10 Years of Design Incubation’s Colloquium Presentations: A Journey Through the Keywords Defining the Past Decade

From the desk of the Director of Peer Review

Camila Afanador Llach
Associate Professor
Florida Atlantic University

Every year since 2014, Design Incubation has hosted public colloquia for communication design academics and practitioners to share and discuss their research and creative practice. The titles, abstracts, and keywords for these presentations are published and archived in the Design Incubation website. This archive contains a portion of the story of communication design research during the last decade mostly in the United States through the work of professors, adjunct faculty, grad students, and practitioners that have participated in the colloquia. Education, design pedagogies, collaboration, research, design theory, design history, and many other topics are part of this archive. Each abstract’s keywords provide an overview of the focus of each presentation. What can these keywords tell us about the field of communication design research in the past 10 years? Using text analysis tools, this presentation will give an overview on the most common research topics in the field year by year during the last decade.

This design research is presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 10.3: Tenth Anniversary, St. John’s University (Hybrid) on Friday, June 7, 2024.

Perspectives Vancouver

Teaching Award Winner

Jonathan Hannan, Assistant Professor, Emily Carr University of Art + Design

Perspectives brings together Communication Design students and residents of long-term care homes, creating a platform for meaningful intergenerational exchange and social interaction through the co-design and co-creation of mini-publications that express residents’ stories through writing, photography and other art media.

It’s not uncommon for residents of long-term care homes to face issues of social isolation and diminishment of personal identity, with opportunities for genuine creative and personal expression being limited. Residents can feel like they no longer have anything to contribute, that their story has closed, they’re unchallenged which often leads to cognitive decline. Design students tend to have limited life experience and are unsure about what direction they want to take in life. Perspectives explores the benefits of a reciprocal relationship between the two, engaging participants in a mutual exchange of experiences.

First, students and residents engage in “Getting to Know Me” sessions, during which they share information about themselves and learn about the other participants. Students then design activities using the limited knowledge they have about residents to uncover stories and points of interest they can explore during the Content Generation sessions that follow. This series of student-designed Content Generation sessions include creative approaches such as; storytelling, games, quizzes, drawing and collage. These activities act as creative probes to generate thematic starting points for narrative analysis and conceptual development, with emphasis placed on the mutual participation of students and residents.

A common observation is that the design students take non-linear approaches to storytelling, with content generation topics ranging from the importance of respect, to opinions on sharks to activities that focus on residents dreams and future aspirations. This leads to a diverse range of publications, with one telling the detailed story of a resident’s life as an animal trainer for 1950s TV and film, another focused on residents’ preferences for sensations such as taste and smell, and a third, comic book publication in which residents were represented as superheroes.

Students take material generated in the sessions and create initial editorial designs to be taken back for residents to review. Residents express their preferences on concept, copy, layout, typography, colors and composition. Following the review, students create multiple copies for a final sharing session. In this session all participants engage in a storytelling and sharing activity, with individual groups deciding how to share what they have made together, which often results in students and residents sharing stories together. These sessions are often highly emotional, with much laughter, and some tears, from all parties. Multiple copies are given to residents to allow them share their story with other residents, their families and care staff.

In the summer of 2018, funding was awarded from the Centre for Aging Brain and Health Innovation (CABHI) for an observational research study to investigate the impact of the project upon residents. The study concluded that the experience was an overwhelmingly positive experience for both residents and students. One resident, when asked about what they gained by participating in the program, explained, “Another look at the younger generation, what is going on with them and to see that they are with us, there is no separation between the ages, we are all the same.”

Anecdotal feedback from the care staff told of how residents would share their stories with carers and physicians who were able to gain a better sense of the resident, which could ultimately inform their care. A concern when starting the project was the lasting impact on the residents once students had left. We discovered that the project connected residents in new ways, forming new connections and friendships, while many residents began to engage with other programs in the home, becoming more social. When interviewed following the completion of the project, one member of staff said, “it brought some of the residents more social engagement. There were a few residents that stay in the room all the time. So, one particular resident was coming to see you guys in the group and they love telling their story.”

The benefits of the project extended beyond just residents, with the benefits for students also visible. Students participating in the project are in their third year of a four-year degree program, possessing strong design skills, but lacking experience of using those skills beyond a classroom environment. In a post-project survey one student noted, “It was really incredible to be able to spend time with seniors in the way that we did. I think there’s something really special about the bond between elders/youth.”

It’s not uncommon for many students approaching their final year of university to have something of an existential crisis, trying to find where they fit in the world as a designer. Perspectives engages the students in designing for an aging population for the first time, with many expressing an interest in revisiting that problem space in the future, something that is especially timely as the Canadian government recently announced its first Dementia Strategy. One student observed, “Western care homes are more often than not very cold and clinical, and in general not a very comfortable place to live. Designers have the skill set creativity and knowledge to help rectify this.”

