CDM: Master of Digital Media — Term Two Review

I am a UX Designer and Researcher completing a graduate degree at the Centre for Digital Media in Vancouver, BC.

The big ol’ Sandcrawler in Spring! Haven’t been there in a while so unsure if this is true to life…

As I mentioned in my last review, the CDM’s Master of Digital Media (MDM) is a 16-month program affiliated with four BC universities (BCIT, Emily Carr, SFU, UBC). It blends real-world industry projects and course work, facilitating experiential learning for students.

The intention of these end-of-term reviews is to give prospective MDM students an updated overview of what to expect in the program. As expected, the remainder of the program will be conducted remotely for my cohort (C15s). According to BC’s COVID regulations, students can ‘prepare for a full return to campus in September 2021’ — meaning the next cohort can enjoy the CDM’s facilities… and likely C15s swinging by!

The following review of course content is my personal experience and is not affiliated with the CDM.

In Term 2, students can select one elective and must complete Projects 2 (client work). The elective I chose Digital Persuasion & Behaviour Change.

Digital Persuasion & Behaviour Change: DMED540 [3 Credits]

Course Overview
Have you ever felt frustrated that you can’t justify design decisions with something other than “it looks good” or “it’s on-brand”?
This is the course for you.

Are you wanting to learn persuasive techniques but unsure that you will be able to wrap your head around all the concepts?
Well, the prof has 30 years of industry experience of harnessing persuasive techniques in branding and advertising.

Still unsure?
As someone who has successfully completed the course, I cannot recommend it enough — especially for designers.

If you couldn’t tell, you have just been ‘Aristotled’... Albeit pretty poorly!

Alongside the Rhetorical Triangle, we learned a number of other, industry-standard persuasive frameworks. Some of these are used in more traditional forms of media (like advertising, general branding), digital products, and games. We were a small class of 13 in total and we met on a weekly basis to chat, and sometimes debate, about the weekly learnings. The nature of the informal class structure enabled us to chat freely about course content in a judgement-free zone which, I believe, helped cement the materials.

Course Deliverables
Persuasions was front-loaded with weekly readings, discussions, mini presentations, and the occasional smaller assignment. This helped to get all of the persuasive techniques under our belt before tackling our big-huge-colossal piece of assessment. ‘Twas big.

Most of these smaller assignments required us to explain a recently learned persuasive technique in the context of a real-life example. They could be presented in any form (e.g. comic strip, video… ~foreshadowing~). The flexibility of these deliverables meant we could explore different tools, or mediums, that we wanted to try our hand at.

I used a comic strip to explain Kahneman’s System 1 and System 2 of thinking (a.k.a. hare brain and tortoise mind — clearly I took this quite literally…):

Clearly not cut out for the comic strip design— flow ain’t that intuitive…

As this example is pretty literal (i.e. grey for grey matter; filing cabinet for thoughts), I feel confident in my understanding of how System 1 and 2 interact.

I also tried my hand at making a stick man awkwardly moonwalk to a gym, because why not?

I vibe with Larry.

We had a few practice rounds with presenting to our peers before our big presentation, including explaining course content. One week, we were each tasked with explaining one portion of Jennifer L Clinehens’ CHOICE hacking. I can say for sure that I know a lot about the first C:

We were limited to 5 slides meaning everyone’s talks were pretty succinct. This restriction helped to cut-out the ‘fluffy information’ and really consider what aspects were important to share with our peers.

The final piece of assessment was aptly named: … Final Presentation! Each of us had been tasked with selecting a brief from the D&AD awards and layering on persuasive techniques that we had learned throughout the term. We also had to present in front of peers and faculty in a 10 x 10 x 5 format: 10 slides max, 10 minutes to talk and 5 minutes for feedback/comments.

I selected the Spotify brief with a desktop solution, thinking it would give me the chance to hone in on my feature design skills as well as have enough space to use different types of persuasive techniques.

Here is my actual presentation:

Pls excuse the monotonous tone and the “uuuuuhms”… I had COVID and some serious brain fog.

tl;dr: my slides which feature a link to my final prototype.

