New Directors of Research Initiatives and Design Futures

Here at Design Incubation, 2020 has been a challenging yet productive and exciting year.  Despite the shifts to online teaching and the need to physically distance, we have continued to connect with you via virtual presentation opportunities. Also, we have been working on new resources for design faculty.
 
As we plan for a fresh start in 2021 and beyond, we continue to evolve our programming, developing new resources and events to better serve design researchers and scholars. To help us with these endeavors, we are pleased to announce we are appointing two new directors to the team. Jessica Barness will join Design Incubation as the Director of Research Initiatives and Heather Snyder Quinn will take on the role of the Director of Design Futures. Please join us in welcoming Jessica and Heather to the Design Incubation Leadership Team.
                                                                   
Jessica Barness is an Associate Professor in the School of Visual Communication Design at Kent State University. She is both a scholar and practitioner; her work has been published in internationally recognized journals. Recently, Jessica spearheaded the development of a pair of white papers, which examine the role of peer review in design research and publishing. Jessica will continue to work with the Design Incubation Leadership Team on research-related initiatives and new programming, which will examine how design faculty can approach writing from idea through to publication.
 
Heather Snyder-Quinn is an Assistant Professor of Design in The College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University. Her work focuses on the future ethics of emerging technology, including augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things. Heather was the host of Design Incubation’s Affiliated Society meeting at the College Art Association’s 2020 annual conference inviting twelve local design organizations in Chicago to participate in a round table and Q&A. She hosted a Design Incubation Colloquium at DePaul in 2019, which coincided with Chicago Design Week. We look forward to working with Heather to produce events and content focused on emerging technologies and their role in design futures.

If This is Theory, Why Isn’t It Boring? Connecting traditional text[book]s to real-life contexts with Augmented Reality

Teaching Award Winner

Although it pains me to say so, I find that many undergraduate students think “theory” is a difficult, if not an irrelevant, even “boring” subject. In the case of my sophomore-level online course, “GD303 Graphic Design Theory + Practice,” students access course content asynchronously, oftentimes when they are alone, perhaps in the privacy of their own homes. In other words, their learning does not take place in a space where “real” people sit together as a “real” instructor moves around the lecture hall (who, incidentally, is able to observe facial expressions of confused or enlightened students). GD303 satisfies university “General Education” course requirements — consequently, at least half the students enrolled each semester are not Graphic Design majors.

The project I am pleased to submit to the 2020 Design Incubation Award is an Augmented Reality (AR) application, designed for my GD303 course and supported through a NCSU Course Innovation Grant from DELTA that I received in 2018. AR learning experiences, in the form of digital overlays that appear in the physical world, render abstract theoretical topics more concrete, no matter the student’s major, and in ways that motivate them to study and engage with course content (especially the textbook). Target images printed in the textbook trigger twelve different AR multimedia learning experiences that designed to “make visible” key theoretical concepts by animating them in a way that demonstrates and illustrates these concepts. The app is available to anyone, whether they own the textbook or not, and they do not need to be enrolled in the course. It is downloadable for free on Apple Store or Google Play (tablet or smart phone). The design of the app also meets usability and accessibility criteria for learners with vision disabilities.

While the physical world where we live and learn is a 3-dimensional spatial world, it is paradoxical that the materials for delivering online curricula are mostly 2-dimensional, flat media. The choice of AR is about exploring innovative solutions to the design of course content beyond typical textbooks, study guides, and Powerpoint lectures. The AR-enhanced reading experiences are designed to be immersive, colorful, surprising, interactive, and energetic to get students to delve deeper into and reflect upon the theoretical topics we cover. AR technology brings a “boring” textbook to life by connecting reading assignments (accessed as static pages) to real-world digital examples from different perspectives — examples that students prefer, i.e., dynamic media. It functions like an interactive “pocket study guide” that students can use while they read their assignments. It is designed to “perform” like a teacher in a live class by pointing out main concepts — and their locations — in the textually dense readings. As a “virtual instructor,” the application poses “pop-up pop-questions” to help students prepare for exams — a feature that helps students grasp one of Graphic Design’s main visual theories, “Gestalt”. The AR tools are designed to help students visualize other difficult-to-understand concepts, such as “objective reality,” “three-point perspective,” and “vectors,” as well as “see” how a designer uses a grid to layout a design. Furthermore, the AR experiences provide multiple means of representation (two dimensional, three-dimensional, audio, video, animated media) so that students can approach information in more than one way. Examples include: digital storytelling by a virtual agent who explains theories used in a seminal Postmodern design poster; the ability to see how form communicates meaning in the design of an architectural feature; or a virtual magnifying glass that lets users zoom into an image to read small type that otherwise could not be read in a print reproduction.

The move from an inert medium, such as a static drawing or photograph printed in a book, to dynamic interactive representations that visually demonstrate conceptual frameworks is positively changing how students think about theory in this course (see “Evidence of Outcome”). I considered how images already published in the textbook could incorporate new visual representations in the form of three-dimensional models and time-based animations— e.g., how static printed images become dynamic media that delves further into topics for those students who may want or need more in-depth explanations.

Early evaluations of the tool found that students (even non-majors) were not only enthusiastic about learning complex subjects, but they had made significant conceptual developments and improved exam scores (see “Evidence of Outcome”). Furthermore, the menu-driven, collapsible interface is designed for easy expansion — more experiences are planned in the future.

Each type of media I have incorporated in my GD303 course (the textbook, the lecture slides, the online Moodle platform, and now, the augmented reality application) are designed with a consistent “look and feel” across the different media. Graphic Design majors, especially, want to see the learning materials they engage with in their design courses as being informed by the design principles of good form, design consistency, and engaging visual vocabularies that they are learning about in their educations — it is my way of putting theory into practice.

