Comfort Toys

Benjamin Evjen
Assistant Professor
Utah Valley University

When I was young my mother had epilepsy. I remember her seizures always began with a heavy sigh, raising in pitch until her body fell against a hard surface. Pots and pans crashed and chairs tipped as mom’s body crumpled to the floor. When this happened at home I found a distraction – from toys to television – while the seizure ran its course. The difficulties that arose when a seizure occurred in public while grocery shopping or at the mall were worse. I often felt as if I had little to no power to control what materialized around me. Strangers panicked, calling emergency services that were completely unnecessary. It was as if roles reversed, placing me as parent while parent became child. Yet, I was still perceived as a child.

When a caregiver suffers from epilepsy, a child can often feel frightened, vulnerable, and alone whenever a seizure occurs. These struggles children face when experiencing a caregiver’s epilepsy are often neglected. There is little a child can do during these moments of panic, worry, and fear. At this point, no tool exists to provide them with the ability to take action, offer reassurance, or give empowerment.

In my current research I intend to help children negotiate this struggle by creating therapeutic toys. Through play, children can navigate feelings that are often overlooked by adults. The visual appeal, simplicity, and materials used in their creation help facilitate comfort through sensory cues. By applying coping mechanisms to deal with stress caused by the passage of time, provide tactile comfort, and equip the child with tools to take action, their emotional needs are met. These toys address an overlooked need for children who consistently deal with the emotionally taxing occurrences that come with having an epileptic caregiver.

What Can Machine Learning Contribute to Empathy in Design? How to Build a Journey Map Using Big Data and Text Sentiment Analysis

Sarah Pagliaccio
Principal, User Experience Designer
Black Pepper

What can machine learning contribute to empathy in design? How to build a journey map using big data and text sentiment analysis.

Art and design are meant to reflect the world around us, show empathy for those we design for, and reflect the emotional state of our customers and target users. But how are we meant to empathize with situations that are unfamiliar or out of context? What happens when we over-empathize and project our own emotional states on our customers’ experiences? That’s where machine learning comes in. With enough input, we can use machine learning tools, specifically text sentiment analysis, to provide an objective score of our users’ emotional experiences. By feeding transcripts of customer interviews into a computer, we can remove our own subjectivity from our analysis and form a holistic picture of others’ needs and wants.

These sentiment scores can turn words into pictures, emotions into graphs, expanding our understanding of design goals and tasks.

Using Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a case study, we will talk through the emotional journey, i.e., the customer journey map, of major characters in the play using text sentiment analysis. A discussion of how these techniques can be applied to consumer application and website design will follow.

Body Type

Samantha Flora
Co-Founder and Designer
JAM Studios and Fat Kid Type Foundry

Centered around issues of identity, the body, womanhood, and how they interconnect with design in the context of body image and the body positivity movement, Body Type: An Analysis of Fat Identity and Fat Bias in Graphic Design, is an extensive body of research which connects type, design, and the body through humanistic tradition.

In addition to a brief overview of the research, presenter will discuss Body Type—a typeface based on her own bodily proportions, which seeks to interject the fat female form into an industry where fat bodies have been marginalized by practice. It is a story of radical self-acceptance that seeks to redefine what self-love means to the modern woman and how that change can be—and should be, shaped by design.

Design for Decentralized Studio Learning

Lisa Hammershaimb
Associate Dean of Curriculum, Graphic Arts
Independence University

Due to financial concerns and shifting learner demographics, in many institutions, the hallmarks of studio pedagogy (small course sizes, dedicated unique learning spaces and extended course-meeting times) are eroding. The new reality for many programs is one where educators are expected to balance an increase in learners with a simultaneous decrease in contact time. There is an gap between what once was and what is now. One way many educators are choosing to navigate this gap is through using the internet to augment, extend, or otherwise decentralize studio-learning practices.

This constructivist grounded theory study endeavored to investigate how design educators are using the internet to augment and extend studio pedagogy. The primary research question was, how are design educators using the internet to extend and augment studio pedagogy?

The Replication Collaboration Continuum, the theory created from the study, posits that how educators use the internet to augment and extend studio pedagogy can best be conceptualized as a continuum, with replication as one terminal and collaboration as the other. This theory has broad relevance for all educators curious about how to implement greater decentralization into their learning spaces.

