About the course

51-372 · Persuasion · Spring 2019 · Carnegie Mellon School of Design

Francis Carter, Eugenia Perez, Dan Lockton
9 units ·  Wednesdays, 12.00–2.50PM, MM 107

Contact details: danlockton@cmu.edu, fcarter@andrew.cmu.edu, neely@cmu.edu
Office hours: by appointment. For Dan: book via Calendly; for Francis and Eugenia, please email.


Persuasion is an important skill for designers to have—both in design practice itself, and in professional situations. Your ability to put across your message, to get other people to agree with you, to value your work, and to want to work with you, will be central to your career, both inside and outside of design. Equally, understanding what persuades you and others—how we are influenced by other people, by media, by our environment, by design—is a crucial reflective skill to develop in better understanding yourself, those around you, and more widely, society.

In this course, running for the third time in spring 2019, we will explore persuasion from a range of perspectives, some focused on design specifically, and some looking at insights from other disciplines and applying them within a design context. We will also examine interpersonal skills and persuasion in a professional context. This is a huge subject, and we will be introducing you to a variety of ideas and methods which form a broad body of knowledge rather than a deep dive into a single subject. The classes will be a mixture of practical activities, lectures and exercises, taught in different ways appropriate to the subject. You will do a series of projects which will enable you to apply the skills you are developing through your specializations in Products, Communications or Environments, and other knowledge and skills you bring.


The course is arranged into three broad modules, or sections:

  • How You Are Persuaded
  • You As A Persuader
  • Persuasion Installation

Objectives and learning outcomes

By the end of the course…

  • you should be comfortable with observing patterns of persuasion in the world, in conversation, in multiple forms of media, and in design, and be able to identify and discuss critically the principles being used
  • you should have compiled and synthesized your own collection of principles and examples of persuasion
  • you should be confident in applying principles of persuasion and other skills learned during the course within the context of design, and professional situations such as facilitation

What you’ll do:

  • practical exercises including workshops, and an ongoing task collecting and organizing persuasion examples ‘in the wild’
  • lectures, readings and discussions, individually and in groups, covering a range of topics
  • a series of projects

Why you’re doing it:

  • to develop persuasion abilities within professional situations
  • to develop ability to apply persuasion principles within design
  • to develop ability to recognize persuasive techniques being used on you and others
  • to develop an understanding of, and literacy with, persuasion in media, design, society and interpersonal situations
  • to develop a critical ability to recognize, engage with and challenge persuasive techniques