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Course Renumbering

naming convention design



Cal Poly doesn’t have a university-wide course numbering scheme, so each department is left to number their courses how they like. 


Due to the difficulty in adopting new numbers, courses don’t typically change numbers, even when it makes sense to, like when courses are sequenced with each other or are related.


How might we design a numbering scheme that can indicate a course’s level, topic, and place in a sequence of related or requisite courses?



This was a self-initiated project.


Pen & paper, Google Sheets


February 2019


User empathy

Though no formal research was conducted for this project, being a Graphic Communication student means that I communicate using course numbers regularly.

defining problems

Sequenced courses
Courses that are related and appear in a sequence often have completely unrelated numbers. 

defining need

Design considerations

Course types

There are four concentrations offered by the GRC department. Abbreviated, they are Management, UX/UI, Printing, and Packaging. 

Non-GRC courses

There are some variants of GRC classes offered by the department that are for students outside the department.


Reconciling problems

To solve these problems, each digit is made meaningful.

full course list

Sorted by number, which roughly indicates the sequence that all of these courses might be taken.
Sorted by type and topic. Darker rows indicate concentration courses (odd second digit).


Due to the impracticality of overhauling the course numbering system, the potential benefits of a system like this is likely not worth it.

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