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About

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Decipher is a hands-on design research conference brought to you by the AIGA Design Educators Community in partnership with the new DARIA Network (Design as Research in the Americas). Decipher will address crucial themes of defining, doing, disseminating, supporting, and teaching design research.

Decipher tackles the complexity of the problems we seek to address through design research in order to create a better future. Decipher also applies to our collective efforts to elucidate what “design research” actually means, shaping a stronger foundation through teaching research at various levels, and clarifying how we share our capabilities with other disciplines. The discussions and actionable outcomes of this event will help us work together to move design research forward.

Hosted by the Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, Decipher will:

  • Connect emerging and experienced design researchers in academia and beyond
  • Gather and share best practices, resources, tools, and exemplary research matter
  • Help participants hone research plans and writing skills
  • Create opportunities for dialogues that foster mentorship and collaborative connections

Mission Statement

Designers increasingly work to understand and address complex interconnections while creating new things, especially when taking on challenges like social or environmental concerns. People interpret the word “design” in many ways; when “research” is added to the mix, the ambiguity increases. Decipher will bring together 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.

How Do I Participate?

Decipher will be what you make it: all participants will submit a written contribution, which will become part of the record of the various voices at this conference. We include a number of submission and participation formats to engage people at different stages and degrees of comfort with design research. All contributions, regardless of length, are of equal value. Because everyone will bring something to the conference, there will be no mere “attendees”—everyone will participate in different capacities!

Taking into consideration AIGA’s current trends for the future of design education, research, and practice and their relation to our conference themes of defining, doing, disseminating, supporting, and teaching design research, we strongly encourage submissions to acknowledge and address these trends in some way.

The sessions at Decipher will comprise facilitators and participants. Facilitators will lead the Activity Groups, Conversations, and Workshops of the conference. The submission, review and selection process of facilitators has been completed, and now, we open our call to people interested in joining us as participants (non-facilitator/non-presenter engaged attendee).

At Decipher, participants are engaged attendees who will be involved in our selected facilitators’ Conversations, Activity Groups, and Workshops, and conference networking sessions in a variety of ways. To know more about the difference between facilitator and participant, please, visit our FAQ page.

  • We are also asking our participants to contribute a very brief written 250-word submission so that their own research interests can be articulated and disseminated as part of the conference communications and outcomes.

Only one submission is required to participate in Decipher. The additional information you share in your submission form will help us understand your level of interest in the themes and develop the conference structure accordingly. If selected, we will ask you to take part in a specific session organized with your designated cohort. Beyond your designated session, you are free to join any other cohort as a participant as long as there are available seats. While you are welcome to enter as many submissions as you wish, multiple submissions are not necessary to participate in the various tracks and themes of the conference.

Important notes:

  • Participants will provide general information and submission via EasyChair, the conference submission system.
  • The 250-word submission can be the summary of any design research-related work (academic paper or industry report).
  • You will not lead any session but participate in the conference sessions in general.
  • We will include your submission in the proceedings and use it to identify potential forms of collaboration and networking.

Deadline

Below are the coming deadlines for facilitators, participants, and attendees to the graduate student forum. Please, note that “General participation” refers to the modality of participant (non-facilitator/non-presenter engaged attendee). The last day for participant submissions is September 1st, 2018, 11:59 PM Eastern.


Aug. 1: Registration deadline for facilitators, poster presenters, and graduate forum participants (to confirm your spot in our schedule)

Aug. 27: Final Graduate forum submissions due

Sept. 1: Revised submissions from facilitators and poster presenters (for use in conference proceedings)

Sept. 1: Submissions close for General Participation: Please encourage your colleagues to apply to attend as participants! See our Decipher FAQ for details on why we are asking our participants (non-facilitator engaged attendees) to contribute a brief 250-word submission.

  • Activity Groups

    What are activity groups?

    An activity group is an intensive hands-on session in which all participants collaboratively discuss and ideate from their submissions to discover emergent themes and issues, develop best practices and guidelines, and gather resources. Accepted activity group facilitation and participation submissions will be included in the conference proceedings. Outcomes will be documented and disseminated to the larger community through presentations and publications by selected group facilitators; activity groups occurring on the same day will present these outcomes to each other. Documentation and synthesis generated by the designated facilitator(s) will become part of the official proceedings and be considered for possible publication in a special issue of Dialectic. More than one facilitator may be selected to guide an activity group and to document, present, and publish outcomes.

    Conversations

    What are conversations?

    A conversation is a more relaxed environment to allow participants to discuss the intersection of their contributions through the lens of the conference topics as well as the AIGA 2025 trends. Accepted conversation facilitation and participation submissions will be included in the conference proceedings. Insights from conversations will be synthesized and documented through a written submission by designated conversation facilitators. Written outcomes will become part of the official conference proceedings and be considered for possible publication in a special issue of Dialectic.

