Co-Creating Compassion: Engaging the Alzheimer’s Community in Social Robotics for Caregiving

A robot for individuals grappling with Alzheimer’s disease that offers companionship, support, and aid in various caregiving tasks

Kimberly Mitchell
Assistant Professor
University of Tennessee-Knoxville

By 2025, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s + dementia is projected to reach 7.2 million — an 11% increase from those affected right now. By 2060, this number is projected to reach 13.8 million. This deeply affects our caregivers – In 2021, family members and friends provided more than 271 billion dollars of unpaid care to people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. While technology will never replace human touch and person-centered care–technology can enhance caregiving–especially with routine tasks like organizing appointments, and medication reminders. 

Mitchell Mitchell is a graphic designer with a background in gerontology who is co-leading a multi-year, multidisciplinary project aimed at developing a social robot for Alzheimer’s caregiving by harnessing the collective expertise of undergraduate and graduate students spanning diverse fields such as engineering, computer science, architecture, and graphic design. Together, they are collaborating with the local Alzheimer’s community to conceptualize and co-design a friendly robot. This innovative project aims to develop a socially interactive robot tailored to assist in easing the challenges of dementia caregiving.

Mitchell’s design expertise bridges the gap between technical functionalities and user experience. She ensures that the technology developed aligns with the needs and expectations of the Alzheimer’s community. Mitchell’s additional expertise in gerontology enables a deeper understanding of the needs, behaviors, and limitations of Alzheimer’s patients. This insight informs the design process, ensuring that the robot’s interface, visuals, and interactions are tailored to the specific needs of the end-users. 

Originating from a collaborative endeavor between faculty members in biomedical engineering and design, Mitchell assumed the role of project oversight. Her responsibilities encompassed the development and leadership of two Institutional Review Board (IRB) studies. These studies incorporate user testing methodologies and participatory focus groups to glean invaluable insights directly from the Alzheimer’s community.

By leveraging this diverse pool of talent and engaging directly with the end-users, Mitchell and her team aspire to create a socially adept robot. This robot aims to offer companionship, support, and aid in various caregiving tasks for individuals grappling with Alzheimer’s disease. The inclusive and collaborative nature of this project underscores its commitment to addressing the real needs of those affected by dementia, empowering them through innovative technological solutions.

By involving the local Alzheimer’s community in all aspects of the project, the team ensures that the robot’s development is grounded in real-world scenarios and feedback. This participatory approach fosters empathy-driven design, making the technology more relevant and impactful for end-users.

The project’s outcomes, such as award-winning publications, peer-reviewed funding, undergraduate research awards, and acceptance in the local Alzheimer community showcase the effectiveness of integrating a gerontology-informed graphic design approach within a multidisciplinary context. 

The unique perspective Mitchell brings as a graphic designer with a gerontology background enriches the project by emphasizing user-centered design, ensuring that the social robot developed for Alzheimer’s caregiving is not just technically proficient but also deeply empathetic and effective in meeting the complex needs of the patients and caregivers.

Direct Outcomes

Mitchell, her students, and her research partner, Dr. Xiaopeng Zhao, have co-authored three peer-reviewed international publications – two of which she was the lead author on, and both received awards for “best paper” and “honorary mention.” Additionally, the project has had exposure nationally and internationally, where she has presented different facets of the project at 4 national and 2 international conferences. Finally, one of her undergraduate graphic design student researchers received first place at the University of Tennessee’s “Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement” (EuRECA) competition.

