Blog
  1. MiD Alumni Q&A

    2010 Alumni Q&A

    A few nights ago now some of the first alumni of the reframed MiD program returned to tell us of what it’s like on the outside. Frasier, Rachel, Garreth and Justin as well as a recruiter from MissionStaff named Megan Metz told us of their trials and conquests from the job hunt to their present projects. After which they fielded questions mostly from the trepidatious second-years who are finalizing their theses and beginning the interviewing process.

    It was interesting to discover that though we are learning a human centered design process here, most of these graduates worked in a field labeled User Experience. While there did seem to be differences between these two labels, it was not clear exactly what these were. Axure, a software for wireframing and development, seemed to be the tool of choice for many aspects of their new jobs. The fact that there are many aspects to their new positions should also be noted. The graduates seemed to transcend this label pure user experience designer to step into multiple roles including research, information architecture, strategy and more.

    Overall the night was a success. Many of the current MiD students were in attendance joined with a few undergrads and fellow professors. It provided an interesting look at the developing creative environment we here are all preparing to enter. Discovering consistencies between their separate positions most of us now have a better idea of what to expect come graduation and how to craft our stories to market ourselves more directly to applicable positions.

    The night ended positively with a lot of eager conversations and new connections; everyone seemed excited.

  2. UArts Finance Project

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    Last year, during a particularly low time in the economy, a group of MiD students came to the aid of their local university community here at UArts. They began working with the finance office to help improve their systems and discovered a fundamental issue. The school’s bi-annual presentations about the state of the school were bogged down with a lot of formal spreadhseets explaining, in possibly too much detail, the progress of the school.

    It was recognized that this means of communication was difficult for the visual people to follow and so MiD students Justin Witman and Fraser Marshall were tasked with the job of finding a better way to communicate this critical information that would make it more accessible and appropriate to the audience without compromising its integrity.

    Working with the Vice President for Finance and Administration, Bill Mea, and one of the the graphic design professors here, Larry Bach, the group developed and iterated a more visual way of presenting the critical information. All the while maintaining a balance of the two mindsets of administrators, focused on details of the information, and faculty, focused on what this information meant for them.  The visual community appreciated this effort because it allowed them to see through the clutter and better understand the status of their business.

    It turned out that in the area of university administration this was rather pioneering work. So much so that the group was accepted to present their process at the annual meeting for the Eastern Association of College and University Officers in D.C. The presentation focused mostly on the process of developing this new visual method and was well received.

    Overall the project was a success. The school community was better informed and Mr. Mea says he is very interested in continuing to employ the techniques developed for making his formal information more accessible. The school has also begun to realize the resources it has in its student body and build a more symbiotic relationship by providing the students more real world experience while helping the school improve.

  3. MiD at Museum and the Web

    Electrofolksonogram

    We, MiD, were offered the chance to display some of our work at the Museum and the Web reception a few weeks ago. Museum and the Web is a conference to showcase emerging technologies and their use in the museum context. We brought four projects to demonstrate and they were all a hit. We were told this was the best part of the whole conference. The response was so well, in fact, that some of the projects are pursuing further development with museums.

    The projects included the Pixel, Collabritique, Art Amplified, Electrofolksonogram. Pixel allows you to see through someone else’s eyes. In this way it exposes what you are looking at to someone else. Creating a critical dialogue around the shared visual experience. Collabritique is an interactive environment where users can begin a conversation about an art piece. Art Amplified makes use of augmented reality, specifically the Layar app, to provide access to relevant contextual information about a given art piece. Finally, the Electrofolksonogram uses EEG technology to compare your brain waves and to your personal preferences to provide suggestions on other works that may be of interest to you.

  4. Fu Chi Thesis Team Presents in San Francisco

    The Future Chinatown (Fu Chi) thesis team, Danny and I (Georgia) presented last Sunday at the PURBA workshop of the 9th annual Pervasive Computing Conference in San Francisco. Our invitation came after our paper, Fu Chi: A Mobile Communication System for Philadelphia’s Chinatown was accepted to the workshop. PURBA was organized by computer scientists at MIT to explore “the research challenges and opportunities in applying the pervasive computing paradigm to urban spaces. We are seeking multi-disciplinary contributions that reveal interesting aspects about urban life and exploit the digital traces to create novel urban applications that benefit citizens, urban planners, and policy makers.” We were thrilled at the opportunity, and our presentation (though it was only 10 minutes) was very well-received. There were many other interesting work presented, including a way to auto-generate content on public screens (making them more interesting and cutting costs), and how to use taxi signals to learn about traffic patterns.

