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From Ideas to Acts

A report from Min Yeh, Fall 2014 DSI post-graduate fellow

Fall 2014 DSI Post-graduate Fellow Min Wen Yeh spent the last several months building upon the work of her thesis project, The Bridge, which addresses design tools and methods for cross-cultural interaction and group collaboration. Her thesis project included a toolkit for students bridging highly motivated mindsets to positive cultural adaptation behaviors. During the Fellowship, Min further developed the thesis work through designing and testing educational tools in the ESLI program at UArts, and built a conceptual / behavioral / pedagogical model.

To explore Min’s project in more detail, see the final documentation, Leading Ideas to Acts, as well as the facilitation guide and tools she developed, My Journey Maps.

The Design for Social Impact Post-graduate Fellowship provides exceptional graduates of the program the opportunity to implement and measure the impact of their thesis work as applied within the Philadelphia community. Additionally, the Fellow will make a significant contribution to the graduate program by serving as a mentor to current students and promoting the work of the program in support of our recruitment efforts.

Min Yeh’s fellowship was generously sponsored by the Design for Social Impact MDes graduate program, the Office of the Provost, and International Student Programs at The University of the Arts.

From Ideas to Acts
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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by Jeremy Beaudry.
Recent MID Grads Kelly Babcock & Alex Visconti Will Present at ‘Design-Ed Future 2013’

Recent alumnae Kelly Babcock MID ‘13 (Industrial Design) and Alex Visconti MID ‘13 (Industrial Design) will present their thesis work “Truss: A Partnership for Design and Education” at “Design-Ed Future 2013: Design Education Conference” being held June 28 and 29 at the University of the Arts. The presentation will take place during the Design-Ed Future’s “unconference” segment on Friday, June 28 from 3:00-4:30pm.

During the first year of their studies, Babcock and Visconti explored the world of alternative learning spaces through their work with YouthBuild Charter School, a vocational charter school for high school dropouts, and the Free Library of Philadelphia teen services. They employed design research methods, such as ethnographic observation and interviewing as well as generative participatory activities, to gain a deep understanding of issues such as chronic low attendance, and how to build programming and physical spaces for young adults.

This experience naturally led them to focus their thesis work within public, secondary education. “Truss: A Partnership for Design and Education” outlines a model for partnership between university design students and public school teachers to support the implementation and sustainability of design-based learning.

It tells the story of Babcock and Visconti’s own experience working with a principal intern/American history teacher at the Franklin Learning Center, a high school in the Philadelphia public school system, where they implemented a design-based learning project to build 21st century skills in a class of junior students.

This experience provided the opportunity to outline the roles, responsibilities and relationships between the design student and public school teacher. Through this innovative model for partnership, they hope to alleviate some of the main stresses or obstacles teachers face when implementing a new way of teaching.

Babcock and Visconti will be speaking about their experience as designers in the classroom, and will be focusing their discussion on the five things they found to be most influential in shaping the roles and relationship between the university design student and the teacher. These key learnings include lesson and activity planning, direct instruction and facilitation, building creative confidence, assessment of understanding, and organizing reflection.

Their presentation will be followed by time for Q&A and discussion.

Recent MID Grads Kelly Babcock & Alex Visconti Will Present at ‘Design-Ed Future 2013’
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This entry was posted on Thursday, June 27th, 2013 at 11:32 am by azahn123.
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.

MiD Students Attend the 2012 Food and Entrepreneurship Conference in San Francisco
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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 4th, 2012 at 5:20 pm by azahn123.
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.

2012 MiD Thesis Projects
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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 at 1:43 pm by azahn123.
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.

Fu Chi Thesis Team Presents in San Francisco
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This entry was posted on Friday, June 17th, 2011 at 2:02 am by azahn123.