design ideas as inspiration for your own product concept. You should also discuss specifically what elements you will “borrow” and which you won’t, and why. You may also share any other insights that you had while performing the comparison.

Your complete assignment will include the list of all products and ideas that you found inspirational, together with a paragraph-plus-image(s) description of each of your four/five specific inspirations. Indicate which team member contributed which description as well as any other collaborations or sources involved. Turn this assignment in by uploading it to the student work google drive folder >>here<< + (when the website is available) posting it to your group web site (in html with inlined images).

Grading rubric:

  • This group assignment will be judged on the degree to which the team convinces readers that the inspirations are diverse, yet relevant.
  • The individual assignment will be judged on the clarity of the communication and demonstration of synthesis, evidence that the team is likely to draw upon insights in the next phases of design work.