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    After all the equations that were presented, we think the participants found our presentation very engaging and liked the change of pace, which focused on social aspects of the Chinatown neighborhood in Philly. You can read more about our thesis project at our website futurechinatown.com. In the general discussion after completion of all presentations, our project was often mentioned as an example of an application that was trying to solve a real urban problem, while many of the other projects used data that was available and applied particular mathematical models to see what could be revealed. Though we weren’t as familiar with all the technical concepts that were discussed, we felt that our project definitely fit with the theme and our work was a useful contribution to the work at the conference.

    Of course we had to check out San Francisco’s Chinatown while we were there, it was beautiful, much bigger than Philly’s Chinatown, and much cleaner, but then that it may have something to do with the $1,000 fine for leaving trash on the street (in Philly it’s $300).

    I also got to catch the kick off of San Francisco Design Week with a salon at Smart Design on Technology and the Meaning of Life. Panelists included several leaders of innovation at Smart Design and Allison Arieff, Opinionator columnist for the NYTimes who writes about design, architecture and sustainability. The topic aimed to explore how we can find meaning today when our devices and media seem to be demanding so much of our attention. Questions were raised about the fact that some of the most popular social media sites are aimed at helping us make decisions (Yelp, Bing, etc) but often what happens is we just use them to make decisions for us. The internet is now being shaped around what people search for the most, but does that mean we will no longer be able to come across something interesting and totally out of our comfort zone that could help us expand our perceptions? The head of Industrial Design at Smart talked about technology as a merry-go-round, where we have to jump on while it’s spinning slowly, then it starts going faster and faster until it throws us off, making it unlikely that we will get back on again. Most of the panelists have small children, and are making concerted efforts to limit the time they spend looking at screens during the day.

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    In all it was a fantastic trip, we’re very thankful MiD was able to help us get there and hope more students get to experience the same.

  5. 2012 MiD Thesis Projects

    Presenting the 2012 MiD thesis projects from our most recent cohort of degree candidates. Please explore this impressive work below and let us know what you think — we welcome feedback on our work in the program.

    Designing Conversations: Frameworks for Collaboration & Empowerment
    Matt Van Der Tuyn

    Designing Conversations is an action research based project exploring how Design frameworks can lay the foundation for collaboration and empowerment within organizations and communities. We will demonstrate both how Design can be used as a tool to address ever-evolving problems and how Designers can transfer these tools to the organizations that will continuously benefit from their use. What I have tested in this work is how design can enhance and leverage the empowerment and collaboration of individuals and groups within both structures to produce lasting transformational change. In this thesis I have prototyped several frameworks and supporting materials to help guide the work being done in both of these environments toward a more collaborative and empowering approach. This has led to an understanding of strategies and guiding principles in working within these two contexts to build a capacity for more meaningful ways of working and learning.

    Designing Health: Fostering the Growth of a Healthy Workforce within Corporate Culture 
    Alaina Pineda & Sara Hall

    Designing Health: Fostering the Growth of a Healthy Workforce within Corporate Culture describes our work in partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Health System [UPHS] to design a work environment that promotes and values employee health. Through our discovery process, we also identified the need to affect the decision-making process of our client and the much larger health system in order to reach those impactful outcomes. To try to make a good thing even better at the health system, we developed and implemented a series of design interventions to address the current challenges within the UPHS environment. This design driven model for organizational learning can produce meaningful insights that will facilitate positive changes in less time and with fewer resources. Our process empowers change from within an organization. Ultimately, we provided our client with a series of tools and abilities to enable them to implement sustainable and successful initiatives for their employees.

    SHIFT: Cycling as a catalyst for better communities
    Nicolas Coia & Dominic Prestifilippo

    Using the bicycle as a catalyst, SHIFT proposes a number of design interventions to help raise Philadelphia’s quality of life. To facilitate this proposed shift, this thesis leverages the Human Centered Design Process through ethnographic field studies, visual data synthesis and an iterative design approach. The meaning of “interested but concerned” was juxtaposed against the theories of latent demand to highlight and unpack the economic benefits that a 3% shift in ridership could afford this fair city. Finally, a semantic view on the role of politics and communities in Philadelphia is unraveled. Focusing on the wickedness of the encountered problem and expressing how design solutions are but a small piece of the puzzle.

