Multi-modal Interface Design: Communicating Design Through Presentation and Review

Peter Lusch
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
College of Arts and Architecture
Penn State

Danielle Oprean
Post-Doctoral Research Scholar
Stuckeman Center for Design Computing
Penn State

Multi-modal visualization has long been considered important for design communication through representation and presentation, yet it has not been explored through an interface. In this presentation we discuss the outline for our test of use of a new interface designed to provide a multi-modal experience of design representations through the presentation and review processes. This interface is being developed for use in an immersive environments lab, a unique presentation space that allows for large-screen display and virtual reality. Before implementing a new interface, testing needs to be done to identify issues and perceptions of how well it works. We aim to test the feasibility of using a multi-modal interface with advanced-level undergraduate students in the design disciplines (architecture, landscape architecture, and graphic design) as a way for them to communicate design through presentation and review. In this presentation we talk about how usability testing allows for the results of actual use of an interface to feed back into improving the overall design. Specifically, we will provide an overview of our application of usability testing in design disciplines to address our hypothesis that being able to view different modalities of design representation at one time is more meaningful to communicate design both during presentation and in the review process. Success of the meaningfulness of the interface will be explored through the TAM model (Davis 1992) of usefulness, ease of use, and behavioral intention. We will also present the primary end point goals for this study, including our human factors study, and our self-report measurement of actual use of the multi-modal interface through questionnaires measuring usefulness, ease of use, and behavioral intention.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

The Process Of Exploring the Next Urban Condition

Adam Fromme
MFA Candidate
Department of Design
The Ohio State University

Urban transportation within the United States is at a critical point.

The automobile dictates our infrastructure, but there is a hunger for something else. Many mass transit solutions ignore the need to develop unique urban neighborhood identities. It seems time for a different approach. The Ohio State University’s Department of Design (Columbus, Ohio, USA) held a 16-week graduate studio in the spring of 2016 to explore this idea, based in our city’s needs.

The course structure provided a defined pathway through the problem’s complexity while allowing ‘the question’ to be responsive to the research. This sensitivity to the moment is in sharp contrast to traditional path-to-goal curriculum, yet reflective of most professional-facing design projects. While uncomfortable at times for the students, within this flexible format they were able to apply practices, trends, and technologies to specific city-, neighborhood-, and street-based needs in a system that would serve the unique needs of Columbus.

The deliverable was an immersive installation in a gallery space corresponding to the Barnett Symposium “Planning Creative Cities” 11–13 May 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. The 6 diverse graduate design students and their professor explored social change in a metro area, realizing that sometimes the best spark for change can come from building the tools to change the conversation.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Reveal, Empower, Propel: Design Education for a Tenacious Community

Herb Vincent Peterson
Associate Professor of Design: Coordinator of Graphic Design
Co-Founder of Marion Design Co.
Division of Art + Design
Indiana Wesleyan University

Wendy Puffer
Assistant Professor: Coordinator of Design for Social Impact
Co-Founder of Marion Design Co.
Division of Art + Design
Indiana Wesleyan University

No larger than 30,000 people and deeply bruised by a downtrodden economy rooted in racial tensions, the rustbelt town of Marion, Indiana begs to become triumphant once again. A community previously slated to become the thriving metropolis of the Mid-West, now promotes a residue of the past with blighted storefronts, broken homes, and vast and vacant warehouses. Here lies the real crossroads of America. Never before has there been such a need to see Design as a mechanism to reveal a true identity within a community and empower its people to propel forward into a new chapter of vibrant life.

How can design empower radical change? How can students learning design employ empathy to develop relational design practices and drive trust in a community plagued by deep trauma? What is the responsibility of University design programs connected to rust-belt and blighted American towns?

This is the story about a social design studio and the subsequent movements that change how we consider community activism and design education. The studio of faculty and undergraduates face wicked problems head on while gaining experience conducting ethnographic research with community members. The environment of unbridled growth of ideas, reflective of the academic model of the middle ages, encourages individuality and freedom of thought. Through an immersive experience where students learn to become design leaders, the social design studio of Marion Design Co. utilizes design thinking strategies engaging community toward authentic relationships, bringing much needed hope and innovation.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Framing Metaphors in Visual Identity Design

Jason E. Murdock
Undergraduate Instructor
School of Visual Communication Design
Kent State University

The metaphors used by designers to describe the logos they create reveal something about the technology they have at their disposal, as well as how they think these graphic devices should be applied.

Brand, mark, signature, and signet are all metaphors that frame logos as instruments for making impressions onto surfaces as a way to denote ownership and authorship, and these metaphors dominated visual identity design during the first half of the twentieth century. During the second half of the century, as design thinking shifted away from authorship and ownership toward service, experience, and participation, new metaphors emerged to describe new functions for logos. Container, icon, kit of parts, and module are all metaphors that frame logos as components of a larger systems—ascribing to them a variety of possible applications—and these metaphors are becoming increasingly prevalent in twenty-first century visual identity design.