Following three successful incarnations of Perspectives, in two different care homes, a “How to Guide” is being developed for other schools and care homes to run the project. A new application for funding has been made to CABHI to fund the publication of the How to Guide and I am currently in discussions with academic institutions, both national and international, about implementing the project and piloting the guide. The project has been presented at DementiaLab 2018 (United Kingdom), Design4Health 2018 (United Kingdom), the Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association 2019 and the Canadian Therapeutic Recreation Association Conference 2019, with papers currently being finalized for DementiaLab 2019 (the Netherlands), International MinD Conference 2019 (Germany) and the Canadian Frailty Network conference 2019. In April 2019 an article on Perspectives was published in the journal Design for Health (Volume 3, 2019).

Jon Hannan is Assistant Professor of Communication Design, having previously held the positions of Senior Lecturer of Graphic Design at Manchester School of Art and Senior Lecturer of Fashion Communication and Promotion at Nottingham Trent University. He holds an MA and a BA (Hons) in Design & Art Direction from Manchester School of Art, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from Huddersfield University and is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (UK). Alongside teaching, Jon founded and ran Manchester-based design studio, OWT, for six years. OWT started as an experimental and collaborative publication before growing into a fully-practicing design studio. His research has been featured in international design publications, journals and online platforms such as Design for Health Journal, IdN, Computer Arts, the Guardian and CNN.

Recipient of recognition in the Design Incubation Communication Design Awards 2019.

Faculty Census 2018: Data on Design Professionals in Academia

Census data from a survey on the professional experiences of design faculty in U.S. colleges and universities.

The Design Incubation Faculty Census

Aaris Sherin, Dan Wong, Josh Korenblat, Aaron Ganci

The Faculty Census gathers information about trends affecting design faculty. Participants included full and part-time faculty at U.S. colleges and universities. All data contributions are anonymous and used exclusively for research purposes.

The following graphics and charts are based on data gathered in the first faculty census. They were developed to help visualize and evaluate different types and patterns of activities engaged in by faculty and administrators and to investigate conditions of their employment. We aim to reveal factors associated with academia which might be used for individual or institutional decision-making. This includes but is not limited to college and university budget planning, legislative agendas, anticipating shifts in student body makeup, etc. Our ultimate goal is to help faculty to understand the landscape of higher education within their discipline and to use data to proactively plan for and/or to react to shifts in thinking about the role of a design educator within the academy.

The Carnegie Classification®

Many of the graphics developed for the 2018 Faculty Census use the Carnegie Classification® as a system for comparison. The Carnegie Classification® has been the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education for the past four and a half decades. The framework is widely used in the study of higher education, both as a way to represent and control for institutional differences, and also in the design of research studies to ensure adequate representation of sampled institutions, students, or faculty. Looking up your own institution can help you understand which classification applies to you personally and may help inform your understanding of the visualizations from the Faculty Census.


We invite faculty, researchers and interested parties to engage with the data collected as part of the Faculty Census 2018 and to use the information gathered here to support their own work and their engagement with institutions in higher education. We encourage and welcome collaboration and are happy to discuss publishing findings and or additional visualizations using this data. If you have questions or would like more information please contact info@designincubation.com

Thank you to all who gave us meaningful feedback during the development of this survey including Michael Gibson, Amy Fidler, Kelly Murdock-Kitt, Carma Gorman, Alex Girard, AIGA DEC, UCDA.

Thank you to all who generously shared their professional experiences in academia.

Note: Please view on tablet or desktop for optimal visualizations. Tabbed navigation across the top reveals more census results.

What Does Democratic Design Look Like? Establishing the Center for Design in the Public Interest at the University of California, Davis

Scholarship: Creative Work Award Runner Up

Susan Verba
University of California, Davis

At the UC Davis Center for Design in the Public Interest (DiPi), a multidisciplinary team of design practitioners, writers, researchers, educators, and students work closely with community partners to make ordinary experiences better.

Established with a mission to directly impact social problems and seed funding awarded by the UC Davis Office of Research (via the Interdisciplinary Frontiers in the Humanities and Arts competition), DiPi focuses on projects related to public health, safety, and civic engagement. Explorations derive from the core question: What does democratic design look like? Activities result in the redesign of everyday things and the creation of new tools and methods. Outcomes—including design prototypes and best practices—are disseminated as open-source models for others to build on.

