Industrial Designers’ International Conference: Five UC Faculty to Present

Five University of Cincinnati design faculty and a recent alumnus from the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP) will present at the industrial design profession’s premier global gathering, the Industrial Designers Society of America annual conference. (IDSA’s annual conference traditionally draws an international audience.)

Samples provided in the survey that is part of design research by Sooshin Choi and Michael Roller.

Presenting from UC’s nationally number-one ranked industrial design program will be

  • Sooshin Choi, director of UC’s School of Design and associate professor, and Michael Roller, adjunct instructor of design, will present on “Fascinating Shapes: A Study of Form and Emotion.” In addition, Associate Professor Choi, the education vice president of IDSA, is serving as Education Symposium Chair at the 2013 conference, after having also done so at the 2012 conference in Boston. The Education Symposium program is designed to meet the needs of industrial design educators as well as students.
  • Brigid O’Kane, associate professor of practice, and Ben Meyer, assistant professor, will present on “Strategic Approaches to Developing Future Mobility Solutions by Applying Systems Integration and Thinking Methodologies.”
  • Steve Doehler, associate professor, will present “Design Entrepreneurialism: Evolving Pedagogy from Lecture to Action.”
  • Sepideh Shahi, a recently graduated master’s of design student, will present on “Business Sensible Design: Exploratory Research on the Importance of Considering Cost and Profit.”

“Fascinating Shapes: A Study of Form and Emotion” by Soochin Choi and Michael Roller
Emotions drive the decisions we make as product users. As the only people capable of communicating emotion through the form of products, designers carry a large responsibility to any organization. Despite this responsibility, many designers have almost no knowledge of how to deliver forms that represent specific emotions. As teams carefully identify the emotions that will make their products a success, typical processes relegate designers to using intuition to manifest emotional meaning into product form. The informality of this approach begs for reinvention as design looks to make a bigger impact within organizations.

Many psychologists have studied the emotional meaning of lines and shapes, but there is a need to understand how emotion is effected when these lines are combined to form the surfaces of three-dimensional products. To explore this, we studied a range of emotions, identifying the best visual metaphors for each. For example, in pilot studies, the dimension of concave and convex surfacing emerged as a key differentiator between emotions like "fascination" and "satisfaction." To validate these observations, a range of products were developed to show that different forms can indeed communicate the specific emotions that brands often need to elicit.

This study proposes a methodology for infusing product form with specific emotional meaning. Designers can use the framework to analyze competitive products, form themes for ideation, and influence brand language strategies.

“Strategic Approaches to Developing Future Mobility Solutions by Applying Systems Integration and Thinking Methodologies” by Brigid O’Kane and Ben Meyer
By 2030, urban areas will be the home for more than 60 percent of the world's eight billion people. This will create tremendous pressures in the form of pollution, energy security, global warming, consumption, congestion, parking, and traffic safety.

This will also challenge public infrastructures that are already struggling to meet the growing demand for transportation and basic mobility services. With population increases, these megacities will be so dense that the place for the traditional car will rapidly decline.

Strategic innovative approaches are needed to develop alternative modes of mobility that address these urgent challenges. Such strategic approaches were realized in a collaborative studio at UC between industrial design, graphic communication design and mechanical engineering students. These teams were challenged to break rules by not following traditional design processes and methods for developing transportation products.

The well-established design process for a typical automobile is usually accomplished in industry with limited regard to the environment the vehicle will operate within. Because this process is not inclusive of the broader community, it has resulted in many of the growing challenges we now face.

To increase the effectiveness of the collaboration, the studio was structured after educator and psychologist Eliot Aronson's “Jigsaw Classroom Technique.” This strategic approach to group learning increased the variety of learning experiences and design solutions available in the studio setting.

In this studio interdisciplinary teams were encouraged to adopt alternative strategies to developing unique product and mobility solutions. These strategies incorporated aspects of systems integration and thinking, which encourages students to consider the impact of their design on the environment, community and culture.  

While applying strategic methods of systems integration and thinking to the design process, new and unexpected market niches were identified, which led to the development of several surprising alternative mobility concepts. Three of these concepts will be presented by means of exceptional visuals since each case study was developed as a three-dimensional scale model with accompanying websites and motion graphics.

“Design Entrepreneurialism: Evolving Pedagogy from Lecture to Action” by Steve Doehler
For the past five years, this program has introduced design students to career opportunities outside typical channels and into the realm of entrepreneurialism. This idea started when UC’s Doehler noticed so many great ideas packed neatly into portfolios that would never have an opportunity to reach product users’ hands. To address this, he enlisted his own entrepreneurial experiences and began a design entrepreneurial course based on a lecture series. This series introduced students to opportunities and realities of pursuing entrepreneurial ventures as industrial designers.

As the lecture series grew in popularity and the economy/job opportunities dipped during the Great Recession, students wanted more options to keep their design dreams alive. To accommodate these needs, Doehler developed an independent study that enabled students to work specifically on project concepts that could transform into actionable entrepreneurial ventures.

For three years, these two courses ran simultaneously, and it became obvious that developing a hybrid lecture/action option was the most efficient direction. This course has gradually evolved to where students are transforming senior capstone projects into viable business plans that provide them a road map to independent careers in design and development.

Currently, Doehler has been working closely with master’s of design students in using the class as a test ground for developing business tools. These tools are designed to assist
students in developing presentations and business strategies that not only provide comprehensive concept solutions but also business components that integrate into the design process.

“Business Sensible Design: Exploratory Research on the Importance of Considering Cost and Profit” by Sepideh Shahi
During the lat 50 years of the 20th century, design schools and schools of business have not had much in common, living in their individual silos.

However, over the last 15-20 years, business and design fields have started to recognize how valuable they could be for each other and have started a dialogue in practice and education in order to create more synergy between the two. As a result, many business schools have begun teaching design-thinking methods and many design students have pursued post-secondary education in business-related fields.

While this is all positive evolution for both disciplines, for close to a century, design schools have preached the idea that too much focus on financial viability of a design idea prevents students from developing the qualitative skills of open innovation, which is seen as key to the core value of design disciplines. However, once design students graduate, they enter into a practice that is heavily involved with financial considerations besides design innovation processes. Some designers learn how to modify the way they work to fit into this model while others see it as a challenge throughout their careers.

To address this issue, this research aims to investigate how important it is for undergraduate industrial design students to understand the financial aspects of their design, particularly in the areas of cost and profit. To respond to this question, a series of interviews were conducted to recognize how design students perceive these issues, and then compare their views with what is actually required in professional practice. Next, their design processes were analyzed to comprehend what types of methods they currently use and whether there is an opportunity to modify any of them into a financial-assessment tool. Ultimately, a financial-assessment framework was developed and then integrated in a semester-long design course for further testing and analysis. And the end, a co-creation session was held to discuss how effective the framework has been in developing financially viable ideas and how it could be improved in the future.

The ultimate goal of this research was to develop a financial-assessment framework that is specifically built for designers and their creative processes, and test it in practice to investigate its advantages and disadvantages.


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