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Grading for APS: Aesthetics, Polish, and Substance/Storytelling

The goal of this course is to teach you to create a UX/product design case study for your portfolio, which is the first step to getting a UX/product design job. When you're applying for jobs, employers are looking for the following in your case study:

  • Aesthetics: Do your images look refined, consistent, and well-designed? Specifically, since you will be extending a widely-used mobile app for your class project, does your design match the look-and-feel of the app you're building upon (in terms of colors, fonts, and general style)?

  • Polish: Does it look like you've spent genuine effort on your case study, or does it look like it was put together last-minute?

  • Substance/Storytelling: Does your writing convey substantive insights rather than superficial cliches? Do you tell a compelling yet easy-to-follow story in your case study? Do you convincingly justify why you're making key design decisions?

To encourage you to make the best possible case study that can earn you a good job, APS will be part of every assignment's grade.


Note that you do not need to be an exceptional artist to get full credit for APS; just make your designs match the aesthetics of your chosen app and have it look like you spent genuine effort on your assignment. The staff can easily tell when something has been put together last-minute and will take APS points off.

Here's a good test for APS: If we showed your assignment to all your classmates, would the majority of them agree that it looks good enough to present to employers? Or would they think that you did a sloppy job?

Remember, your assignment doesn't need to look perfect; but it needs to be good enough so that employers will take it seriously.


Here are other specific things to be aware of:

  • Typos and misspellings are obvious indicators of bad APS. Make sure to use spell checkers (Figma has a spell checker plug-in you can install, Google Docs too) and proofread your write-ups to pick up on word usage errors that spell checkers can't. One or two typos in a long document is understandable, but too many is an indicator of lack of polish.
  • Make sure that text styles and spacing are consistent (e.g., headers are the same style, all lists are the same style, etc.)
  • Use proper spacing between paragraphs/sections to visually separate them.
  • When you zoom all the way out in Figma so you can see everything at once, it should look consistent and coherent, like you could stand back and see that it has a logical flow.
  • Your sketches and paper prototypes should look polished; again you don't need to be a great artist (after all, they're low-fidelity prototypes!), but show how you've put in real effort.
  • Make sure your photographs are well-lit and don't have messy backgrounds (e.g., dirty laundry or dishes in an apartment). They don't need to be professional-quality photos, but they should clearly convey your message without distraction.
  • Make sure all digital images are high-resolution enough to be clear when you zoom into them in Figma; blurry, grainy, or pixelated images don't look good in a portfolio.
    • If you're sending images over messaging/chat apps to your teammates, those are probably low-resolution; send the original high-resolution images to import into Figma.
  • For good storytelling, think about how you would explain your assignment to a neighbor, parent, or friend. Write like you're talking to them. Most importantly, convey your rationale: why did you design something the way that you did?