Publications
  1. Mitchell Mitchell, Robert Bray, Ella Hosse, Matt Rightsell, Luke Macdougall, Xiaopeng Zhao, “Co-designing a friendly robot to ease dementia,” a peer-reviewed paper accepted in Advances in the Human Side of Service Engineering book, July 2023, Best Paper Award (Honorary Mention), 2023
  2. Mitchell Mitchell, Luke Macdougall, John Hooten,  Robert Bray, Xiaopeng Zhao, “Designing a multi-disciplinary class to create a social robot for Alzheimer’s,” a peer-reviewed paper accepted in Advances in the Human Side of Service Engineering book, pp 33-40, July 2022, *Best Paper Award (2nd place) https://doi.org/10.54941/ahfe1002538
  3. Robert Bray., Luke MacDougall, Cody Blankenship, Mitchell Mitchell, Fei Yuan., Silvia Cerel-Suhl, & Xiaopeng Zhao, (2023, February). “Development and assessment of a friendly robot to ease dementia,” a peer-reviewed paper in Computer Science vol 13818. Springer, Cham (pp. 381-391). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-24670-8_34
Presentations
  1. “Using design to empower students to be a force of change: designing interdisciplinary experiences to address the needs of ad and dementia patients,” Gerontological Society of America, Indianapolis, Indiana, November 2022, A presentation showing how an interdisciplinary class was created to solve problems related to Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.
  2. Designing a multi-disciplinary class to create a social robot for Alzheimer’s,” 13th International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics, virtual, July 2022, Presented the collaborative role and responsibilities of undergraduate and graduate students in the design of a social robot.
  3. “Using design to empower students to be a force of change,” Emerging Technologies in Aging & Dementia Conference, Knoxville, TN, June 2022, A presentation showing how to use human-centered design to solve real-world problems related to dementia care.
  4. “Design and validation of a social robot for Alzheimer’s disease,” American Society on Aging, April 2022, Presented initial data on the design and user testing of our prototype robot.
  5. “Designing socially assistive robots for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementia,” Gerontological Society of America 2021 Scientific Meeting, virtual, November 2021, Presented a research paper explaining the demand for additional help in caring for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
  6. “Addressing dementia disparities using socially assistive robots,” 2nd Latinos & Alzheimer’s Symposium, virtual, May 2021, Presented collaborative research with the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Biomedical Engineering and the School of Design in the creation of a low-cost social robot.
Awards    
  • Human Side of Service Engineering paper, Honorary mention, 2023 
  • Eureca, 1st place undergraduate researcher in division, 2023 
  • Human Side of Service Engineering paper, 2nd place paper, 2022 
  • Undergraduate Research Funding award, $3,000 (2023), $1,500 (2022)
  • 2023 Alma and Hal Research Award, $10,000

Kimberly Mitchell is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Tennessee Knoxville. She holds her BFA and MFA in Graphic Design and a certificate in Gerontology. She is an award-winning designer and researcher who focuses on understanding and improving experiences that support the health and well-being of underserved populations, particularly among older adults. Her multidisciplinary research focuses on the social impact of design, and how by creating awareness, a designer can improve a community’s quality of life. Her work bridges design and gerontology. Her most recent project involves co-designing with the community an AI robot interface as a conversational partner and monitor for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias.

Assessing Student Learning Outcomes in an Interdisciplinary, Experiential Course

A conceptual model that empirically examines the impact of interdisciplinary studies, participation in experiential learning, and the role demographics on learning outcomes.

Denise Anderson
Assistant Professor
Kean University

This research project is inspired by co-teaching an interdisciplinary, experiential course with three professors and thirty-three students in Graphic Design, Marketing, and Communication, with a partnership with the New York Jets as a client. Using survey data from students in the course and other college students pursuing their undergraduate degree, we develop a conceptual model and empirically examine the impact of interdisciplinary studies, participating in experiential learning, and the role of student demographics on student learning outcomes.

Interdisciplinary studies refer to studies between two or more fields of study and involve students working in an environment transcending disciplinary boundaries. Experiential learning refers to learning through hands-on experiences, where students apply the theories learned in the classroom to real-life situations using higher-order thinking.

Factors that affect student learning outcomes in higher education have been identified as lacking knowledge in other disciplines (Fruchter and Emery, 1999) and working with an actual client (Coker et al., 2017). Other factors include effective team collaborations (Machemer and Crawford, 2007), student engagement (Kuh et al., 2008; Letterman and Dugan, 2004), motivation (Pintrich and DeGroot, 1990; Deci et al, 1999), study habits and strategies (Dunlosky et al, 2013; Kember and Kwan, 2000), to name a few.