This presentation will provide a fast-paced romp through study findings, concluding with several practical next steps and provocative questions to help art and design educators think critically about their own studio pedagogy practice.

Social Homelessness on US Campuses

Yeohyun Ahn
Assistant Professor
Art Department
UW Madison

Asian women faculty on US campuses may experience the highest levels of isolation, marginalization, exclusion from decision making and networks, and disrespect. This is a multidisciplinary design project to raise awareness of the marginalization of Asian women faculty on US campuses. It includes Asian Women Scholars, and the software, Being Ignored 2.0. Asian Women Scholars was co-founded by Prof. Mary Szto and Prof. Yeohyun Ahn as a social support group consisting of around 40 Asian women faculty in the Midwestern United States, including Indiana, Wisconsin, and Illinois. Asian Women Scholars provides regular workshops and social gatherings to provide mentorship, connection, and networks, as well as, resources such as pedagogical strategies for Asian women faculty to survive and succeed on US campuses.

The software, Being Ignored 2.0, is a self-generative portrait created and developed by Yeohyun Ahn. It references a video library, Mirror, developed by Ben Fry, in Processing, and uses an internal web camera to capture real-time images from viewers.

The artworks from the software, Being Ignored Version 2.0, express the moment being ignored. The computer screen displays real-time images captured through the web camera that is installed invisibly on the top of the computer screen. As viewers move toward the screen, the web camera captures the viewer’s portrait and display it on the computer screen. The computer code eliminates the viewer’s facial expression in order to convey the concept of being avoided and rejected.

It began with an interactive art installation, Being Ignored Ver 1.0, to recognize the dignity and humanity of those who are homeless in Porter County, Indiana. Later it was extended to Being Ignored Ver 2.0 to portrait Asian women faculty on US campuses. The visual style is inspired by Impressionism, which is a 19th-century art movement that captures a moment in time, and Expressionism, such as Edvard Munch’s The Scream, which expresses a psychological theme such as fear. It is a computational graphic art crossing boundaries among photography, painting, computer art, journalism, and visual communication. 

For visual references:

Neuron Focus Support – Eliminating Distraction Through Facilitated Goal-Oriented Task Management

Abhinit Parelkar
Graduate student
College of Computing & Digital Media
DePaul University

Gerard Panganiban

Graduate student
College of Computing & Digital Media
DePaul University

Initially inspired by people with attention-deficit disorders, this project seeks to assist people who often struggle to establish goals and accomplish tasks in a world that is continuously providing distractions. This project aims to eliminate distractions by providing users with goal-oriented task management service through a tangible product.

The underlying principles of the Pomodoro technique were the basis for the solution (Neuron). It utilizes a principle called timeboxing that helps the user focus on a single task. For many people, this eliminates the tendency to jump from one task to another and helps them to focus. To address this need, we came up with a conceptual prototype – a device built on the Arduino platform controlled by its companion code-based prototype (App) on a smartphone.

The project started with user research interviews followed by a survey. Our participants indicated their phones were the primary cause of distraction. Therefore, we decided to go beyond the App by utilizing multiple modalities; for example, visual, audio, and touch/haptic feedback through the device (Neuron). We ideated our product vision through storyboarding and sketching. The series of activities led us to build the code-based App and Arduino platform-based device conceptual prototypes.

The goal of this device is to help users eliminate distraction from their phones and help them achieve their tasks. The prototypes were tested with participants to uncover usability issues. The participants ignored the product demonstration/instruction guidelines on the LCD screen of the device at the beginning. Ignoring the guidance affected their struggle with adapting to the multi-tap interaction with the device. Further studies by observing participants in their real environments will determine the efficacy of our prototypes in eliminating distraction.