  6. Design and Innovation at Transform 2012

    A report by Jeremy Beaudry, Director of MiD

    I have recently returned from an energizing few days attending Transform 2012, the annual conference on innovation and design in healthcare hosted by the Mayo Clinic and its Center for Innovation (CFI). Now four years on, the Transform conference has emerged as a powerful convening of a number of leading individuals and organizations who are striving to shift they way we think and talk about health, and the ways we care for people and manage our health. And — no surprise here — designers are playing an increasingly important role by using our processes, methods, and tools in collaboration with a range of healthcare professionals and patients to reimagine healthcare across the globe.

     

    There are many reasons to attend Transform: to hear from a wide range of dynamic speakers, to learn about case studies demonstrating new approaches to healthcare, to see firsthand how a premier medical institution like the Mayo Clinic pursues innovation through design, to connect (and reconnect) with people whose work is vital to the transformation of health. In my capacity as Director of the MiD program, I was particularly focused on sharing with others the tremendous work that our students and faculty do as they bring design thinking, methods, and tools into the many partnerships that are the foundation of our studio projects. I also wanted to learn from industry professionals (designers and non-designers) about what qualities and competencies they look for when hiring young designers into their organizations. I heard about the need for designers who have a rigorous design research methodology, who can synthesize qualitative and quantitative data and make sense of it in visual formats, who are masters of communication, collaboration, and facilitation, and who can move through an iterative design process grounded in prototyping and testing. We use this anecdotal information to help gauge our learning objectives and outcomes, and then we apply this knowledge toward the continual improvement of the curriculum and offerings for our students. (I was pleased to be able to respond to many of these fact-finding conversations with clear examples of how our students demonstrate all of these competencies.)

    I had the added pleasure of travelling with my colleagues in The Action Mill to Transform, and of using that time for a number of intensely focused conversations on the current and future states of our business as well as the emerging vision for how we, as a strategic design studio, shape new ways of being in the world through a design perspective that, in J. Paul Neeley’s words, considers everything. (More to come on that!) And, of course, all of this thinking and doing in the Action Mill feeds into how I think about the MiD program (and vice versa). Working alongside so many other amazing individuals and inspiring organizations like those I met at Transform, designers can humbly use our point of view, methods, and tools to guide powerful transformation for social good within the health sector and beyond.

    Finally, I will thank the many wonderful people I met who impressed me with their inspiring words and work: J. Paul Neeley (see his talk here), Todd Wilkens and the rest of the Mayo Center for Innovation team (hi Molly and Liz!), Denny Royal and Lisa Helminiak at Azul 7, Natalie Doud at Catalyst Studios, and Liz Gerber at Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University and Design for America, James Agutter at the University of Utah, and many more. Here’s to continuing the conversation.

  7. Making Sense of Transformation Design

    Vrouyr Joubanian, a first year MiD graduate student, summarizes the main principles of transformation design and reflects on his evolving understanding of the role of design and designer.

    Two readings from our design seminar this past week, the UK Design Council’s RED Paper 02 and “Transformative Services and Transformation Design” by Daniela Sangiorgi, are a call to action for the creation of yet another new design discipline that applies design skills to social and economic issues through user-centered, interdisciplinary, collaborative and participatory processes. This new discipline, which starts from the perspective of the end user and creates changes and social transformations, is called transformation design.

    The RED Paper discusses a shift from the ‘master designer’ to a state where the end user’s needs and experience are essential to the design process. So the user becomes an expert and participates in the design of services, experiences, products and interactions, rather than just being an object of the design process. Since we are in the middle of a user-revolution, where non-trained designers, considered ‘expert users’, are taking the design of products and services into their own hands, questions like ‘what we design’, ‘how we design’, and ‘who designs’ are raised.

    The authors go on giving examples of how user-centered design (co-design) is applied to social issues, and provide three basic core skills to this approach:

    1. Looking from the point of view of the user of the products and services, designers “immerse themselves in context,” which can help to gain empathy and generate insights on how things could change for the better;

    2. Making things visible through the use of visual frameworks (sketches, diagrams, storyboards, etc.), which creates a common platform for discussion, avoids misinterpretation and helps build a shared vision

    3. Prototyping by trying solutions and getting in-situ feedback from the users to test out possibilities before committing to building the real thing.

    Furthermore, after presenting several case studies, the authors of the RED Paper introduce six characteristics of transformation design:

    • defining and redefining the brief
    • collaborating between disciplines
    • employing participatory design techniques
    • building capacity, not dependency
    • designing beyond traditional solutions
    • creating fundamental change

    Daniela Sangiorgi’s article focuses on the application of transformation design to building services that trigger the establishment of collaborative, sustainable, and creative societies. She argues that services are no longer an end, but rather an “engine for wider societal transformations” and enablers of “society-driven innovation.”