All in all, I’m extremely happy that I did Persuasions. I have a solid understanding of a wide variety of persuasive techniques to apply to different digital solutions. The pace of the course was just right and, because it was front-loaded with readings, there were lots of opportunities to use these frameworks throughout the term.

Our final persuasions party!

Projects 2: DMED521 [12..yes 12.. Credits]

Course Overview
Due to the nature of the project (…NDA), I am unable to delve deeply into the project details. I can, however, say that my client, the Vancouver Art Gallery, my team, and supervisor (Jason “why guy” Elliott), were amazing to collaborate with.

Similar to last term’s Projects 1, we were assigned to teams and clients at the beginning of a 13-week term. Unlike last term, however, this was VERY hands-off. This might have just been our supervisor as he mentioned that, if we were falling off a proverbial cliff, he would provide a pillow to soften the blow… a pillow.

This lack of cushioning was a big reason why I think this project went so well. The team and I knew that we had to ‘own’ it and not just waiting for instructions/guidance from our supervisor, but rather build a solid relationship with our client. This meant strategizing and solving failures as they came, actively listening to our clients’ needs, and taking all the feedback in our stride.

Each week, we met with the client to go through progress updates and/or feedback requests. This felt like a high stakes project so it was important to keep them in the loop at every step in the process. Although there were a few bumps in the road, our transparency with the client ensured that there were no ambiguities about the scope of the final deliverables.

Course Deliverables
The team delivered master documentation (which covered our whole process, deprecated ideas, and more!), a TDD for the gallery tech team (a.k.a. instruction manual), and a final presentation video to the CDM community. Ironically, our time sheets were not updated as much as our blog, which was updated weekly!

Since I am not at liberty to discuss any more project details, I will simply say check back here towards the beginning of 2022. All will be revealed (a.k.a. will unlock the blog!) and all I will say is that it’s good. Real good.

Our final meeting with our client ._. where we gave them an exclusive viewing of our video <:)

Pitch Project

The CDM is known for being pretty dang flexible. It offers two tracks for students:

  1. Continue working with clients in Projects 3
  2. Form a team and develop an idea for a startup

Each of these options present unique opportunities for students. The former facilitates deeper industry connections through client work, whereas the latter gives us the space to develop our own ideas with a safety net and guidance. Tough decision, eh?

CDM students are unable to just: “k, so imma make a new app — mmk?”. There are a few hoops to jump through first!

For those who are interested in this option, they need to form a team. Once teams are formed, they have to come up with an idea that they believe is worthy of resources. Then, they have to pitch their idea to a panel of experts who are, essentially, a “home brewed” Dragon’s Den.

This sounded like a really interesting challenge to be a part of but I knew I wanted to continue client work. Being a self-proclaimed octopus, I like having my, uh, tentacles in many different projects 🐙, I found a team that was willing to let me ‘pitch and ditch’.

I worked with Matt, Neel, and Tom on fleshing out an ethical application aimed at helping users ‘cut through the clutter’ and find out what their money is supporting, essentially:

How might we assist consumers in making better informed and more ethical decisions in their purchasing patterns?

We met a few times to establish what the app’s core principles would be and a rough idea of our prospective project timeline. I helped with the pitch deck, branding, research, and initial UX mockups. Although it is difficult without the context of the accompanying presentation, here is our slide deck:

Couch potato GIFs by Neel ❤

A few weeks later, we found out that Ethica had been selected as the pitch project for Term 3! This meant that the guys are going full steam ahead and developing Ethica and I will be helping in any capacity I can (alongside T3’s client project, of course!).

Now that it’s “SPRING BREAAK”, I’m keen to update my portfolio and take a little bit of a break before the final term leading up to the Fall internship.

Next up, I’ll be learning loads in Visual Story, User Experience, and helping as an Instructional Assistant for Finding Product Market Fit.

Until Term Three’s review, here is yet another (questionable) CDM-themed haiku for you:

COVID is still here
Damn, that’s super frustrating
Man, haikus are hard.

Graduate student at the Centre for Digital Media specializing in UX/UI Design and Research ~ marywildesign.com