Is Aesthetics of Design Right For You?

Like all designs, the design of this course is still developing, so the content and structure may change somewhat as we go along. This course was originally designed for engineering students to explore aesthetics in the context of engineering designs of physical artifacts, but now it is open to any upper division or graduate CU student that has some experience with the design of artifacts (including software and processes), either formally or DIY.

This course is being offered in a synchronous hybrid format, meaning some of you will be registered for in-person and some of you will be registered as remote (Zoom). However, all of you can choose to attend the same lecture in-person or on zoom. Lectures will be recorded for later watching, but quality may be low; please avoid as much as possible.

This is a project class. You’ll be expected to create two main artifacts. You’ll have access to the resources of the ITLL and the Idea Forge: 3D printers, laser cutting, machine shops and technicians. Remote students are offered these same resources, but if you are not able to come to campus you’ll need to find such resources on you own. Some of you have access to personal tools and shops, which you are welcome to use. Virtual projects such as purely CAD designs will be acceptable, but documentation requirements will be higher for those. This is your chance to make what you choose from start to finish, so physical artifacts are strongly encouraged.

You will be on your own for the hands-on, fabrication portion of the course, although mutual assistance is expected/encouraged. You’ll be placed in ‘pods’, teams of 6 to 8, to get feedback and suggestions on your designs throughout the semester.

This course will provide a venue to display your design work and process, to highlight your skills as a creative engineer and/or artist. You will be expected to document your progress via weekly blog postings on the class website,, so if you are planning to create something that you want to keep proprietary, this course is not for you. This is a high visibility website with around 150 hits daily from around the world, and your posted work will become part of your permanent online professional identity. When a future employer googles your name, your work from this course will come up. If you are not comfortable with this, then you don’t want to take this course.

There will be no textbook required for the course, but you will be expected to contribute $150 towards any materials needed for your project.

Another unusual aspect of the course is that while you will get ongoing feedback about your progress, it won’t be in the form of points to be accumulated towards a grade. Instead we will use in-class peer critiques and written reviews. You’ll learn to both give and take constructive feedback in public. If you need a concrete grading structure, this course might not be for you.

Course grades are based on fulfilling all assignments, including participating in class and pods. At the end of the semester, I’ll ask you what grade you’ve earned with your blog posts as evidence.

Everyone can earn an A; this course is not about grades. However, you will have trouble if you do not take ownership of your learning and your time management. What you get out of the course will be in direct proportion to what you put in. If you plan to get by with minimal effort you will experience sadness and regret. Don’t take this course if you won’t have time for it, or if it will be your lowest priority.  Senior Projects students take note! Attendance during critiqes and guest lectures is required, and a senior project meeting is not acceptable as an excuse.

On the positive side, this course is likely going to be a wonderful experience. You may find it a refuge from other courses. Stretching your creativity and skills, and making a meaningful artifact is immensely rewarding and can help you through difficult times.

I’d like you to start thinking about what you want to create for your projects. Deciding what to make seems to be the most difficult task in the course. The first project will be ‘upcycling’. You can make anything you want from recycled free or low cost materials, such as cardboard, bottle corks or rags. Start collecting them now! Your main project will be  the one you spend money on, and the only requirement is that it be a dynamic artifact; i.e. not static. It could be interactive with the environment or with people, but it could also just be changing on its own. It could serve a purpose, or just make an artistic or aesthetic statement. You’ll need to think about the scope of the project, based on the resources available to you. Please think about your goals, and what you would like to have at the end of the course, both in real artifacts, and in learning. More information about the course is available at

If you think this course is not for you, please keep in mind that there may be other folks on the wait list in some sections, so please don’t delay your decision. If you are on the wait list, don’t worry, there is always room in the end. I’ll be happy to chat with you if you have questions; email me at

Best regards

Prof. Hertzberg

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