    She continues discussing the redesign of public services by building collaborative service models and models of co-creation and co-production, which mean “the use of distributed resources, collaborative modes of delivery, and the participation of users in ‘the design and delivery of services, working with professionals and frontline staff to devise effective solutions.’”

    She then proposes that designers adopt principles from community action research and make use of them in service design, and follows with seven key principles “that seem to unify transformative practices in design, organizational development and community action research.” These principles are:

    • active citizens
    • intervention at community scale
    • building capacities and project partnerships
    • redistributing power
    • designing infrastructures and enabling platforms
    • enhancing imagination and hope
    • evaluating success and impact

    As much as I agree with these general principles and characteristics presented by both RED and Sangiorgi, coming from a product design background, I can’t help but strongly relate to the philosophical and practical challenges that designers face when it comes to transformation design. I have come to a realization that my understanding of design — which I have built through my previous design studies in Lebanon and the Middle East (which is a whole other, juicy, topic of discussion) and work experience — is the traditional view/practice of design, and that makes me uncomfortable when trying to embrace this new discipline of transformation design. Today, we shape behaviors rather than forms.

    We don’t focus on products or technology; we focus on society’s needs.
    We are not the sole authors of ideas; we are facilitators of others’ ideas.
    We don’t work alone and we are not ‘master designers.’
    We collaborate with untrained designers; we co-design.
    We don’t have finished results anymore, but are creating systems that will change and reconfigure after we have left the scene.
    We don’t define good design; we work on developing what’s good enough.

    Looks like I’m going through a paradigm shift.

  8. MiD Students Attend the 2012 Food and Entrepreneurship Conference in San Francisco

    Kelly Babcock and Alex Visconti, 2nd year MiD graduate students, report on a recent research trip in support of their thesis work.

    Can design create impact within the spaces of food, entrepreneurship, and vulnerable populations? We traveled to the opposite coast to get a better idea.

    Over the summer we began preliminary research for a possible thesis direction, and continued to come across a few key organizations leading in the food space that interact with entrepreneurship and vulnerable populations — all of which were going to be present at The Food and Entrepreneurship Conference in San Francisco, CA.

    With some last minute travel arrangements, we were able to attend the conference and engage directly with the forerunners in our area of interest. The conference was organized by La Cocina, an incubator kitchen, whose mission is “to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market and capital opportunities.” We enjoyed two informative and delicious days of panel discussions, presentations, and small Q&A sessions — all featuring La Cocina’s entrepreneurs, mostly women from immigrant communities.

    The experience at the conference expanded our work and learning as designers because we were able to see and hear firsthand how the human-centered design theories we learn in the MiD program can be applied to create positive social, cultural, and economic impact.

    Through the physical and service support of La Cocina and other incubator organizations serving food entrepreneurs, the participants of the programs engage in a collaborative environment to design their business model. One of the most common discussions over the course of the conference was the tight constraint of low start-up capital. In design we see constraints as a productive force, and in the case of these entrepreneurs it also seemed to be beneficial to their growth. It requires that they start on a small-scale, rapidly prototyping and testing their products with customers to find the most successful iteration. It also created the opportunity for the business owners to work the front lines at the farmers markets, selling their product to their customers. We feel that this proved invaluable to the entrepreneurs, as they were able to interact and engage with their customers right when they delivered the product. This experience allowed them to keep the feedback loop short and quickly make refinements to the product according to the customers’ needs.

    For us, one of the most interesting takeaways from the conference was the “female entrepreneurial persona” we were able to develop from all of our observations and interviews. We mapped the common attributes, some of which we mentioned previously, and captured them in terms of body features below:

    Each attribute was informed from our time spent at The Food and Entrepreneurship Conference, observing, listening, and talking to the many women food entrepreneurs that were in attendance.

    We see value in referring to this persona while developing our thesis direction and the communities we want to serve. In addition, we were able to witness a successful application of human-centered design theories in a way that has definite social, cultural, and economic impact for not only the entrepreneurs that participate in the incubators, but also for the greater community that is inspired to do their own work of this nature.

  9. The Value of Real-World Projects

    Kelly Babcock, a second year student in the MiD program, writes on the importance and value of real-world projects in her graduate education experience. This post was originally posted on Kelly’s blog on October 27, 2012.

    It just recently occurred to me that the majority of my higher educational training in the MiD program has involved a real-world project curriculum — and how beneficial this has been to my “employability.”

