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B.S. with a Specialization in Design and Interaction

Major Code: CG33

A major may elect to receive a B.S. in Cognitive Science with a specialization in Design and Interaction. This specialization is for students interested in human-computer interaction, web design, mobile app development, user experience (UX) design, product design, or usability research. Allowed electives include advanced courses in cognitive science, communication, computer science, computer engineering, and visual arts.

Students who graduate with this specialization often work in the technology industry in jobs such as Product Designer, UX (User Experience) Designer, UI Designer, UX Researcher, Web Designer, Mobile App Developer, Front-End Software Engineer, Graphic Designer, Product Manager, or Project Manager. Or they go onto graduate school in Human-Computer Interaction.

This specialization is especially known for project-based design courses where students work on teams to create prototypes of products that provide tangible benefits to specific user groups. Students can package those project experiences together into an online portfolio to make themselves more competitive when applying to technology industry jobs and graduate schools.


Major Requirements

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Lower Division Requirements

(11 courses, 44 units or 10 courses, 40 units)


  • MATH 10A, 10B, 10C, 18
  • OR MATH 20A, 20B, 18

* Students intending to take COGS 118A, B, C, or D are advised to take COGS 18 and MATH 20-A-B-C-E, 18, and 180A before their junior year.


Cognitive Science

  • Introduction: COGS 1
  • Design: COGS 10 or DSGN 1
  • Methods: COGS 13, 14A, 14B
  • Neuroscience: COGS 17
  • Programming: COGS 18 or BILD 62 or CSE 6R or 8A or 11

* CSE 8A + 8B or 11 are advised for the Design and Interaction specialization, as they are pre-requisites for some upper-division classes.

Upper Division Requirements

(12 courses, 48 units)

Core (6 courses)

  • Distributed Cognition: COGS 100
  • Fundamental Cognitive Phenomena (choose any 2): COGS 101A, 101B, 101C
  • Cognitive Neuroscience (choose any 2): COGS 107A, 107B, 107C
  • Computation: COGS 108

Electives (6 courses)

  • A total of 6 electives are required. 4 courses must be selected from the CG33 section on the approved specialization electives list. 2 courses must be selected from the approved general CogSci electives list.
    • Out of the 6 total electives, at least 3 courses must be taken within the Cognitive Science department (“COGS” courses).
  • One course in the Cognitive Science 19X series may be used as an elective to satisfy the requirements for the B.S. degree, but only with the approval of both the instructor who supervised the course and the undergraduate advisor.
  • COGS 160 may only be used once for an elective.

Approved Electives (PDF)

Approved Specialization Electives (PDF)


Courses for the major must be taken for a letter grade (with the exception of 195, 197, 198, and 199 which are only offered on a P/NP basis). A minimum grade of C- is required for all courses.

Design and Interaction Faculty

Steven Dow. Associate Professor, SSRB 100,, website. Research: Human-computer interaction, social computing, and design. Understanding and creating tools to support creativity for individuals, groups, and crowds.

Philip Guo. Associate Professor, CSB 129,, website. Research: Human-computer interaction, design, online learning, computing education, programmer productivity.

Jim Hollan. Distinguished Professor, Atkinson 1601,, website. Research: Cognitive ethnography, distributed and embodied cognition, human-computer interaction, multimodal interaction.

David Kirsh. Professor, CSB 173, (858) 822-0672,, website. Research: Design, cognitive ethnography, distributed and embodied cognition, thinking with things, e-learning.

Scott Klemmer. Professor, Atkinson 1601B,, website. Research: Human-computer interaction and design. Empowering more people to design, program, learn, and create: example and data-driven design tools; unearthing ingredients of creative excellence; fostering social learning online.

Haijun Xia. Assistant Professor, SSRB 100, haijunxia@ucsd.eduwebsite. Research: Human-Computer Interaction, Creativity Support Tools, Augmented/Mixed/Virtual Reality, Multimodal Interaction, Information/Data Visualization.

Recommended Design and Interaction Courses

COGS 3. Introduction to Computing (4)
Covers the fundamental concepts that underlie all programming languages and provides an introduction to the essential information about algorithms and data structures. Students design and implement web applications using HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, and Photoshop. No previous programming experience is required.

COGS 10. Cognitive Consequences of Technology (4)
This course examines the interrelationships of cognition and technology from the perspective of cognitive science. We address questions of importance for our increasingly technological society: How does technology shape our minds? How should what we know about our minds shape technology?

COGS 100. Cyborgs Now and in the Future (4)
Covers the theories of situated, distributed, enactive, and embodied cognition. Explains how cyborgs are a natural consequence of our current understanding of embodied minds embedded in culturally shaped niches; how mental systems can be distributed over other people and things. Prerequisites: COGS 1 or COGS 10.

COGS 102A. Cognitive Perspectives (4)
Explores current theoretical frameworks of high-level human cognition that emphasize how we interact with the material, social, and cultural world. Themes include the philosophy and history of cognitive science, the role of artifacts, and how cognition extends beyond the individual. Prerequisites: COGS 1 or COGS 10.