All contributors affiliation is:
North Carolina State University
Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA)

Rich Gurnsey, Lead Multimedia Designer
Laurie Gyalog, Lead Project Manager
Stephen Waddell, Immersive Media Developer
Matthew Casto, 2D/3D Artist

Deborah Littlejohn is an Associate Professor in the Department of Graphic Design & Industrial Design and affiliated faculty with the College of Design’s PhD in Design program. She teaches masters and undergraduate courses in the areas of history, theory, and research methods, as well as studios that focus on the cognitive-cultural aspects of design. Her research is guided by questions that address relationships between new information environments, technology, and people’s ability to learn, adapt, and change through the mediating influence of design. Projects focus on understanding the perceptions of professional, technological, and socio-cultural impacts on design’s professional and academic development. In the community engagement space, she works on visualization tools and interactive asset mapping applications to support stakeholders in communicating their community’s future development and potential.

Rich Gurnsey is a lead multimedia designer at DELTA (Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications) at North Carolina State University. In this role, Rich collaborates with instructors, subject matter experts, instructional designers, and other teammates to develop or improve upon courses and instructional materials via visual media including animation, video, AR, VR, motion graphics, illustration, and graphic design.

Rich’s recent projects include leading a team in the creation of an augmented reality app that transforms a graphic design theory textbook into an engaging multimedia experience, and helping to create a virtual organic chemistry lab — complete with 360 video and animation, which enables users to carry out five experiments in a VR environment. Additionally, Rich’s freelance animation work has been featured in film festivals in the U.S. and abroad, as well as in galleries, online, and on TV. He is a graduate of the College of Design at NC State.

Laurie Gyalog, a Lead Project Manager, with NC State University, works on a variety of projects ranging from course grants and learning analytics to workflow management of marketing and communications. Laurie works to enhance efficiency, effectiveness, transparency, collaboration and communication across all projects and areas of the organization. She is the founder of the NC State University Project Management and Agile Community (PMAC), a Certified Scrum Product Owner® (CSPO®), Certified SAFe® 5 Program Consultant (SPC), Certified SAFe® 5 Lean Portfolio Manager (LPM), Certified SAFe® 5 Product Owner/ Product Manager (POPM), Certified SAFe® 5 Practitioner (SP), Certified SAFe® 4 Agilist (SA), and ICAgile Certified Professional – Agile Coach (ICP-ACC).

Stephen Waddell works with NC State’s Distance Education (DELTA) department as an Immersive Media Developer. Generally this involves working with cutting edge XR technology to enhance course design, and exploring new software and hardware to further the media possibilities in and outside of the traditional classroom setting. With a background in both design and computer science his role blends both the design and realization of immersive media projects.

Matthew Castro is a 2D/3D Artists with over 5 years’ experience, who strives to make the work stand out from the rest. He enjoys working with others and troubleshooting any task that presents itself. Matthew collaborates with numerous DELTA staff as a team member on a variety of distance education projects, doing what he can to ensure the projects are memorable, usable, educational, and delightful.

Design Incubation Communication Design Awards 2020 recipient

Augmented Reality Overcoming Learning Disabilities

Renée Stevens
Assistant Professor
Multimedia Photography & Design Department
S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Syracuse University

The future of AR and mixed realities are here. With Apple’s introduction of ARkit launching this fall, I was able to design and develop an app concept to use inside this new space called tagAR. An app that will help enhance social networking and empower those who struggle to remember people’s names in a crowd. I will share my concept, workflow, limitations of the technology as it changes and finally show how AR is going to advance the power of design for social good, specifically those who have a learning disability or are dyslexic, like myself.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 4.0: SUNY New Paltz on September 9, 2017.

Designing Immersive Experiences with Empathy

Ed Johnston
Assistant Professor
Michael Graves College
Robert Busch School of Design
Kean University

One essential component in the vast majority of design thinking methodologies is the importance of empathy. As designers, we have the opportunity to understand and share the feelings of another, articulate pain points within a situation and develop solutions to those pain points.

With the emergence of mobile virtual reality and augmented reality, designers can begin to develop novel solutions to some daunting and exciting questions. What if we could help someone travel through time to the past and see things as they once were? What if we could transport someone into a space, which they cannot reach? What if we could help distract someone from feeling chronic pain or loneliness?

I have been working with students and creative researchers on projects to respond to some of these questions. In my Liberty Hall 360 research initiative, I have been using immersive technologies, including 360-degree video and augmented reality, to address a variety of needs within Liberty Hall Museum. These needs include accessibility and enrichment of the museumgoer’s experience to feel a stronger sense of presence within historic moments.
In this presentation, I will share the development of my collaborative projects and some inspirational projects by other creative researchers, which are establishing the experiential and therapeutic significance of the application of immersive technologies. In addition, I will put forth an argument for the importance of incorporating immersive technologies into design education curricula.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.1: Kean University on Saturday, Oct 22, 2016.

Membit: A Magic Time Machine

Jay Van Buren
Artist, Designer
CEO and Founder, Early-Adopter.com LLC
Co-Founder and CEO, Membit Inc.

Places are part of our identity. Our memories and experiences are tied to places, and yet in a world where we increasingly use digital means for everything, there’s no good way to mark a place as special to us, or to connect with the other people for whom that place matters. GPS is insufficiently precise and computer-vision-based augmented reality depends upon some kind of physical marker, a poster, a plaque, or other demarcation.

Membit allows people to annotate a location with precisely placed, augmented content without using computer vision. It uses the patented “human positioning system” which works anywhere.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 2.1: Pratt Institute, Graduate Communications Design on Saturday, October 24, 2015.