Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2013

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Design (MDes)




Gill Wildman

Second Advisor

Nick Durrant


Abstract. “Atlas: Practical Computational Literacy for Designers” is a masters thesis exploring the relationship between design learners and code. In this document, models of learning and motivation serve as a launch point for discussing goals and fears of designers as they relate to code and programming. Using models and interviews with design learners, design professionals, computer scientists, and developers, this document isolates three critical choke points for many design learners relating to code: lack of immediacy and feedback, lack of orientation, and a priori fear of failure. It goes on to explain how how only one of these, lack of immediacy, can be fully compensated for within code-learning contexts, and suggests that the other two originate in contradictions in design learners attitudes about code’s evolving relationship to design practice. The document concludes by introducing Atlas, a system to help designers model real-world computational systems, and better articulate their goals and interests relating to these systems.