Bridging the Business Design Gap

Martin Dominguez
Adjunct Professor
St. John’s University, Fordham University

Service design is an emerging field that operates at the intersection of human-centered design, user-experience design and business execution. Despite two decades of academic and practical work in the field (see Service Design Network,, service design has only recently emerged as a field of interest in the United States. Catalyzed by firms like IDEO and Fjord and design programs at Stanford and SCAD, interest in the field is gaining momentum among business decision makers.  As a result, new opportunities for graduating design students and experienced designers in related fields are emerging in both the public and private sectors. Growing the service design industry in the US and abroad, however, requires more than simply preparing the next generation of designers. Bridging the gap between designers/design thinking and the business community is also necessary in order to improve communication between designers and those who employ them.

The purpose of this presentation is to examine how engaging business students in the fundamentals of design might benefit design students and practitioners. Specifically, we explore how helping business see how design can be used to innovate and address complex market and organizational challenges might open new opportunities for designers in the future. Two service design-centered business courses (graduate and undergraduate) at two Universities in New York City provide a framework for understanding how best to educate business students in the fundamentals of design thinking and service design. Insights for design educators and practitioners including three fundamental principles that have emerged from this participatory action research. Areas for future research and pedagogy are also discussed.

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

Towards an Understanding of Cinema’s Impact on Design Education

Jason Tselentis
Associate Professor Of Design
College Of Visual And Performing Arts
Winthrop University

In the classroom, design students who view documentary films such as Gary Hustwit’s “Helvetica” (2007), Douglas Wilson’s “Linotype” (2012), and Briar Levit’s “Graphic Means” learn about designers, the tools they use (or used), and the meaning behind their creations. Film viewings and class discussions offer perspectives for students to recognize the significance (or lack of significance) a designer and/or their design has in yesterday’s and today’s culture.

To understand and appreciate designers and their work in those films and others has merit, exposing students to relevant issues and influences. But what can design students learn from not only watching such documentaries, but also investigating the methods and principles used for creating them? In cinematic arts and filmmaking degree and certificate programs, film studies deliver a framework to appreciate and understand cinematic creations. It’s visual literacy for cinema, teaching film students to read and analyze movies in preparation for making their own movies.

Film studies and filmmaking could also enhance a design student’s skill set. How would identifying a researchable documentary topic teach students about design history and design research, as well as storytelling? Studying film is also a platform for criticism. What could design students learn from fictional cinematic works, investigating the ways designers have been represented as antagonists, protagonists, or mere set dressing? What would design students say about the stereotypical designer, as (sometimes negatively) represented in movies and on television?

“Towards an Understanding of Cinema’s Impact on Design Education” will present a motion picture and film study platform  for design education that includes documentary films and more. It aims to demonstrate how a class (or classes) could shape design students into more well-rounded creatives, perhaps the next generation of filmmakers. And it proposes ways to mold them into capable and responsible critics or historians.

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

Designfulness: Teaching Designers to Mindfully Create a Sustainable Future

Rachel Beth Egenhoefer
Chair, Department of Art + Architecture 
Program Director & Associate Professor, Design
University of San Francisco

In today’s culture technology is speeding up our lives, creating the perceived need for everything to be faster, newer, better, sleeker, now!  As we train the next wave of designers, they are faced with these challenges both as students, and in the professional world they will enter.

Simultaneously, the world is faced with the climate change crisis.  On global and local levels the impacts of environmental degradation are real and impacting our communities.  The need for designers to think and work sustainably has never been greater.

One of the greatest challenges in teaching sustainable design (either to students or consumers for that matter) is doing so within a culture that values speed.   So much of our daily habits and lifestyles rely on quick, convenient decisions that   ultimately lead to unsustainable patterns.

To truly tackle issues in sustainability we, as designers and consumers, need to slow down.  Slowing down allows us to understand the complicated impacts of spilt second decisions so that we can redesign a better solution.  Slowing down allows us to understand community and those around us.  Slowing down allows us to question how we live, and how we want to live.  Mindfulness based practices is one way to slow down and reflect on these questions.

Integrating mindfulness into design education better prepares students to be more conscious designers in the future.  As a result, not only are they conscious designers, they are also more conscious citizens.  As such, one might hope, that future generations can combat fast moving lifestyles and create a more sustainable future.

This Design Incubator talk shares ideas in integrating mindfulness into design education to empower future designers to conscious designers and citizens for a better world.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 4.1: San Jose State on Saturday, Sept 30, 2017.

Experiments in Building Empathy and Revealing Bias

Rebecca Mushtare
Associate Professor Of Web Design & Multimedia
State University Of New York At Oswego

When left to our own devices, we unconsciously design for the audience we know best—ourselves. Although some traditional-aged college students have had travel opportunities or exposure to diverse cultures and communities, most still have limited life experience, which magnifies this tendency.  If inclusivity is an ethic we want our students to adopt as professionals,  we need to do more than read and talk about empathy and bias in the classroom. These values need to be embedded in our curriculum including how we frame assignments, the way we talk about design during critique, and our evaluation systems.

Overhauling an entire curriculum, or even a course, and starting from scratch is likely not an option for most faculty. Additionally, teaching empathy and implicit bias can be overwhelming for faculty who have not been trained,  and therefore do not have the language to confidently speak on the subject. What we can do, though, is make incremental changes in our classrooms that focus on raising awareness of assumptions we make and how our choices impact our audiences. Small changes can have real impact.

In this session, I will share the successes, failures and limitations of four years of experimentation and tinkering in the courses I teach combined with my own journey to become more aware of my blindspots and biases.

