In the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE), students are designing the future by building innovative technologies and systems. Putting people first, HCDE students and faculty research, design, and engineer interactions between humans and technology. HCDE students and faculty focus on understanding human needs and interests as they design and build engineering solutions to the world’s problems.
HCDE faculty are award-winning and interdisciplinary, with graduate degrees in fields such as computer science, information studies, industrial engineering, design, education, English, linguistics, public policy, and technology and society studies.
HCDE prepares students for leadership roles in user interface design, user experience research and design, human-computer interaction, information and communication systems, computer-supported cooperative work, and related specializations, all from a human-centered perspective, internationally and globally. Whatever their professional direction, classes, directed research groups, and capstone projects, students develop portfolio quality products. HCDE graduates obtain jobs, primarily in the high-tech industry (e.g., Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, Facebook, T-Mobile, Google, Boeing), researching and designing user interfaces, websites, and other form factors to improve the user experience.
HCDE emphasizes student-centered, hands-on learning. Beyond taking traditional classroom courses, students join research groups and work side-by-side with top-ranked professors and graduate students to enhance the knowledge base of this dynamic field. The educational mission is supported by up-to-date facilities.
HCDE prepares students to assume positions of intellectual leadership in industry, government, non-profit organizations, and academia, HCDE students learn the research skills appropriate to their interests, the most effective design strategies, and the most current technologies and practices. They also learn enduring theory and principles so they can dynamically respond to the evolving field of human centered design and engineering.
Technical communicators use their language, visual, and analytical skills, as well as training and research in electronic and other media, to create and enhance communication in scientific and technical environments. Human centered design and engineering prepares students to design, create, edit, and evaluate technical and scientific discourse. The department provides coursework in the development of online help systems and in the design of general-audience content for delivery by means of advanced communication technologies such as the web.
The complexities of modern life have greatly increased the number of people who need to communicate about technical and other specialized topics. Scientific journal articles, manuals, proposals, and other genres are important for a vast array of readers. With the Information Age, gaining and sharing technological understanding and capability has become a crucial human activity. People communicate in more genres, address broader (often global) audiences, and face more complex rhetorical problems than ever before.
To achieve success in their communication activities, progressive organizations are employing sophisticated planning and development methods, including user-centered design and evaluation, content management, and systems-based analyses. In addition, they undertake research projects and apply existing research to their own needs. Contemporary research in technical communication ranges from controlled empirical research on the processing of text, graphics, and multimedia content to observational research on how meaning is created and negotiated in business environments and virtual communities.
Other major interests include the human-computer interface, hypermedia, communications technology, rhetoric of technical discourse, international communication, visual communication, publications and communications management, policy analysis of technological systems, and research and testing.
The Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering (HCDE) offers the following programs of study:
Bachelor of Science in Human Centered Design and Engineering
Suggested First-Year College Courses: See regular admission requirements
Department Admission Requirements
Engineering Undeclared Students
See section on College of Engineering Admission for additional details on Direct-to-College admission and placement process for Engineering Undeclared students.
If the number of Engineering Undeclared students requesting placement into the major exceeds the department capacity for Engineering Undeclared students, a matching process is implemented. Factors considered include performance in prerequisite courses, quality of overall academic record, content of personal statement, applicable work or extracurricular activities, and other special circumstances as disclosed by the applicant.
Other Current UW Students and Transfer Students
Current UW students without Engineering Undeclared status and transfer students from another college or university may apply. Admission is competitive.
Factors evaluated include performance in prerequisite courses, quality of overall academic record, demonstrated ability to take at least 12 credits per quarter, record of honors, content of personal statement, applicable work or extracurricular activities, and other special circumstances as disclosed by the applicant.
General Education Requirements (88 credits)
Major Requirements (83-87 credits)
Free Electives (as needed)
All students must make satisfactory academic progress in the major. Failure to do so results in probation, which can lead to dismissal from the major. For the complete continuation policy, contact the departmental adviser or refer to the department website.
Minor Requirements: Technical Japanese: Minimum 25 credits to include HCDE 461, HCDE 462, HCDE 463, plus 10 credits from the approved list of elective courses. For more information, contact the departmental adviser.
Student Outcomes and Opportunities
Of Special Note: The HCDE department is an inclusive, hitersiciplinary academic community. Students generally call their professors by their first name and have the opportunity to work individually on projects and research supervised by HCDE faculty. Undergraduate students are encouraged to work in research groups and to attend conferences and professional meetings.
Graduate Program Coordinator
Master of Science in Human Centered Design and Engineering
The department offers a Master of Science in Human Centered Design and Engineering (MS HCDE) - an engineering degree. An evening program is offered through UW Educational Outreach, serving full time and part time students.
Upon completion of the HCDE MS degree, students assume leadership roles in human-centered design and engineering in academia, industry, government, and non-profits. HCDE MS graduates are able to:
Faculty consider the following:
Students must complete the MS HCDE program within three years of admission; most finish in less than two years.
Certificate in User-Centered Design (UCD)
An evening, graduate-level, one-year, four-course program for students who wish to explore a wide range of UCD issues. Involves sophisticated methods for planning and developing intuitive, user-friendly product designs. Students study the latest user research and design theories and practices for placing user needs at the forefront of each stage of the design process.
Focuses on usability studies, user-centered design theory and practice, visual communication and information visualization, and web design.
12 of the 13 credits earned for the UCD certificate may later count toward the MS in Human Centered Design and Engineering if students apply for Graduate Non-Matriculated Status prior to taking coursework.
Doctor of Philosophy
An engineering degree. The program provides experience for students interested in studying the conception, design, implementation, use, evaluation, and effects of technologies.
HCDE's interdisciplinary faculty hold graduate degrees from fields such as computer science, industrial engineering, information studies, design, education, English, linguistics, public policy, and technology and society studies. The faculty's research and teaching focus on six areas of study: influencing awareness, thinking, and behavior; design for emergent collaborations and organizations; low resource and underserved populations; material and embodied technologies, and ubiquitous computing; data visualization and big data; and learning in professional and technical environments.
Early in the program, students may explore different topics and research areas through directed research groups and other independent projects.
Completion of either an undergraduate degree or a master's degree in HCDE or a relevant field (up to 30 credits of master's work may apply toward the 105-credit requirement). Applicants often come from a wide range of backgrounds.
Applicants must submit the following:
International students also submit a TOEFL iBT test score of at least 106 (including a speaking sub-score of 26), obtained within the last two years.
Students are encouraged but not required to teach.
Students often explore different topics and research areas through directed research groups and other independent projects. By the end of the quarter following passing the preliminary examination (usually the end of the fourth quarter), students choose a dissertation adviser and focus on a research area for the dissertation. Students are often supported by a research assistantship.
Students who enter the PhD program with a previous graduate degree relevant to HCDE can petition to have up to 30 credits transferred toward this program.
The department has well-equipped laboratories that effectively support its courses and research projects. Also, HCDE graduate students can utilize significant College of Engineering and University-level research facilities.
A limited number of teaching and research assistantships and scholarships are available.