Faculty affiliated with DiPi contribute expertise in writing and rhetoric; communication; computer science; medicine; anthropology; and gender, sexuality, and women’s studies. Student assistants and researchers have diverse backgrounds—in design, art, biotechnology, cognitive science, community development, computer science, digital media, pharmaceutical chemistry, sustainable agriculture and food systems, technical communication, and more. The team’s transdisciplinary collaborations offer exciting opportunities to explore new ways of working and lead to innovative ways of approaching design education.

Susan Verba, Professor of Design, is the Center’s director. Since DiPi’s launch in 2014 she has initiated grant proposals and spearheaded outreach efforts that have supported more than a dozen public interest projects. In addition to leading the projects, Verba’s activities include training and mentoring graduate and undergraduate students, establishing collaborative partnerships, and connecting research to teaching and curriculum development.

A major focus of Verba’s work at DiPi involves The Pain Project, a cooperative venture with UC Davis Health and Hill Country Health and Wellness Center (a Federally Qualified Health Center serving low-income patients in rural Shasta County, California). The goal is to engage patient and provider communities in the design of tools to help evaluate and better manage chronic pain. Although millions of Americans suffer from chronic pain, clinicians lack adequate informational resources for engaging patients in their own care, and patients lack effective ways to track and communicate their pain or to fully understand treatment options and risks such as opioid addiction. The Pain Project is supported in part by a Sappi Ideas that Matter grant.

A related project, Outpatient Radio, aims to combat the stigma and isolation of chronic pain, improve understanding of the many issues surrounding chronic pain, and spark new conversations in California’s North State community through grassroots radio programming. Although experts often dominate medical discussions, Outpatient Radio seeks to redraw the boundaries of expertise to include individuals whose personal experience and regional knowledge are often overlooked. By collecting and sharing stories in-person, on-air, and online, we are exploring how narratives connect, inform, and support communities through listening and conversation. The hour-long show aired on community stations KKRN 88.5 FM in Round Mountain (Shasta County) and KDVS 90.3 FM in Davis, California, and is online at https://youtu.be/MBrvnTVYeeM. Outpatient Radio was honored with a San Francisco Design Week award for “the unexpected and experimental products that can’t be put into a category” and recognized with an Honorable Mention in the 2018 SEED + Pacific Rim Awards for excellence in public interest design.

Online at http://dipi.design.

Susan Verba is a professor in the Department of Design and director of the Center for Design in the Public Interest at the University of California, Davis. Her work focuses on information design that directly benefits the public, exploring issues of health, safety, community participation, and access. She is also principal and cofounder of Studio/lab, where she leads research-based projects and advocates for the value of design in corporate, nonprofit, and government communications. She earned an MFA in graphic design from Yale University and a BS in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, and studied at the Politecnico di Milano in Italy as a Fulbright scholar.


Recipient of recognition in the Design Incubation Communication Design Awards 2018.

Call for Entries: Communication Design Educators Awards 2018

Accepting entries for the Communication Design Educators Awards 2018. The deadline for applications is May 31, 2018.

Design Incubation is delighted to announce we are now accepting entries for the Communication Design Educators Awards 2018. The deadline for applications is May 31, 2018.

The distinguished jurors for 2018 are the following:

Jorge Meza Aguilar
Professor of Strategic Design
Provost for Outreach and Collaboration
Universidad Iberoamericana
Mexico City, Mexico

Ruki Ravikumar
Director of Education
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum 
New York, NY

Wendy Siuyi Wong
Graduate Program Director
Department of Design
York University
Toronto, Canada

Steven McCarthy
Professor of Graphic Design
University of Minnesota

Maria Rogal
Professor of Graphic Design
University of Florida


  • Scholarship: Published Research
  • Scholarship: Creative Work (design research, creative production, and/or professional practice)
  • Teaching
  • Service  (departmental, institutional, community)

For eligibility and criteria, go to the Competition Overview page.

For application process, go to the Awards Application Process page.

The awards will be announced the first week of September 2018.

Announcement: Educators Communication Design Awards 2017

Design Incubation, the esteemed 2017 awards jury, and Bloomsbury Publishing is pleased to announce the recipients of the Design Incubation Educators Awards in Communication Design 2017 in the categories of Scholarship: Creative Work, Scholarship: Published Research, Service, and Teaching.
Thank you to all who entered the competition and those who participated in recognizing the efforts of academics in design research.