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

COIL & Preparing Global Designers

Sean Nixon
Associate Professor of Art
Program Coordinator, Design Program
Art, Design, Fashion, Music, Theater & Communication Dept.
SUNY Ulster

In 2015, the top 225 design firms generated $65 billion in revenue from projects outside their home countries, according to ENR, Engineering News Report. The REAL World Classroom TM Design Program at SUNY Ulster is paying attention and on task with an ever-evolving pedagogy.
The annual capstone project of the program involves creating a client-based campaign, within an international collaboration. Modeling successful business behavior, using free, internet-based communication software with international partners prepares these design students to enter the global workforce experiencing the value of professional behavior working with clients.

Engaging in ubiquitous, internet-based communication software, the student is coached and must learn how to work in a social, familiar public platform, on a professional project internationally. Their challenge is to maintain a professional demeanor, and separate from their private lives, while solving a problem for a client, as well as participating in an intercultural and team building project. Students learn the necessity of process, professional demeanor, project flexibility and reflection. One major outcome is how this pedagogic process motivates and accelerates the learning process.

Here are the structural guidelines defining the components that the REAL World Classroom TM Design Program utilizes in constructing the Program’s capstone project.

  • The Activity is Structured, Intentional and Authentic.
  • The Activity Requires Preparation, Orientation and Training.
  • The Activity Must Include Monitoring and Continuous Improvement.
  • The Activity Requires Structured Reflection and Acknowledgment.
  • The Activity Must be Assessed and Evaluated.*

* Criteria for Approved Applied Learning Activities. SUNY Applied Learning Resources, 2017, Accessed 12 July 2017.

The colloquium presentation will highlight the Spring 2017 capstone as a project example of the pedagogy of the REAL World Classroom TM Design Program, complete with student assessment and evaluation. This particular project produced a Transgender Pronoun Awareness Campaign for a client, the SUNY Ulster LGBTQ Club and the SUNY Ulster community.

To research more on the REAL World Classroom TM Design Program, google Sean Nixon with the REAL World Classroom TM Design Program. The SUNY Ulster LGBTQ page does not reflect the project because the campaign will not be launched until a TBD date within the Academic year 2017-18.

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

Facilitating a Culture that Celebrates Experimentation and Addresses the Fear of Failure through Assessment

Alex Girard
Assistant Professor
Graphic Design
Art Department
Southern Connecticut State University

At Southern Connecticut State University, it has been observed that students pursuing a design degree are entering the program with a background dominated by a philosophy in which success equals providing a pre-defined, correct answer to a problem. This approach does not prepare students for a design process in which experimentation is paramount, as there is no singular correct answer to a given design problem.

The test-taking model of assessment assumes that information is disseminated by the instructor, retained by the student, and then recalled during a test. In this model, correct answers are consistent across submissions; it does not allow for the synthesis of something new, which is key to a successful design solution. Further, students in this process are often creatively crippled by fear of failure, as failure will negatively impact their final grade. Applying this philosophy of a singular correct answer, students are hesitant to embrace a process that encourages the exploration of ideas with multiple solutions.

While parameters guide a design project, end results are not measured against a pre-defined, correct design solution. In theory, each solution has the potential to be vastly different from another, yet still successful. Developing an assessment model that reinforces this process of experimentation with multiple solutions can be challenging for an instructor.

This presentation outlines a response to the perceived disconnect between the academic background of incoming students and the process required to achieve a successful design solution, utilizing an alternative project assessment model at Southern Connecticut State University. While this assessment model was applied in a limited context, positive results were immediately apparent and lasting; most notably, a marked increase in student experimentation with multiple solutions was observed.

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

Reconstructing a BA Graphic Design Program: Scalpel or Sledgehammer?

Nancy Wynn
Associate Professor
Merrimack College

In the fall of 2015, as the new faculty member at Merrimack College, I was thrust into this position. A cold dose of reality hit—my senior students’ work was, sadly, a mess. It was clear the design program needed to be rebuilt and renamed. Acting fast became necessary, because moving slowly would continue the problem. Both scalpel and sledgehammer were required (along with lots of coffee) delivering a newly redesigned BA Graphic Design program for approval and implementation by fall 2016. The program bridged both design thinking and making with the skill set of a Liberal Arts education.

The analysis started with the NASAD/AIGA analytical and consultative briefing papers. They were a good starting point, but they did not answer the question of how to build an expanded BA model responsibly? How elastic is the BA model? What beneficial Liberal Arts skills could be integrated into a graphic design student’s education? How could avenues be created for various types of students to be successful? And, where and how should professional engagement enter into the program?

This story begins by sharing methods for responsibly creating a “hybrid” BA model, keeping students’ best interests in mind, and honoring the industry’s professional standards. Topics to be shared include evaluating existing majors and minors; partnering with other majors and departments; which courses to keep vs. which should be thrown out; setting sizable goals for a 4-year BA graphic design program; ideas on future learning spaces and technology; and, understanding what is valuable in a 21st century graphic design education as the industry continues to evolve.

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

Recap of Teaching Type: A Panel Conversation

Read Amy Papaelias’ delightful synopsis of the panel discussion on Teaching Typography. Amy is Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at SUNY New Paltz and was one of the distinguished panelists at this past Saturday’s event at the Type Director’s Club.


Call for Entries: Communication Design Educators Awards 2017

Design Incubation is delighted to announce we are now accepting entries for the Communication Design Educators Awards 2017. The deadline for applications is May 31, 2017.

The distinguished jurors for 2017 are the following:

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

This year, we are recognizing work in four (4) categories:

  • 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 2017.

Type Thursday Interview With Liz Deluna and Mark Zurolo

Read the interview with Thomas Jockin of Type Thursday, Liz Deluna and Mark Zurolo.

View at