This shift in framing metaphors coincides with the shift from Swiss and International Style Modernism to American Modernism and Postmodernism, or, as Dubberly (2008) has put it, from a mechanical-object ethos to an organic-systems ethos. This presentation offers a framework for understanding the logos created during this transitional period in graphic design history by identifying and defining three framing metaphors—logo as signature, logo as motif, and logo as building block—and providing visual evidence by way of case studies. Unlike other classification systems—such as Mollerup’s “Taxonomic tree of trademarks” (2013)—that take a morphological (i.e. a form-based) approach to categorization, the framework presented here takes a more pragmatic approach by categorizing logos based on how they are described and used.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Science Rules: Why Design Research Needs Scientific Research Classifications

Dennis Cheatham
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Graduate Director, Experience Design MFA
Miami University

The multifaceted nature of design means that research activities related to it are difficult to define. For design researchers, educators, students, and practitioners, new knowledge production can look more like creative or scholarly activity than fact-finding research. In order to more effectively categorize these research activities to be shared inside and outside design, I propose that categorizations of “basic, applied, and clinical” research, common in the sciences, could be valuable for clarifying design research activities and outcomes.

In this presentation, I will specifically focus on the value of basic, applied, and clinical categorizations for framing student and faculty members’ research in design. I will address how these three categorizations can frame designing activities whose “creative” or “scholarly” formats don’t always align with popularly held research definitions, though they produce new knowledge. For design educators and students, the basic, applied, and clinical categorizations can effectively frame research efforts to review boards, promotion and tenure committees, and potential employers.

I will also address how the basic, applied, and clinical categorizations enable designers to more clearly communicate their work outside of design disciplines. The popularity of the design thinking movement has involved designers in social initiatives—concerned with stakeholder experiences as well as the design of products. As design expands and is associated with words like leading, planning, making, thinking, and researching, clearly communicating impacts of various design practices to uninitiated audiences can be challenging. I will share how these science-based categorizations can help improve clarity because they are established, yet they still remain flexible enough to represent design as it continues to be applied in new ways.


This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Two Implications of Action-Centric Interaction Design

Ian Bellomy
Assistant Professor Communication Design
Myron E. Ullman, Jr. School of Design
University of Cincinnati

This presentation covers two implications for visual communication design education that stem from an action-centric view of screen-based interaction design. Brief excerpts of two student projects will be presented in support of the main theoretical argument. The premise, which will be taken for granted here, is that interaction can be accurately described in terms of action on malleable form. It follows from this that visual designers are well served by approaching screen based interaction design through the lens of information navigation, and that instructors can effectively constrain specific projects through action related variables.

The design of malleable screen form is predicated on basic human needs and entails unique but reoccurring communication design challenges. First, malleable form is not just an opportunity, it is a technical and human necessity—because digital devices can carry more information than they can display at once, their forms must be malleable. This also applies to screen-based control surfaces (e.g. a car dashboard) that have more functions than fit into a given rectangle. Second, malleable form entails the need to communicate the form’s malleability; as all screen form is malleable in some way, this communication need, or information navigation design problem, is very common. This makes it an appropriate foundation for studying interactivity in a visual design curriculum.

The action centric perspective also clarifies opportunities for defining project level constraints. An instructor can limit the kinds of forms allowed (type, photo, graphics, etc.), their capacity for transformation, and the kinds of input that affect these changes (clicks, swipes, drags, etc.). Such constraints can guide students into novel situations requiring thoughtful problem solving as opposed to interface convention regurgitation. Constraints can also be tailored to fit different prototyping technologies so that students can explore the limits of their materials while simultaneously engaging in human-centered problem solving.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Uncovering Classical Painting Through Design Process and Artifacts

Zachary Winegardner
MFA Candidate
The Ohio State University

This research is being conducted to investigate the question of “how can digital design tools and critical making uncover and inspire the presentation of complex information in classical paintings?” This approach is practice led research, in which a process of making serves as the primary generation of methods of inquiry and new information about the subject matter. This process consists of a series of technical creations culminating in a design research artifact. The artifact itself is a 3D virtual environment that mimics the scene represented in Jacques Louis David’s neoclassical painting, Oath of the Horatii. The artifact is able to both generate new questions and serve as a means to investigate them. One example of this is the posing of proportional human models to match the painting’s posed figures. Curiosities and discrepancies took form during this attempt and warranted further investigation. By using the 3D scene with an overlaying image plane of the painting to compare arm lengths, I was able to evaluate the comparison between the painting’s proportions and correct 3D human proportions to discover that David greatly manipulates his figures.