The proposed research will support the important role of interdisciplinary studies and experiential learning in achieving favorable student learning outcomes. In addition, it will provide empirical support for Universities to offer more interdisciplinary courses and experiential learning opportunities to retain students and prepare them for professional practice.

This design research was presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 10.2: Annual CAA Conference 2024 (Hybrid) on Thursday, February 15, 2024.

Architecture and Design Students Envision the Post-COVID Built Environment

How designers can prepare for the next pandemic by looking at it as a human-centered design initiative

Denise Anderson
Assistant Professor
Michael Graves College, Kean University

Craig Konyk
Associate Professor
Michael Graves College, Kean University

Kylie Mena
Michael Graves College, Kean University

Varrianna Siryon
Michael Graves College, Kean University

Humanity will call upon architects and designers to respond to the resulting modified human behaviors and built environment in the post-COVID-19 world. These areas include the need for flexibility of public spaces and interior layouts, rethinking product designs, and strategies for informational campaigns and digital safety platforms using an integrated design approach.

In spring 2021, a team of interdisciplinary students and faculty at the Michael Graves College were awarded a grant to explore how designers can prepare for the next pandemic by looking at it as a human-centered design initiative. The objective was to utilize the expertise areas of Architecture, Graphic Design, Industrial Design, and Interior Design to research the pandemic’s effects on public spaces and propose design strategies to improve communities. For example, as part of a university-wide initiative on pandemic research, students proposed design solutions for the safe opening of Kean’s childcare center.

In the summer, as the world managed and changed due to the Delta variant and the anti- vaccine movement, further investigations into two areas hit hardest by the pandemic were explored: education and mental health. Extended research was conducted on special needs children and the increased anxiety that led to panic buying.

The presentation will examine the interdisciplinary design thinking process and solutions for the childcare center. It will present methodology soliciting support in undergraduate and graduate courses to identify pandemic-related problems and solutions. Furthermore, it will answer how design and architecture can help envision what communities need to manage and thrive in a post-COVID-19 environment.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 8.2: Annual CAA Conference on Thursday, March 3, 2022.

Honeybee Colonies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Studio Classroom

Students experience the natural world in the urban setting of New York City

Mark Randall
Assistant Professor
The New School, Parsons School of Design

As reflected in the fossil record, honeybees extend back at least 30 million years and were well established as Homo Sapiens emerged. One of the earliest known images of human/bee interaction is from an 8,000, year-old Mesolithic cave painting of honey hunters in eastern Spain.

Bees have not only provided honey and beeswax, they have impacted human society throughout history; creatively, culturally and spiritually. Bees are a powerful metaphor for life; a lens through which we can explore art, design, science and culture.

Building a single-subject course from such rich material, allows for a dynamic and vibrant multi-disciplinary classroom that engages a diverse cohort of design, science and liberal arts students.

Based on student interest at Parsons School of Design, Honeybee Colonies: Art, Design, Science, and Culture was developed to explore the world of the honeybee in all of its complexity. Through science labs in bee biology, a bee-hunting field trip to Central Park, and a visit to a rooftop urban farm in Brooklyn, the course allowed students to experience the natural world in the urban setting of New York City. Guest lectures from designers, artists, an architect, and a filmmaker, demonstrated how bees have profoundly influenced their work.

Informed by their research and classroom experience, each student produced a final project on the subject of their choice. Diverse outcomes included, a line of honey-based skincare products inspired by ancient Egyptian beauty regiments; an agro-tourism business for the student’s family agricultural ranch in Puerto Rico; a cultural collection of honey recipes; and the design of a children’s community garden in Harlem. The universally positive course evaluations underscored students’ deep desire for interdisciplinary learning. This presentation will share how the studio space was activated through the multiple disciplines; and what specific methods and projects supported this approach.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 7.2: 109th CAA Annual Conference on Wednesday, February 10, 2021.

Strategy + Creative: Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration

Simulating the working relationship between strategists and creatives.