Facilitating Justice through Design Research

Mariam Asad
Graduate student
Georgia Institute of Technology

Whereas much academic scholarship engages with the concepts and principles of justice; design research is a unique opportunity to challenge oppression by leveraging design-based resources and practices. This presentation will discuss some concrete and pragmatic examples of design research work that tries to materially contributes to community-based efforts around injustice. I draw from my fieldwork with advocacy and activist communities in Atlanta to explore how to better align design and anti-oppression work. The first vignette takes place during design workshops with housing justice activists: here, we facilitated prototyping exercises to prompt activists to envision technological interventions to support their political work. The second vignette is based in a project to co-develop with local communities a playbook for civic engagement. This series of design workshops marshaled existing wisdom and resources in neighborhoods to increase their capacity for agency and influencing change to address their local needs and concerns. I draw connections across our design research work through these two fieldsites to encourage design work that has higher stakes in local civic change and positions designers and researchers as facilitators to support our community collaborators doing justice and anti-oppression work on the ground.

Material Voice: Communicating with Substrates

Meridyth Espindola
Graduate student
Vermont College of Fine Arts
BFA, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth

In the context of graphic design, we translate material significance through substrate semiotics. While substrates are necessary for the representation of visual art and design, that’s not all they do. They also send messages through visual and haptic communication. We can prioritize the consideration of substrate communication earlier in our processes by thinking more critically about design platforms and how they impact the overall message.

Approaching design processes through this lens allows us to tap into a deeper level of communication that engages multiple layers of meaning. When we approach communication from the bottom up, we are able to seek out objects and materials with powerful significance rather than relying on applying our own meaning to them. If substrates are always communicating, what opportunities do we have as designers to integrate them into our process from the beginning rather than waiting until the end?

How AI is Changing Design

Scott Theisen
Executive Creative Director
Deloitte Digital

Everyday a few more pieces of software and technology are being worked on, distributed and connected using some flavor of AI. What does this mean for how we design artifacts, software and services? What might this mean for us as professionals? How might this start to change our perception of ourselves? This talk will highlight some of the new, fascinating and scary ways AI is already affecting us.

Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, consumer AI technologies have had to deal with unforeseen implications of its creation and deployment, when put in the hands of their millions of users. Design bias and human needs have created issues that reveal the designers immaturity with the medium.

Software manufacturers deploying AI to generate content, mathematically analyze our requests and respond to our input. How is this influencing our ideas, our culture and the choices we make? With computer vision that can process incomprehensible data, rapid iteration that can outperform human limitations… AI is present in our daily lives and shaping the future in which we will live.

A Tool for Understanding: Giving Voice to Diverse, Non-traditional and Low-Income Students Through Teaching Letterpress Printing

Vida Sacic
Associate Professor
Northeastern Illinois University

Visual communication skills provide a backbone for participation in a shared cultural exchange. Yet, universities often fail to offer tangible ways to foster long term accessibility and inclusion.

Northeastern Illinois University is among the nation’s leaders at graduating students with the least debt while serving the most diverse group of students in the Midwest.*

In the span of last eight years, we have formed a program in Graphic Design tailored to students who come from racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse families and communities of lower socioeconomic status.**

Students often define success as the ability to use design skills to earn a living following graduation. Self-expression builds our students’ confidence and assertiveness as designers. For this reason, storytelling organically became a focus of the program. As it became evident that diverse students achieve most favorable learning outcomes in collaborative spaces where they can interact face-to-face, the heart of our program became our letterpress printing class.

Our growing letterpress type shop houses digital and analog tools. Students are required to collaborate with class members and beyond to complete projects, thereby practicing cultural sensitivity and interpersonal communication skills. The experimental nature of print and mechanics offers students an ability to slow down and consider their work more carefully, while introducing elements of chance and discovery to their process. This arrangement offers a unique environment to raise 21st century citizen designers and a valuable model for integration practices in design education. This model can be replicated in any makerspace environment that uses high tech to no tech tools.

Beneficial outcomes are evident as increasing amounts of our students are finding employment in the field, applying their skills to relevant positions and using their lived experience as a source of knowledge that can serve as an asset in their applied practice and beyond.

* data by U.S. News & World Report, September 2017

** 38% of Northeastern Illinois University students declare themselves as Hispanic/Latino, 31% Caucasian, 11% African American, 9% Asian, with the rest listed as other.
6% are identified as Non-Residents (including undocumented students).
55% of our students are non-traditional students, defined as postsecondary students who are 25 years old and older. They are contrasted with traditional students, aged 18 -22, who enroll immediately after high school, attend full-time, live on campus, and do not have major work or family responsibilities.
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