    What Are Workshops

    What are workshops?

    Workshops are intensive learning sessions in which one or more facilitators leads participants to engage in a topic within the conference themes through an intensive, hands-on learning experience. Accepted workshop facilitation and participation submissions will be included in the conference proceedings. As with activity groups and conversations, workshop facilitators are expected to document and share findings from their sessions. Documentation and written outcomes from sessions will become part of the official conference proceedings and be considered for possible publication in a special issue of Dialectic.

    Graduate Student Forum

    Decipher’s graduate student forum is an opportunity to share graduate work with our design research community. We welcome current students concerned with research on and through design, regardless of their disciplinary label and degree. We encourage recent graduates (2016–2018) to apply as well. Work will be displayed as posters during the conference and included in the digital proceedings. You can submit posters that discuss any course, process, methods, project, or thesis work. Works-in-progress and final works are welcome.

    FAQ

    Before emailing us with your questions, please check the FAQ post on the DEC blog to see if your query has already been addressed there.

    Link: https://educators.aiga.org/decipher-faq/

  • Defining

    Defining design research is concerned with the nature of and knowledge produced by design research: what is design research? What is not design research? What are the types of knowledge design research generates? What is the nature of this knowledge?

    • Conducting research to inform the things one makes vs. making things as a form of investigation
    • Defining practice-based research across design disciplines
    • Production, documentation and transfer of knowledge generated by design research
    • Incorporating culturally significant ways of thinking and making

    Doing

    Doing design research involves exploring the theories, methods, processes and creative outcomes that support design as a form of inquiry, and how we “do” design research.

    • Developing an academic design research agenda: identifying and framing opportunities, contexts & variables
    • Pivoting to a new research agenda
    • Tacit and explicit knowledge and skills needed to be a successful design researcher
    • Leveraging the AIGA Designer 2025 themes in your research
    • Diversification of the design discipline through research (in terms of cultural perspectives, disciplines, access)

    Disseminating

    Disseminating design researchincludes the ways we share this work, such as writing about projects or ideas for publication, and how we communicate the value of design research to other disciplines.

    • Writing effectively about design research / Evaluating design research for dissemination
    • Advocating for design and design research agendas within the context of larger interdisciplinary projects or research groups
    • Sharing design research across channels that engage diverse audiences (in terms of cultural perspectives, disciplines, access)

    Supporting

    Supporting design researchis concerned with the resources and procedures to sustain financial, institutional, industry, and peer support for design research projects and initiatives, including writing successful grant proposals.

    • Writing effectively to fund design research & proposal evaluation
    • Anticipating outcomes and assessing design research
    • Gaining institutional, peer & industry support for research
    • Expanding opportunities for who gets to participate in research
    • Grant recipients may share reflections/insights

    Teaching

    Teaching design researchcultivates an inquisitive mindset in students at the k–12, undergraduate, master’s and PhD levels, and includes sharing methodologies, theories and processes that engage making as a form of knowledge production and understanding.

    • Bringing research to the classroom by connecting one’s design research agenda to curricular activities
    • Teaching design research at various levels (k–12, undergrad, master’s, PhD, other)
    • Research intersections between academia and industry
    • Challenging the design research ‘canon’ in the classroom
  • Will I get published?

    Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time, we feel that it’s important to share your design scholarship with the larger community. Accepted submissions for facilitation or participation in activity groups, conversations, workshops, and the graduate student forum will be included in the conference proceedings. There may be opportunities to further develop some of the initial submissions. Those selected as Activity Group, Conversation, and Workshop facilitators will document and synthesize findings from their sessions to be considered for possible publication in a special issue of Dialectic.

    How do I become a facilitator?

    If you indicate interest in being considered to facilitate an activity group, conversation, or workshop, you should be prepared to submit additional information regarding your intended audience(s) and possible outcomes as part of your online submission form. Your important role will add lasting value and meaning to our research community by making the outcomes of your session accessible beyond the conference. (See additional submission details for facilitators below.)

    Submission Considerations

    Only one submission is required to participate in Decipher. The additional information you share in your submission form will help us understand your level of interest in the themes and develop the conference structure accordingly. If selected, we will ask you to take part in a specific session organized with your designated cohort. Beyond your designated session, you are free to join any other cohort as a participant as long as there are available seats. While you are welcome to enter as many submissions as you wish, multiple submissions are not necessary to participate in the various tracks and themes of the conference.