Kathy Mueller
Assistant Professor
Temple University

Jennifer Freeman
Assistant Professor of Instruction
Temple University

This presentation will provide case studies for design educators to imagine collaborative interdisciplinary projects with their colleagues in media, communication, and business. It will include an overview of project structure, process, and outcomes. The presentation will also examine the advantages and drawbacks to the variety of approaches the presenting professors have taken to this collaboration. It will illuminate the challenge of fulfilling the needs of two different student groups.

Examples will be pulled from seven years of collaboration between an Art Direction class and an Advertising Account Planning class. Projects were structured to simulate the working relationship between strategists and creatives—cultivating teamwork and mutual respect among students using experiential learning. Art Direction students learned the value of market research and strategy insights. Account Planning students gained an appreciation for the creative process.

The professors have experimented with modifications to the assignment, to varying degrees of success. In addition to discussing collaboration techniques, this presentation will examine the learnings from teaching with a variety of client approaches—theoretical client assignments; partnerships with student entrepreneur clients through a campus incubator; partnerships with external clients, such as Urban Outfitters Inc.; and most recently, in partnership with a design studio specialized in the non-profit sector.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.2: CAA 2020 Conference Chicago on February 14, 2020.

Decipher 2018

Service Award Runner Up

Kelly Murdoch-Kitt, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan
Omar Sosa-Tzec, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan

Decipher 2018 Design Educators Research Conference represented a significant effort to create an inclusive, equitable, and intersectional space that brought together students, educators, researchers, and practitioners to discuss and advance design research. Our nomination in the category of Service is for executing this vision of a hands-on, activity-oriented, inclusive design research conference. Decipher successfully brought together 228 people from 12 countries.

The conference was hosted at the University of Michigan’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design in September 2018. Decipher united two major and distinct design organizations: AIGA Design Educators Community in partnership and the DARIA Network (Design as Research in the Americas). Decipher 2018 was organized around five crucial themes of defining, doing, disseminating, supporting and teaching research in design disciplines.

To ensure participation from different types of designers with different levels of academic, industry, and/or research experience, we developed an innovative structure for the conference, which comprised the following modalities:

Activity Group: an intensive hands-on session in which all participants collaboratively discuss and ideate on a specific topic to discover emergent themes and issues, develop best practices and guidelines, and gather resources.

Conversation: a relaxed environment to allow participants to discuss the intersection of facilitators’ and participants’ interests through the lens of the conference topics as well as the AIGA 2025 trends (now Design Futures).

Workshop: a more traditional learning session in which one or more facilitators lead participants to engage in a topic within the conference themes. As in a classroom environment, workshop facilitators had specific learning outcomes in mind for participants and were expected to lead the entire session (in contrast to the more collaborative activity group or conversation formats).

Besides these three participation modalities, the Decipher conference included a poster session of research work, a graduate student colloquium, and provided several spaces for networking and discussion.

*Motivation*

People interpret the word design in many ways; when research is added to the mix, the ambiguity increases. Although research has become a critical component of most design faculty’s tenure and promotion requirements, the design research issues addressed at Decipher are still rarely discussed and often misunderstood. Due to a dearth of research discussion and pedagogy in most MFA and similar terminal degree programs in the design disciplines, some experts estimate that close to 90% of those currently teaching design in the U.S. have little or no background in research.

By instigating conversations around these issues, Decipher aimed at causing a ripple effect to advance research agendas for the approximately 11,500 (full- and part-time) university-level design educators in the U.S. Thus, Decipher convened design researchers, practitioners, and educators at all stages in their careers to explore the fusions of research and practice through the ways we accomplish, talk about, and teach design research.

*An Inclusive Submission Process*

We offered a number of submission and participation formats to engage people at different stages and degrees of comfort with design research. Each Decipher attendee submitted one of two types of written contributions: the first was for facilitators, those interested in leading an engaging session for conference attendees around a particular design research subject; the second was for participants, those who wanted to be involved in sessions while bringing a particular research interest into discussions among all attendees.

During the conference, Decipher provided a digital draft of the proceedings that included all facilitators’ and participants’ submissions in order to guide session selection and promote conversations and networking during the conference. Likewise, everyone at the conference, including keynotes, facilitators, and participants had their headshots and biographical descriptions included on the conference website. Due to the democratic nature of our submission process, we wanted these final proceedings to be a permanent record of the various voices of Decipher 2018.

