Access as Design Requirement: Improving Attitudes and Commitment

Access needs to be core to the design process if we want emerging digital designers to design for the public good.

As a discipline, we often focus and reward visual design and aesthetics over, rather than in addition to, usability and accessibility. If we want emerging digital designers to design for the public good, then access needs to be core to their process and their education. Creating a learning environment that makes access a priority both in the way the course is delivered and in the learning objectives impacts who student designers consider as audiences and how they prioritize the needs and desires of those audience members.

Students in four sections of a beginning web design course over three semesters were given a pre-course survey, designed by Teach Access, to measure student perceptions and knowledge of accessibility and disability. Accessibility was regularly discussed throughout the course and was a design requirement on all assignments. Interventions across the three semesters evolved based on results of the prior semester. At the end of the course, students were given a post-course survey, to measure shifts in perception and understanding of accessibility.

In this session, I will share the interventions introduced each semester and the philosophy behind each intervention. In addition, I’ll share the statistically significant results and discuss the successes and failures of each iteration of interventions. As educators, the way we approach access in the classroom influences future generations of designers, therefore it is important to begin to systematically study the impact of the course design decisions we make.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2019.

Teaching Design Team Collaboration Through Group Projects

Two case studies will be shown that demonstrate embedding best practices for team collaboration in the classroom.

Christine Lhowe
Assistant Professor
Seton Hall University

At the introduction of group projects in my undergraduate graphic design courses, students in various levels of their education often ask if they will be able to present the project in their portfolio to potential employers. Being that it was conceptualized as a team and multiple designers participated in the outcome, they express concern in presenting work that doesn’t exclusively belong to them. However, the design profession is largely collaborative and creatives often work on projects in teams. This presentation will showcase how I’ve utilized group projects to foster understanding of the collaborative nature of the design industry to intermediate and advanced graphic design students in a liberal arts University. 

I have embedded two learning outcomes within the course material. The first is team conceptualization. Creative teams commonly work together in developing original concepts in brainstorming sessions. The purpose of the sessions are to collectively generate ideas where value is placed in working together.Ownership of a concept may become ambiguous as some may be merged together or built on by team members. The second is entering a creative project post conceptualization. Designers are often asked to develop new creative assets while upholding an existing aesthetic for a brand, which raises the question, “was this my idea?”

Two case studies will be shown that demonstrate embedding best practices for team collaboration in the classroom. In the first, students worked together in an advanced Brand Evolution course to develop and maintain a brand across multiple digital and physical touch points. Secondly, in an intermediate Web Design course, students implemented a design system to collectively create the user interface of a large scale website. 

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2019.

Call and Response | Equitable Design Frame Work

We turn the design into a tool to ask questions and pose solutions.

Omari Souza
Assistant Professor
Texas State University

Gabriela Disarli, Graduate Candidate, Texas State University
Dillion Sorensen, Graduate Candidate, Texas State University
Leslie Harris, Graduate Candidate, Texas State University

Traditional design projects typically include the paying client and professionals within related industries. The paying client will often use the services of the designer to attract a targeted audience to a product or service, but what if we transition the members of the audience from passive recipients in the solution to the active contributor. While there may be times when informing is a necessary part of the process, we believe that real impact is often made when we intentionally build up a person’s capacity to contribute at higher levels. Call and response is a form of interaction between a speaker and an audience in which responses from the audience punctuates the speaker’s statements (“calls”). If we view the caller as a user, and the designer as a responder, we turn the design into a tool to ask questions and pose solutions.

This presentation explores how a group of nine graduate communication design students explored how design can be used to create behavioral and systemic change by using the participatory design process. The final deliverables explores the idea of problems as proverbial calls with the designer and audience as equitable participants in the response, or the means to a solution. We explore various calls, including calls for advocacy on behalf of marginalized social groups, calls for self-reflection on the design field itself, and calls for the future that speculates about potential directions within the field of design.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2019.

Tangible Type with 3D printing

The first phase of a research project to develop and find the place of the emerging technologies in typography

Taekyeom Lee
Assistant Professor
Illinois State University

Technology and design have been in a symbiotic relationship, and the demand for the typography with 3D printing has already arrived. Like the digital revolution with the introduction of personal computers generated radical changes in typography, the new digital fabrication techniques urge designers and educators to embrace the new possibilities. As 3D printing has become more refined, efficient, and accessible, what designers can do with the new printing technology? This project is the first phase of a research project to develop and find the place of the emerging technologies in typography.