    • Submissions should be saved as a PDF based on Decipher’s .doc template.
    • You will need a free EasyChair account to complete your submission.
    • Contributions can range from discussions of in-progress to completed works (frameworks, methods, design outcomes, etc.), research articles, as well as reflections and positions within Decipher’s key theme and topic areas.
    • Contributors are strongly encouraged to include at least one annotated image in their submissions; these may be selected for conversational activities during the conference.
    • References and annotations are excluded from the word count.

    To participate in activity groups and conversations, your submission should include:

    1. A 250-word document that underpins your interest in one of our thematic areas.

    2. A 140-character summary of your written document. This text will be requested as part of the submission form.

    3. A 150-word bioThis text will be requested as part of the submission form.

    4. A headshot In color, 500 x 500px at 300ppi, JPEG; upload as part of the submission form.

    To participate in workshops, your submission should include:

    1. A 250-word document that underpins your interest in one of our thematic areas.

    1. A 250-word document that underpins your interest in one of our thematic areas.

    2 . A 140-character summary of your written document. This text will be requested as part of the submission form.

    3. A 150-word bioThis text will be requested as part of the submission form.

    4. A headshot In color, 500 x 500px at 300ppi, JPEG; upload as part of the submission form.

    For the graduate student forum, your submission should include:

    1. 200-word abstract that illustrates the research aspect of the project.This abstract should be submitted as a PDF and based on the Decipher submission template (available here).

    2. A 140-character ‘Submission Brief’This text will be requested as part of the submission form.

    3. Draft of the poster

    • Posters should have a dimension of 36” x 48” (vertical)
    • Both initial and final posters should be submitted in PDF format
    • Design research works-in-progress should be at least 60% complete for the initial submission (see deadline below)
    • Final version to be submitted upon acceptance
  • The Design Educators Community, DARIA, and Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design want to ensure that this conference is informed and enriched by many perspectives. The Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design will provide ten $1,000 travel grants to actively support more diverse participation at Decipher.

    Faculty, graduate students, and practitioners who identify as members of underrepresented groups (see list below), have interest in pursuing design research, and who submit successful conference proposals are eligible to apply for this scholarship. Candidates will be selected to attend Decipher, the 2018 Design Educators Research Conference at Stamps School of Art & Design, University of Michigan, September 27–29, 2018.

    Scholarships include conference registration, and up to $1,000 toward lodging at the conference hotel and travel to and from Ann Arbor.

    Decipher Equity Scholarship applicants should identify as a member of one or more of these underrepresented groups:

    • Indigenous people of North America
    • Asian
    • Black/African American
    • Hispanic/Latino
    • Middle Eastern/North African, and/or
    • Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander
    • LGBTQIA+
    • Rural
    • First generation college-bound
    • Historically-underrepresented or other non-traditional groups in higher education

Keynote Speakers

SEE ALL
Decipher 2018 – September 27-29

Ariel Waldman

NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts / Science Hack Day

Ariel Waldman makes “massively multiplayer science”, creating unusual collaborations that infuse serendipity into science and space exploration.

Ariel Waldman sits on the council for NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts, a program that nurtures radical, science-fiction-inspired ideas that could transform future space missions. She is the co-author of a congressionally-requested National Academy of Sciences report on the future of human spaceflight and the author of the book What’s It Like in Space?: Stories from Astronauts Who’ve Been There.

Ariel is the founder of Spacehack.org, a directory of ways for anyone to participate in space exploration, and the global director of Science Hack Day, a grassroots endeavor to prototype things with science that is now in over 25 countries. In 2013, Ariel received an honor from the White House for being a Champion of Change in citizen science.

Decipher 2018 – September 27-29

Jessica Bellamy

GRIDS: The Grassroots Information Design Studio

2017 Adobe Creative Resident and Motion Infographic designer Jessica Bellamy, tells visual stories using data and personal narratives. As a Design Justice advocate, Jessica started her design career working with nonprofits and community groups to create compelling explainers that break down complex service and policy information.

In 2015, she created a small design agency called GRIDS: The Grassroots Information Design Studio in Louisville, KY. In 2017, she created a hands-on workshop called Infographics for Social Change: A Graphic Ally Hackathon. Since then, she has given Graphic Ally Hackathons at several conferences and at three major universities (Carnegie Mellon, UCLA, and Yale). The hackathon focuses on teaching creatives how to make information graphics in partnership with nonprofits.

She is also the creator of the Infographic Wheel. The Infographic Wheel is a handheld design tool that helps creatives select a visual layout for any dataset.

Decipher 2018 – September 27-29

Jon Kolko

Modernist Studio / Austin Center for Design.

Jon is a Partner at Modernist Studio and the Founder of Austin Center for Design.

He was previously the Vice President of Design at Blackboard, the largest educational software company in the world. He joined Blackboard with the acquisition of MyEdu, a startup focused on helping students succeed in college and get jobs.