The conference regarded all contributions, regardless of length, of equal value. Because publication is a critical component of academic research, we did not want to restrict publication opportunities to session facilitators alone, as is customary with most other academic conferences. Therefore, the final proceedings, to be published by Michigan Publishing, will include the juried written submission from participants and facilitators alike. In the spirit of equanimity. The forthcoming proceedings will be available online as an open-access publication, and in a print-on-demand format.

Decipher also supported equity and inclusion by offering 10 Scholarships for attendees who identified with backgrounds historically underrepresented in academia. After we conceived of these scholarships, we advocated for them, and obtained funding to support them from Stamps School of Art & Design. We hope that these scholarships will establish a new precedent for future design education and research conferences.

*What we accomplished*

Compared to similar conferences (e.g. Cumulus, A2RU, Design Research Society), Decipher broke the mold with its immersive, hands-on teaching and learning experiences rooted in the five conference themes. We asked facilitators to make all sessions accessible to a wide range of expertise, and did not assume that all attendees came with high levels of design research experience. We also asked them to make the sessions engaging in order to motivate and excite people to engage with design research more deeply while teaching them different ways to foster exchange of ideas and knowledge. This requirement made the sessions not passive as it usually occurs in traditional academic conferences.

Our PDF expands on this overview and includes images and links to additional supporting resources, such as an outcomes video documenting the attendee experience.

Kelly Murdoch-Kitt, Assistant Professor, Stamps School of Art and Design, University of Michigan

Prof. Murdoch-Kitt is drawn to design through her keen interest in people, systems, and interpersonal interactions. She strives to create effective, socially responsible, and delightful concepts and solutions. Her work and teaching integrate visual communication, interaction, user experience, and service design with behavior change and social engagement. Her current research, in partnership with Prof. Denielle Emans of VCU School of the Arts Qatar, examines and develops design-based methods and tools to promote effective intercultural collaboration, and how related tangible activities and outcomes increase trust and commitment in digital interactions. Murdoch-Kitt and Emans recently coauthored Intercultural Collaboration by Design: Drawing from differences, distances, and disciplines through visual thinking. This book of design-based methods that support intercultural communication and collaboration will be published by Routledge in Spring 2020.

Omar Sosa-Tzec, Assistant Professor, Stamps School of Art and Design, University of Michigan

Omar Sosa-Tzec holds a Ph.D. in Informatics with a focus on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Design, a MDes in Information Design, and MSc in Computer Science. Prof. Sosa-Tzec has been involved in design practice, teaching, and research for more than a decade. His research lies at the intersection of HCI, Information Design, Semiotics, Rhetoric, Argumentation, and Happiness Studies. Within this space, Prof. Sosa-Tzec studies how the hedonic and eudaimonic qualities of interactive and informational design products shape people’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. At Stamps, Prof. Sosa-Tzec teaches Studio 2D, Methods of Creative Inquiry, Sign and Symbol, and Information Design. His practice focuses on communication design, information design, and interaction design.

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

Urban Abstract Design of Modern Architecture in Bauhaus

Designers must delve beneath the obvious principles of Bauhaus purity and minimalism to comprehend how human memory and sense perception contribute to our experience

Min K. Pak
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
Art & Design
University of Southern Indiana

Photography reflects memory, allows us to ponder our past thinking and past experiences in our environments. At the boundaries between graphic design and photography, we can observe patterns in urban environments and associate these patterns with recalled sounds and human emotions.

In 1923, Lucia Moholy (1894-1989) sought to capture a futuristic vision in Bauhaus architecture. Her photographs balance the clarity, simplicity, and asymmetry that represent Bauhaus’s spirit of utopian zest and vitality and openness of spirit. Indeed, Moholy’s extreme verticals, tilted frames, and abstract forms emphasize the simple, clean, beautiful lines characterizing Bauhaus architecture.

Since each building employs its own architectural language, I identify the words for these urban shapes, for their forms and structures—freeing these buildings from their specific spatial contexts so that we observe them individually, seeing beauty even in marginal details of everyday city life.