Designers can use a variety of printing techniques to produce visual materials and to solve visual problems. 3D printing can change the notion of printed text and how we experience materialized type since the tangible type does not lie on the static surface or live on-screen as a mirrored image. 3D printed tangible type acquires characteristics such as dimension, structure, materiality, and even physical interactivity. For this project, various conventional and unconventional materials in 3D printing were used to explore both the challenges and potential for typography. 3D printed tangible type not only amplified visual but physical interactions. The tangible type provides engaging tactile experiences, which would be more intuitive, expressive, and memorable. It also became relatively challenging to ensure the legibility of the written text and write a long text. More investigations should be followed as the technology will get more refined. This project could be inspirational for both professional practices and educational settings, such as typography, graphic design, and digital fabrication courses. As the outcome provides three-dimensional experience and substance, a new application of this design could be used for spatial typography and developed for people with vision impairment.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2019.

Deconstruct + Reconstruct: The Value of Mimicking Reverse Engineering in UI/UX Pedagogy

In order to truly understand how something works, you have to take it apart and put it back together again.

Dave Gottwald
Assistant Professor
University of Idaho

Reverse engineering has long been practiced in lab courses in computer science and high technology development. The concept is rather simple—in order to truly understand how something works, you have to take it apart and put it back together again.

In my introductory course in UI/UX design, students are assigned three projects which mimic a reverse engineering process. For Deconstruction they choose an existing mobile app, propose a conjectured user persona based on their own use, and then document user flows of interactive functionality, using their phones to capture every screen. Organizing these screens into flows facilitates a direct approach in understanding navigation, visual hierarchy, and functionality. In this students attempt to “map” the product and speculate on why certain design directions were taken. For Reconstruction students find an app to redesign. User interface and user experience are considered equally; deficits in both aesthetics and functionality are addressed. At this stage students move beyond speculation and begin to integrate actual research into the development of their product and user personas as they design screens and document user flows.

Finally, the last half of the term is devoted to their own unique app product. Construction builds on the first two projects, yet with a more thorough research and testing phase. Students are tasked with building a live prototype designed with industry-standard software and conduct formal user testing in a group setting. Ideation and development time for this final project is noticeably accelerated, as they’ve already undergone the process twice before. Mimicking a reverse engineering process also provides a detailed structural comprehension of interaction design. By approaching apps from the inside out, students report a greater understanding of their mobile devices as designed content systems, and they are better prepared for more advanced interaction projects.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2019.

Redesigning an Appropriated Brand Identity in a Complex Polarized Culture

A convergent mixed-methods pragmatic approach to the redesign of the Chief Brand Identity

Clinton Carlson
Associate Professor
University of Notre Dame

Chief Industries has utilized an appropriated image of a Native American for over forty years. External factors pushed for a shift in their use of this symbolism, however, in the design research process it was discovered that internal contingencies strongly opposed the elimination of the symbol. Chief’s third-generation CEO faced a dilemma in how to respond to these pressures.

A transitional brand identity system that invested in establishing a broader and more consistent brand identity could allow Chief to navigate the internal and external political environment; minimizing internal corporate cultural disruption, while also taking tangible steps toward a more appropriate and ethical brand identity system.

In working with Chief Industries and my collaborative partner Huebner Integrated Marketing, we utilized a convergent mixed-methods pragmatic approach to the redesign of the Chief Brand Identity. Interviews and surveys of corporate leadership, employees, partners, and customers gave insight into perceptions of the Chief brand and corporate culture, while a brand audit helped identify deficiencies and opportunities in the current brand architecture and applications across touchpoints.

Chief Industries has seven North American brands, eleven divisions on three continents, and 1,400 employees. The family-owned company was founded in 1954 and is currently lead by the grandson of the founder.

The research process identified 1) a fractured brand architecture and identity system, 2) gaps between corporate and division leaders in the perception of the Chief brand, and 3) risk to dramatically shifting the brand identity among some divisions and their employees. The transition to a new generation of leadership factored into the decision to build an identity system that would establish clearer brand architecture, build equity in elements outside of the Native American icon, and allow for the eventual elimination of the Native American icon.

This presentation looks at how one designer navigated a polarized setting and strove to provide an ethical design direction with an understanding of the complex systems in which their client existed. The presentation will discuss the role of designers as advocates and the ethical dilemmas faced when working with commercial clients. It will raise questions such as: How should we balance our role as advocates with the responsibilities of serving clients? Should we balance these two? Is incremental change enough?

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2019.

Breaking Down Biases with Toys: An Interdisciplinary Design Project

Courses from three different schools collaborated on the project: Applied Infancy Development, Machine Design, and Graphic Design 3.