Category: Scholarship Creative Work

Portraits of Obama: Media, Fidelity, and the 44th President
Scholarship: Creative Work Award Winner

Kareem Collie


Harvey Mudd

Stanford University

Category: Scholarship Published Research

Critical Making: Design and the Digital Humanities
Scholarship: Published Research Award Winner

Jessica Barness

Associate Professor
Kent State University

Amy Papaelias

Assistant Professor
SUNY New Paltz

Category: Service

The Sit&Tell Project
Service Award Winner

Jenn Stucker
Associate Professor
Bowling Green State University

Category: Teaching

BMORE Than The Story
Teaching Award Winner

Audra Buck-Coleman
Associate Professor

University of Maryland College Park


White Plains Storefront Project: Art In Vacant Spaces
Teaching Award Runner-up

Warren Lehrer

School of Art+Design
Purchase College, SUNY
Founding Faculty Member
Designer as Author Graduate Program
SVA (School of Visual Arts)


Science Through Storybooks
Teaching Award Runner-up

Martha Carothers


University of Delaware


Audrey Bennett
Communication and Media
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Steven McCarthy (Chair)
Professor of Graphic Design
University of Minnesota

Emily McVarish
Associate Professor
Graphic Design; Design; Writing
California College of Art

Maria Rogal
Professor of Graphic Design
University of Florida

David Shields
Associate Professor & Chair of Department of Graphic Design
Virginia Commonwealth University


Light Switch Graphically-Assisted Nudges

Niyati Mehta
Adjunct Lecturer
New York City College of Technology
Nassau Community College
Lehman College 


The aim of this nudge is to demonstrate how Visual Design combined with Behavioral Science can have a positive impact on user (kids’) behavior through the unknown creation of choice architecture. Parents told us that an often-encountered irritant was the necessity for them to remind their young children (aged 5-10) to switch off the light. We took this cue to develop a nudge to encourage children to use the light switch when leaving a room. The aim of this nudge is to reduce electricity consumption to save money, promote the practice of sustainability and to mitigate parental stress.

Description and Development

The graphically-assisted nudge developed is a cutout template that is printed on a home computer printer and then affixed to a light switch plate. Parents access the graphically-assisted nudges via the Nudging for Kids website (nudgingforkids.com). Step by step instructions are included in the downloadable pdf package.

In the ‘fish and bowl’ template, children understand that the fish is, “out of place” and they want to help it get back to where it belongs (the fish bowl). Two alternate templates were developed using ‘basketball’ and ‘bug’ motifs. The bug motif, uses the “cognitive learning effect” where the child remembers to switch off the light by associating it with the bug’s color or a name it has given the bug. The basketball template, with its requirement to pull down the string holding the basketball, uses a child’s desire to explore and understand by exercising her/his manual skills.

The nudges also take advantage of the, “IKEA Effect”–the tendency for people to place a disproportionately high value on objects that they have partially assembled themselves (regardless of the quality of the result).

Preliminary Small Sample Size Try-Out

In an initial proof-of-concept try-out, all three graphic nudges were installed in ten homes near Westchester, New York (USA) in December of 2016.

The preliminary results are promising, but the sample size is too small to draw conclusions.

A larger sample size test is in the planning stage.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.2: Parsons Integrated Design on Thursday, Feb 16, 2017.

Design Incubation Colloquium 3.2: Parsons Integrated Design

Parsons Integrated Design in Manhattan on Thursday, Feb 16, 2017, 4PM-7PM.

Hosted by Andrew Shea

Design Incubation Colloquium 3.2 (#DI2017feb) will be held at Parsons, the New School in Manhattan. This event is open to all interested in Communication Design research.

Thursday, February 16, 2017
Dorothy Hirshon Suite, Room I-205
Arnhold Hall
55 West 13th Street

Abstract submission for presentations deadline January 26, 2017.  For details visit the Call for Submissions, and Submission Process description.



Fusing Hand and Hi-Tech for Hi-Touch
Denise Anderson

Assistant Professor
Robert Busch School of Design

Kean University

Edward Johnston

Assistant Professor

Robert Busch School of Design
Kean University

Not Just Playing Around: Game Design In The Interaction Design Classroom
Liese Zahabi 

Assistant Professor of Graphic/Interaction Design

University of Maryland, College Park

Addressing Racial Disparity in Design Education
Audra Buck-Coleman
Associate Professor
Graphic Design Program Director
University of Maryland College Park

Teaching Design in the Age of Convergence
Robin Landa
Distinguished Professor
Michael Graves College, Kean University  

The Avant-Garde of Iranian Graphic Design
Pouya Jahanshahi
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Department of Art, Graphic Design and Art History
Oklahoma State University

Light Switch Graphically-Assisted Nudge
Niyati Mehta
Adjunct Lecturer
New York City College of Technology
Nassau Community College
Lehman College 

From Design as Artifact to Design as Process: Applying an Open Model to Community Engagement in Social Design 
Cat Normoyle

Assistant Professor
Memphis College of Art

Data Visualization Research: How It Informs Design and Visual Thinking
Joshua Korenblat
Assistant Professor, Graphic Design
SUNY New Paltz

Design Crew Course: Human Context and Service Learning in Visual Communication 
Mark DeYoung
Kalamazoo Valley CC