3. Design for NYC

6 weeks
Group project

Assignment: Solve a problem that New Yorkers face through digital design.

New York City is filled with over 8.5 million people: residents, tourists, students, commuters, locals and more.

It is also filled with frustrations, problems, and disappointments (probably more than 8.5 million of them.)

Pick a problem that exists in NYC, and come up with a digital solution to help solve the problem. Think about the audience of who you are designing for.

This will be a group project.

Example problems include:

  • Subway commutes are busy and filled with problems like germs, directions, and time crunches.
  • Bikers die often.
  • Bathrooms are hard to find.
  • I don't know what's recyclable, or how to recycle stuff when on the go.
  • Finding an apartment is filled with pressure and compromise.
  • My family doesn't live near me.
  • Carrying luggage is annoying without a car.
  • It’s hard to find volunteer opportunities.
  • The city's fast/competitive culture can be stressful.
  • Meeting new people is hard.
  • Food is wasted.


1. Be Software First

The primary use should be digital.

2. Prototype it

Show us how we would use it. Test the prototype. Update accordingly.

3. Market it

How will people find your experience? How will they know what it does? How will they know how it's different than your competitors? Name your experience, create its visual language, and describe it. Think of how it's advertised in the app store, the subway, etc.

  • A single sentence description of your experience.
  • A name.
  • Some example advertisements.


Week 1: Observe / Ideate


Look for problems in the city. Identify 20+ problems/opportunities, and come up with 2+ solutions for each of them.

Bring single sentence descriptions and sketches into class.

Week 2: Propose

In class

We will discuss & decide which direction to pursue.


Bring in 5+ proposals for a solution to your problem, and detailed plans for prototyping those solutions.

For each solution:

What will you use to prototype your idea? A digital prototype? A works-like prototype? Combining existing tools?

How will you validate your ideas? What would success look like for your prototypes? What questions are you trying to answer? Who's your audience?

What would the full ecosystem look like? What are all the artifacts you would need to make this a reality? An app, a website, a piece of hardware, an installation?

Would this need to be a new company, or would it make more sense to come from an existing company? From the City of New York?

Research competitors your solutions might have, and analogous solutions in other industries or cities. Why might your solutions fail? How might you improve on these other solutions?

Week 3: Prototype

In class

We will discuss your proposals and your prototyping plans, and help you decide which ones to move forward with.


Begin prototyping your idea. Test it with your target audience. At least 5 times.

Bring the prototype, how your testing went, and what your plan is for the next week.

Bring ideas for how you might market this app, in a subway poster and on the app store.

Week 4: Refine / Market

In class

Feedback on marketing, UX, UI, how your prototypes are going. By this point you should have a clear idea of what you're building, how to test it, and how to answer any questions you might have.


Continue prototyping your ideas and plan what artifacts you need to communicate your idea - what user journeys do you need to walk us through, what interfaces do you need to create?

Bring drafts of your final marketing materials. What materials are you going to produce? Think about app store screens, Instagram ads, etc — where will your communication live?

Bring a draft presentation of how you'll present your idea in a slide deck. What's the order you show things in? What data do you use? What problems do you show?

Week 5: Refine / Present

In class

Feedback on everything.


Continue prototyping, designing, testing.

Next week, you should have a fully drafted presentation that describes your problem space, how your idea addresses it, and how you'd market it. Your presentation should be <10 minutes long. You'll practice presenting it for the class next week.

Try to anticipate what questions we'll ask, and have answers in an appendix.

Week 6: Refine / Present some more

In class

Present your draft slides to the whole class as practice. Pretend you're speaking to a new audience unfamiliar with your project. Get feedback on design, story, slides, and presentation style. These will be recorded on video.


Put the final touches on your design work. Refine and practice your final presentation.

Put your final presentation in your individual running deck in Google Drive. All presentations will run from a teacher's computer during the final crit—you won't need to plug in your own computer. Make sure all video files have proper sharing permissions, check for typos, etc.

The final presentation on Tuesday Oct. 29 will be at the Google office at 111 8th Avenue in Chelsea. Please arrive 10 minutes early if possible, since signing in and security will take some extra time.

Week 7: Final presentation + wrap-up

In class

Final presentation @ Google


1. Project cleanup

Google Slides: Make sure your individual running decks are neat and updated with all your group slides from previous weeks. We will be grading the project by looking through your individual decks to find past work. Remember, put the newest work on top and use divider slides to divide different projects.

Figma: Add your project files to the class-wide Design for NYC Figma project. Make sure your file names are understandable (e.g. no "Untitled"s)

2. Project retrospective

At many workplaces, project teams will reflect on a project after it wraps up, to recognize what went well, and think about how to improve on what didn't go well. These are called often retrospectives, postmortems, or lookbacks.

Some of the questions we ask in the retrospective will also probably be asked in job interviews, so this is another form of interview prep. Also, this is an opportunity for us (Barron and Carolyn) to learn more about your experience in this class so far, so we can continue to adjust the class to suit your needs.

With your group:

We recommend meeting up in person or on video chat to discuss the questions below.

For each question, we recommend writing down your answers individually, then discussing your answer with the group. Take notes on the group conversation, and add your group's answers to your individual Google Slides running deck.

Make one slide for each question. All members of the group should have the same slides in their individual deck.

  • What went well in this project?
  • What could have gone better, and why?
  • Pretend you have to work with the same group of people again, on a similar project. How would you change or improve your process?
  • If you had more time, what would you keep working on in your project?
    • Refine a specific feature? Explore more directions for branding? Test with more people? etc.
  • What surprised you about working on this project?
  • What were the hardest parts of working on this project?
  • Any other thoughts?

By yourself:

Submit the anonymous private feedback form before class on Tuesday Nov. 5. Since this is anonymous, we won't know who has done it or not, but please do it. 🙏 Help us help you!