COGS 102B. Cognitive Ethnography (4)
Examines memory, reasoning, language, culture, planning, and interaction directly in everyday, real-world settings. Focuses on ethnographic methods, their history, and their application. The course work includes projects in which students make observations of real-world activity and analyze their cognitive significance. Prerequisites:  COGS 102A.

COGS 102C. Cognitive Design Studio (6)
This project-based course focuses on learning and applying the process of human-centered cognitive design. Students work in teams to design and evaluate a prototype application or redesign an existing system. Emphasizes contextual inquiry, user research, ideation, iterative design, and evaluation. Prerequisites: COGS 102B.

COGS 120. Interaction Design (5)
Introduces fundamental methods and principles for designing, implementing, and evaluating user interfaces. Topics: user-centered design, rapid prototyping, experimentation, direct manipulation, cognitive principles, visual design, social software, software tools. Learn by doing: work with a team on a quarter-long design project. Recommended preparation: basic familiarity with HTML. Students may not receive credit for both Cognitive Science 120 and CSE 170. Prerequisites: (COGS108 or CSE12 or DSC30) and (COGS1 or COGS10 or DSGN1 or ENG100D).

COGS 121. Human Computer Interaction Portfolio Design Studio (4)
Create a personal portfolio of web/mobile/product design projects, oral presentations, and practice pitches to stakeholders. Prerequisites: COGS 120 or CSE 170 and COGS 18 or CSE 8B or CSE 11 or DSC 30.

COGS 122. Startup Studio (4)
Explores tools and processes for innovating novel business concepts to solve problems involving the interaction between humans and technology. Students will work with an interdisciplinary team to understand unmet user needs and to create a value proposition that balances technical feasibility, financial viability, and desirability. Prerequisites: (DSGN 100 or COGS 187B or COGS 187A or COGS 120 or CSE 170).

COGS 123. Social Computing (4)
This course explores the intersection of social behavior and computational systems. Students will examine a range of organizational, technical, and business challenges related to social computing, and learn how to use tools to analyze, design, and build online communities. Prerequisites: (COGS 102C or COGS 120 or COGS 187A or COGS 187B or DSGN 1).

COGS 124. HCI Technical Systems Research (4)
In this advanced project-based course, we study the state-of-the-art in research on technical systems for human-computer interaction (HCI). Students will deconstruct the systems described in top-tier HCI papers and work in teams to create novel technical systems of their own. Prerequisites: COGS 120 and COGS 121.

COGS 125. Advanced Interaction Design (4)
This is a studio class for students who are passionate about diving deep into interaction design and honing their design skills. Introduces social computing, input & interaction techniques, and information design. Students will regularly present work in a studio format. Prerequisites: (CSE 11 or CSE 8B) and (COGS 120 or CSE 170).

COGS 126. Thinking with Computers (4)
This course surveys the field of human-computer interaction and the ideas and technologies that have shaped its development. Prerequisites: COGS 120 or COGS 121 or CSE 170.

COGS 127. Data-Driven UX/Product Design (4)
Create a UX/product design case study for your portfolio; team project with user research, data science, prototyping, and user testing. Prerequisites: COGS 18 or CSE 11 or CSE 8B or DSC 30 and COGS 1 or COGS 187A or DSGN 1.

COGS 128. Information Visualization (4)
Frames information visualization as a quintessential cognitive science problem within our interdisciplinary field. Students learn conceptual and practical aspects of creating high-quality, interactive information displays to support a variety of cognitive tasks and then apply them to real-world data. Prerequisites: (COGS 10 or DSGN 1) and COGS 108.

COGS 187A. Usability and Information Architecture (4)
Examines the cognitive basis of successful web and multimedia design. Topics: information architecture, navigation, usability, graphic layout, transaction design, and how to understand user interaction. Prerequisites: (COGS 18 or CSE 11 or CSE 8A) and (COGS 10 or DSGN 1).

COGS 187B. Practicum in Professional Web Design (4)
This course follows up on the basics of multimedia design taught in Cognitive Science 187A. Students will probe more deeply into selective topics, such as animation, navigation, graphical display of information, and narrative coherence. Prerequisites: COGS 187A or consent of instructor.

DSGN 118. Design for Future Creativity and Productivity (4)
This course covers fundamentals of the design of creativity support tools for various types of digital content, including images, videos, animations, information visualization, augmented/mixed/virtual reality. We will also explore how novel interaction techniques, such as gestural interaction, speech input, and artificial intelligence can be used to support people's creativity and productivity. Prerequisites: (COGS 18 or CSE 11 or CSE 8B or DSC 30) and (COGS 1 or COGS 187A or DSGN 1).

Career and Graduate School Resources

Possible careers: Product Designer, UX (User Experience) Designer, UI (User Interface) Designer, UX Researcher, Web Designer, Mobile App Developer, Software Engineer, Front-End Programmer, Data Visualization Specialist, Graphic Designer, Product Manager, Project Manager, Tech Entrepreneur