Nancy Wynn
Associate Professor
Merrimack College

Nicholas Paolino
Undergraduate Design Researcher
Merrimack College

Much child development research is biased towards privileged, white, mid-socioeconomic cultures. For example, data suggests mothers should use child-directed speech to promote language development (Rowe, 2008). Yet, recent evidence shows this type of talk is not promoted universally (Rowe, 2012). As a result, educational and clinical practices​, as well as policies​, ​may not address the needs of non-white, under-privileged populations. During the spring semester of 2019, three Merrimack College professors created an interdisciplinary project to promote positive development in infants/toddlers. The project’s goal was the development of a toy prototype that addressed specific developmental domains and considered various populations.

Courses from three different schools collaborated on the project: Applied Infancy Development, Machine Design, and Graphic Design 3. Students enrolled in discipline-specific courses were divided into eight groups, each consisting of one Graphic Design student and multiple students from Education and Mechanical Engineering. The modes for assessment were completion of the toys, marketing materials, and the development of collaboration skills.

Education students were the researchers and “clients.” Engineering students created the toy prototypes. Graphic design students designed marketing materials including branding, packaging and advertising. Throughout the semester, students met in large group meetings, virtual group meetings, made oral presentations, and publicly demonstrated their final designs. The pedagogical plan was to adopt a peer model whereby students could teach their peers what they learned in their respective disciplines and work together to synthesize their ideas.

Despite some challenges, the teams completed their prototypes and branding with much success. Afterwards, project assessment included: What changes should be implemented? Were the virtual meetings beneficial? Who might gain from inclusion—business students and marketing faculty? Additional funding?

The project captured the professional world of toy design quite well, and the faculty members are planning for round two in 2022.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2019.

[Dis]embodied Senses: Interaction Beyond the Screen

research shows virtual connections has led to negative impacts on mental and physical well-being

Tristen Click
Graduate student
Vermont College of Fine Arts

Connection—here defined as experience, learning, socializing—is one of the primary drivers of human social behavior; over the past decade, we have experienced a major paradigm shift in how we connect. One main driver behind this change is advancing technology—primarily our reliance on smartphones and the internet. We have replaced physical connection with virtual connection, and while this has provided some societal advances and benefits, research shows this also has led to negative impacts on mental and physical well-being.

Perhaps inevitably technology will continue to advance at a rapid pace. Can we embrace this change while simultaneously being mindful of design methods for reconnecting the physical and the virtual beyond the screen, through the use of the full multisensory experience? Would this enhanced experience improve our sense of connection?

As designers we often limit ourselves to the visual—form, texture, color—but we are surrounded by options for using mixed reality. Alexa, Siri, and other sources of conversational design, as well as advanced haptics (vibrating phones, for example) are cases in point. In a visually overstimulated world what would happen if designers more deeply considered all five senses?

The author’s recent body of work investigates these questions through a variety of methods and tools including Makey Makeys, conductive ink, Play-Doh, scratch-and-sniff wallpaper, and video explorations. Designers communicate and build connection(s) through their work. Immersive experiences can build connections by having no (or low) barriers to entry, creating layers of meaning, and engaging all of the senses. In this presentation, the author will showcase her extensive research and body of work titled “[Dis]embodied Senses” which seeks to address some of these questions. Additionally, she will showcase simple methods and tools that can be used for prototyping sensory experiences both in the classroom and in one’s design practice.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2019.

Is the Future Online Classes?

Teaching methods based on tutorials, cumulative projects, and concept based learning strategies.

Dannell MacIlwraith
Assistant Professor
Kutztown University

More and more colleges and universities are beginning to explore offering traditional studio art and design courses online. At Kutztown University, first year students are required to take an online Digital Foundations course. This course gives a solid grounding in basic computer skills, software knowledge, and visual thinking, a framework for more complex areas of digital media. By giving the flexibility of an online class — students can still have hands-on techniques, experience constructive critique, hand-in physical prints, and have a good mentor/student relationship.

As the curriculum designer, I based my teaching methods on tutorials, cumulative projects, and concept based learning strategies. The short tutorials are designed to maintain attention. I have abandoned the traditional discussion forums of online education, instead utilizing social media for critiquing techniques. Finally, through surveys, quizzes and an ‘artifact’ project the faculty assess Digital Foundations for tweaking and modifying for future sections.

Many colleges and universities are moving classrooms online for financial savings. What are the most effective strategies for teaching art & design online? What about ensuring the same rigor and quality as an in-person course? We’ll explore possible solutions to these problems that are facing the early pioneers of online education in design.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2019.