Beyond merely documenting discoveries in Moholy’s photographs, I explicate her new ways of seeing this geometric, abstract architecture as a response to reading the world’s simplicity and organic autonomy. I contend that we designers must delve beneath the obvious principles of Bauhaus purity and minimalism to comprehend how human memory and sense perception contribute to our experience with both photography and Bauhaus.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 4.4: Parsons Integrated Design on Thursday, June 14, 2018.

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.

Drawing Type, Drawing Connections

Joel Mason
Professor Emeritus
Department of Communication Design
New York City College of Technology, CUNY

In 1979, as a full-time member of the Communication Design department at NYC College of Technology, I was assigned Lettering and Typography, a first semester course teaching students to draw three basic alphabets: Caslon, Bodoni and Helvetica using the “built-up” method with broad sketching pencils. Reviewing the course outline and required textbook, David Gates’ Lettering for Reproduction I realized there were gaps in my education.

When I was a student, classes in graphic design history/theory didn’t exist. Gates briefly covered design history and theory but also explained the role of geometry, visual perception, printing technology, history and aesthetics in the design and evolution of letterforms. Now, I understood that while demonstrating lettering techniques, I would also need to relate them to these other disciplines. As a result, my thinking about teaching typography changed, seeing its potential as a multidisciplinary subject with links to the liberal arts and sciences.

Lectures included the role of geometry in shaping the proportional systems underlying Old Style and Modern Style typefaces, along with discussions and demonstrations of the role of visual perception and illusion in adjusting shapes to create harmonious optical relationships among letterforms. Examples of how Caslon and Bodoni appeared when first printed in the 18th century and how paper, ink and presswork affected their appearance were integrated into the narrative. History could also be introduced in surprising ways, by explaining for example, that the first copies of the American Declaration of Independence were printed using Caslon, which was imported from England prior to the Revolution. Drawing and constructing letterforms also demonstrated how fundamental design principles (also being taught in other first year design classes) such as contrast, balance, proportion and rhythm contributed to an aesthetically pleasing result. The class was also showed thow organic forms in nature served as a source of inspiration.

Taken together, students not only learned to draw letterforms, but saw how the broad web of connections with other disciplines could enrich their learning experience. I taught the course for five years, but by the early 90’s digital technology replaced hand-lettering. Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in calligraphy and hand-lettering. Regardless of the technology used, teaching typography, particularly at the introductory level, can be transformed by the multidisciplinary approach.

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

A Start-Up Simulator: Collaborative Design Studio

Efecem Kutuk
Program Coordinator Industrial Design, University Lecturer
Robert Busch School of Design
Michael Graves College
Kean University

In recent years collaboration has become a fundamental of the design industry. In the start-up business environment, the corporate structure has been replaced by a passionate, skilled and capable 24/7 work force of risk-taking design entrepreneurs.

Everyday we witness independent design collaborations that capture recognition by launching their products through powerful tools such as social media and crowd funding, the innovate nature of which are several steps ahead of their market majority corporate competitors. What if we can simulate these collaborations at an earlier stage, during undergraduate education? What if we can mimic the experience of a start-up in the classroom?

I have been teaching “Collaborative Design Studio” the past three years, utilizing team-building and problem solving techniques to produce imaginary start-ups, which incorporate the full spectrum of the start-up model- user experience, branding and packaging by Graphic Designers, design development, prototyping by Industrial Designers, and exhibition of the product by Interior Designers. At certain points in the process, the team divides and conquers by their specialization within the design field. At other points, they work as a team to make common decisions. They follow a road that intermittently splits and merges throughout the journey. The course offered a window on how start-ups run, and gave students the ability to practice before graduating, rather than figuring out design entrepreneurism on the job.

My presentation will include examples of student work, from initial ideations to a finalized solution, by focusing on team members’ key decisions throughout the project. I will also substantiate my argument by highlighting the success of collaborative creative teams by other researchers findings. Finally, the importance of having a collaborative course in the design curricula, especially for institutions that have various design programs, will be open to discussion.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 3.1: Kean University on Saturday, Oct 22, 2016.