Design and Research

  • Image from Re-Tire proposal. Alex Ngo, Vanna Vu, Matt Janney.
    Image from Re-Tire proposal. Alex Ngo, Vanna Vu, Matt Janney.
  • From Postcards against Illegal Dumping STL. Tolu Atoyebi, Laurie Perng, Ana Boyer. 
    From Postcards against Illegal Dumping STL. Tolu Atoyebi, Laurie Perng, Ana Boyer. 
  • From Postcards against Illegal Dumping STL. Tolu Atoyebi, Laurie Perng, Ana Boyer.
    From Postcards against Illegal Dumping STL. Tolu Atoyebi, Laurie Perng, Ana Boyer.
  • From Postcards against Illegal Dumping STL. Tolu Atoyebi, Laurie Perng, Ana Boyer.
    From Postcards against Illegal Dumping STL. Tolu Atoyebi, Laurie Perng, Ana Boyer.
  • Image from Re-Tire proposal. Alex Ngo, Vanna Vu, Matt Janney.
    Image from Re-Tire proposal. Alex Ngo, Vanna Vu, Matt Janney.
  • Students developing speculative proposals. 
    Students developing speculative proposals. 

Spring 2018 communication design seminar led by visiting assistant professor Alix Gerber

In Design and Research, communication design students dive into the many possible meanings of “design research” as it might apply to their roles as designers. In the first portion of class, they practiced exploratory research, where they learned from people’s needs to frame a design brief. From that exploration, they developed concepts in sketches and prototypes that they could test and get feedback on through evaluative research. Finally, they created artifacts from fictional societies in order to question our basic structures and systems through speculative research.

As they practiced these research methods, the students took on a real and pressing challenge in many St. Louis neighborhoods: illegal dumping. Particularly in neighborhoods with vacancy and with proximity to the highway, there is a high prevalence of dumping of construction materials, tires, mattresses, and other difficult-to-dispose-of trash. This is not only unattractive, but also hazardous to health and well-being. During the exploratory research phase, students interviewed neighborhood activists, people in waste management, and the Forestry Division, which is responsible for cleaning up the disposed of trash. In their findings, students discerned connections and overlaps between the motivations of different stakeholders, which helped them to identify potential opportunities for new systems or designs.

From there, the students developed prototypes for new services or tools to improve the system of waste management in St. Louis. They started with a paper prototype, which they revised based on feedback, and then created a more robust prototype. For example, the Trash Talk proposal connected individuals to trash hauling companies to help with disposing of large and unusual items. The team was able to test their paper prototype with haulers and users, which exposed concerns about the safety and training of small-scale haulers. They also uncovered an opportunity to combine pickups more efficiently for larger companies.

Finally, the students developed speculative worlds that rethought one aspect of waste. One team created a experience called Café Scentsation. In their world, collective action and having a few, high-quality things were valued. They focused on redeveloping mealtime into a communal activity with few materials needed, limiting food waste. In this world, people come together in collective groups to inhale food through scents. Specialized wafters allow people to float the scents towards their faces and diffusers create the scents in the space. They tested this out with a pop-up scent dinner on campus. This allowed them to reflect on provocations such as how the dining experience reflects society values and how people respond to unfamiliar situations.

The following students participated in this course:

Tolu Atoyebi
Ana Boyer
Maggie Chuang
Matt Janney
Rhea Khanna
Brian Lin
Alex Ngo
Laurie Perng
Vanna Vu
Carissa Wei

Special Thanks

Green City Coalition
Dutchtown South Community Corporation