This study is significant to me because the process of making in a 3D medium generated questions that I would not normally find myself asking, and the further investigation of these questions through making led to new information on a painting that I was already very familiar with. This demonstrates how critical making can lead to new knowledge for design researchers. It is also significant in educational spaces by exemplifying a process in which the method of discovery can influence the presentation of information. The experiential learning occurring in this research will be carried through into the design of the presented artifact, which will aid in the understanding of complex paintings.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Evaluating a Socialization and Companionship Augmented Reality System

Yi-Fan Chen
Experience Design MFA candidate
Miami University

Augmented reality (AR) systems have been designed and studies for over 20 years. With smartphones and wearable information and communication technologies (ICT) are ubiquitous, mobile augmented reality systems (MARS) open various opportunities for users to experience and interact with virtual information at physical locations. A MARS, Pokémon Go, become a global phenomenon since it launched in summer of 2016. The MARS users utilize the system to keep healthy, make connections with other people and keep them company in everyday life. Pokémon Go could be seen as the first normalizing AR for the masses.

An observation study was conducted for over six months at cities and a college town in Southeast Ohio to understand Pokémon Go users’ attitudes and behavior patterns toward to the MARS. Domestication Approach advanced by Roger Silverstone and Leslie Haddon is used to provide guidelines and directions for collecting data. The approach explains the process in which the use of technology becomes an integrated part of everyday life (Haddon, 2003; Silverstone, Hirsch, & Morley, 2005).

Preliminary results show that Pokémon Go users’ utilize the MARS into their daily life. When the MARS users are doing their daily activities, such as strolling, walking, running, biking and taking public transportations, they have their MARS on. They use the MARS to fulfill their socialization and companionship needs. For example, parents and grandparents are taking young children to catch wild Pokémon. Friends are making plans to catch Pokémon together. The MARS users are sharing the Pokémon information at PokeStops as well as online Facebook group pages with their networks and with strangers.  While the MARS was successfully designed with “exercise,” “to see the world with new eyes,” and “breaking the ice” between users (Weinberger, 2016), other design limitations, such as weather limitations, also found in the study.

Design suggestions and implications will be further addressed.

Haddon, L. (2003). Domestication and mobile telephony. In J. E. Katz (ed.) Machines That Become Us (pp. 43 -55). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

Silverstone, R., Hirsch, E., & Morley, D. (1992). Information and communication technologies and the moral economy of the household. In R. Silverstone & E. Hirsch (Eds.), Consuming Technologies: Media and Information in Domestic Space (pp. 9-17). London UK: Routledge.

Weinberger, M. (2016, July 11). The CEO behind ‘Pokémon Go’ explains why it’s become such a phenomenon. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Re-Inscribing History

Yoonkyung Kim
Assistant Professor of Visual Communication
OU School of Visual Arts
University of Oklahoma

Most images and informational data from historical records and databases remain unseen because there is a massive over-saturation of visual material. This material has not been thoroughly investigated or understood.

Historical archives offer opportunities to discover stories that reposition history in more intimate terms. I explore what remains unseen by revealing new routes that these “facts” can take.

Exploring the boundaries between the public and the personal, I visit archival documents, public databases, and historical collections. Fascinated by their stories’ multifaceted nature, I critically examine these primary sources that nourish generations of new histories.

My intention is to redefine our relationship with controlled primary  sources. By creating new narrative structures, I expand the terms of the archives’ accessibility through personal encounters. The resulting works produce a new interpretation of history that links the past and present, disseminating stories that challenge the fate of most archives. Re-inscribing history helps viewers connect to historical details by offering them proximity to the primary source through my experience of various archives. My practice is specifically that of reconstruction; linking the past to my personal life.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Video Games Help to Prepare Girls For a Competitive Future In Stem

An analysis of how video games help to build visual-spatial skills and the positive influence early childhood gaming can have on girls.

Leigh Hughes
Adjunct Instructor
School of Visual Communication Design
Kent State University

Play is beneficial for children—it allows for freedom to explore and problem solve while freely using their imagination in a safe environment. It is imperative to allow girls this freedom to explore digital games and all of their possibilities. Video games help to build visual-spatial capabilities, which is the ability to mentally construct and organize 3-dimensional objects in an imaginary space, a skill that promotes advanced mathematical and engineering skills.

In order for women to compete in male dominated STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries, females must have more opportunities in early childhood to develop their visual-spatial skills. To do this, girls should play more video games, suggests a study by University of Toronto researchers. Research shows, most girls play with toys that emphasize relationships or creativity. In contrast, boys typically play with computers, video games or build, which develop problem-solving and spatial skills. There is considerable evidence that these gender differences are generated from nurture, not nature.

By designing video games that engage young, female interests while incorporating essential, 3D building tools, and by offering girls more opportunities to practice their visual-spatial skills through this media may begin to help close the STEM gender gap and encourage females to pursue engineering and computer science. Women’s representation in STEM occupations remains low in engineering and computer occupations. Video games can begin to slow this decline by providing girls with the confidence they need to succeed in the classroom.

In conclusion, early exposure to video games could have significant impact on whether women choose to pursue engineering or computer science. Girls need to be engaged at their level, be provided more opportunities to construct without restriction or bias and should be encouraged to play video games as a means of developing crucial competitive skills.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.3: Kent State University on Saturday, March 11, 2017.