    My undergraduate graphic design coursework involved an interdisciplinary studio class where we formed student teams and worked with real clients on branding-focused projects. The students were from marketing, mass communication, and graphic design, and the course lasted for one semester. We learned project management skills, had regular client meetings and presentations, and had to provide professional design deliverables by strict deadlines.

    My MiD graduate coursework at the University of the Arts has a strong focus on collaborating with real clients. We take on the responsibility of identifying client partners, building the relationship, and fostering it throughout all aspects of the project — schedules, meetings, presentations, deliverables, and of course the design work involved.

    This curriculum has been invaluable to me, and I can’t imagine school any other way. The thought of a “made up” client or project just seems meaningless, and I feel that higher education (and even earlier) will need to adjust to this type of real-world project curriculum if they want to best prepare their graduates for employment. There are key skills that you acquire by working in this professional manner, and the more comfortable you are with them prior to entering the workforce, the more you will stand out above others.

    I have been researching this further and I am interested in understanding the ways in which others describe the outcomes and effectiveness of engaging students with real clients. One study I came across was: “Future Fit: Preparing Graduates for the World of Work,” published by the Confederation of British Industry. The study nicely outlines what employability means, and the skills that can be acquired while still in school to better prepare you for the work world.

    First, they define “employability skills”:

    A set of attributes, skills and knowledge that all labour market participants should possess to ensure they have the capability of being effective in the workplace — to the benefit of themselves, their employer and the wider economy.

    Then, they outline what the skills include:

    • Self-management: readiness to accept responsibility, flexibility, resilience, self-starting, appropriate assertiveness, time management, readiness to improve own performance based on feedback/reflective learning.
    • Teamworking: respecting others, co-operating, negotiating/persuading, contributing to discussions, and awareness of interdependence with others.
    • Business and customer awareness: basic understanding of the key drivers for business success – including the importance of innovation and taking calculated risks – and the need to provide customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty.
    • Problem solving: analysing facts and situations and applying creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions.
    • Communication and literacy: application of literacy, ability to produce clear, structured written work and oral literacy – including listening and questioning.
    • Application of numeracy: manipulation of numbers, general mathematical awareness and its application in practical contexts (e.g. measuring, weighing, estimating and applying formulae).
    • Application of information technology: basic IT skills, including familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, file management and use of internet search engines.
    • Underpinning all these attributes, the key foundation, must be a positive attitude: a ‘can-do’ approach, a readiness to take part and contribute, openness to new ideas and a drive to make these happen.
    • Frequently mentioned by both employers and universities is entrepreneurship/enterprise: broadly, an ability to demonstrate an innovative approach, creativity, collaboration and risk-taking. An individual with these attributes can make a huge difference to any business.

    I can relate to these skills, and can attest to the benefits of learning these through the real-world project curriculum I have experienced through the MiD program.

    As I continue to look into university-based venture incubators and innovation centers for an independent study project this semester, I hope to incorporate these ideas about engaging students with real clients. There is just such great satisfaction when you know that the project has a greater purpose and value beyond just merely a learning exercise.

  10. MID Students to Compete in Fox Design Challenge

    Cross-posted from UArts News. We’ll follow up shortly with a reflection on our experience:

    Graduate students in the Master of Industrial Design (MID) program at the University of the Arts will compete in the Fox Design Challenge, set to take place February 15 – 19. The annual student competition is organized by the Center for Design+Innovation (cD+i) at Temple University’s Fox School of Business in collaboration with UArts and Philadelphia University (PhilaU).

    Assistant Professor and MID program head Jeremy Beaudry serves as a facilitator for the Challenge with faculty members from Fox and PhilaU. An innovative idea competition that combines the best of the quantitative world of business with the qualitative world of design, 120 students from the three universities and Philadelphia high schools will compete – the largest number since starting the Challenge.

    Based on the theme “Broad Access,” the 2013 Fox Design Challenge is focused on Philadelphia’s urban fabric and the Broad Street corridor. Student teams interview local civic, business and community leaders, research areas of interest, identify problems and opportunities, and work with cD+i to design meaningful solutions that are environmentally responsible, economically sustainable and humanly satisfying. The ideas developed by the teams will be implemented and commercialized through Temple’s Urban Apps & Maps Studio.

    Schedule:
    February 15, 4 – 6:30 p.m.

    Challenge Kick-Off and Information Roundtables
    Networking Reception

    February 16 – 18
    Guided group tours and individual fieldwork and research

    February 19, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
    All-Day Challenge
    Awards Ceremony immediately following the competition