Jon has also held the positions of Executive Director of Design Strategy at Thinktiv, a venture accelerator in Austin, Texas, and both Principal Designer and Associate Creative Director at frog design, a global innovation firm. He has been a Professor of Interaction and Industrial Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where he was instrumental in building both the Interaction and Industrial Design undergraduate and graduate programs.

Jon is the author of six books, including his most recent, Creative Clarity.

You can read some of Jon’s writing at http://www.jonkolko.com

Decipher 2018 – September 27-29

Ruki Ravikumar

Director of Education

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Ruki Ravikumar is the Director of Education at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. She loves being a design educator and leader of a dynamic team that inspires, educates and empowers people through design. Her team offers educational programs nationwide for audiences of varying backgrounds, ages and levels of exposure to design. She has served in leadership roles on the Oklahoma chapter board, national design educators steering committee, diversity and inclusion taskforce and national board of AIGA, the professional association for Design. In 2015, she was awarded the title of Fellow by AIGA Oklahoma for her advocacy and leadership as a design educator. When she is not teaching, leading her team, speaking or consulting, she is experiencing the world through travel and food.

Decipher 2018 – September 27-29

John Zimmerman

Professor

Carnegie Mellon's HCI Institute

John Zimmerman is an interaction designer and researcher, and Professor of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon. Zimmerman teaches courses on interaction design, service innovation, design theory, and human-computer interaction (HCI) methods. His research falls into four areas: interaction with intelligent systems; designing for the self; public service innovation via social computing; research through design. His research is concerned with the process of making things as the mechanism to explore possible futures. Zimmerman studies how design inquiry can be integrated with scientific and engineering inquiry. His academic contributions are seminal in the field of HCI, primarily, in matters concerned with research through design and interaction design. Zimmerman is the author of the book Design Research through Practice.

Decipher 2018 – September 27-29

Jane Prophet

Associate Dean for Research, Creative Work, and Strategic Initiatives

Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan

Jane Prophet is the Associate Dean for Research, Creative Work, and Strategic Initiatives at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan. Her practice-based research and writing emerge through collaborations with life scientists such as neuroscientists, stem cell researchers, mathematicians and heart surgeons. She works across media and disciplines to produce objects and installations, frequently combining traditional and computational media to produce apps, objects, and installations. Her research foci include the apparatus of contemporary neuroscience experiments, and blended online/offline identities via augmented reality and ubiquitous computing. Prophet’s papers position art in relation to contemporary debates about new media and mainstream art, feminist technoscience, artificial life and ubiquitous computing.

Schedule

Thursday, September 27
2018-09-27
U. of Mich Museum of Art (UMMA)
RACKHAM
NORTH QUAD
Michigan Theater
HATCHER
Downtown Gallery
Friday, September 28
2018-09-28
Downtown Gallery
Conf West
Conf East
Auditorium
Assembly
Saturday, September 29
2018-09-29
Studio 2147
Studio 2044
Studio 2043
Studio 2040
Studio 2030
Studio 2023
Street Gallery
Auditorium 2104
U. of Mich Museum of Art (UMMA)
RACKHAM
NORTH QUAD
Michigan Theater
HATCHER
Downtown Gallery
Downtown Gallery
Conf West
Conf East
Auditorium
Assembly
Studio 2147
Studio 2044
Studio 2043
Studio 2040
Studio 2030
Studio 2023
Street Gallery
Auditorium 2104
09:00 - 16:00
Registration Opens
13:00 - 13:30
Conference Opening
13:30 - 14:20
We are not alone: navigating design research and writing challenges with group support [Conversation]

For design educators in higher education, the emergent nature of design research paired with the lack of (or limited) training in academic writing and research methods make the actual practice of design research unnecessarily challenging. Despite these difficulties, utilizing institutional resources and establishing support networks with other academics can provide the necessary support for overcoming barriers. We therefore propose a conversation that dissects the challenges of scholarly practice for design educators by sharing our collective experience participating in a virtual writing group over the Fall 2017–Spring 2018 academic year. This group, comprised of design academics from both large and small institutions in higher ed, has created a strong support network and we’ve accumulated a number of valuable resources, activities, and insights that we will share with the conversation group.

Anne H. Berry
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design in the Department of Art and Design, Cleveland State University
Jennifer Vokoun
Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio
Penina Laker
Designer and Educator
Sarah Rutherford
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Cleveland State University and the President of AIGA Cleveland
13:30 - 14:50
Finding and Leveraging Your Through-Line [Workshop]

Struggling to succinctly articulate your research focus? Learn strategies for finding the through-line of your work and develop your pitch!

Kimmie Parker
Freelance Graphic Designer and Typeface Designer
Meaghan Barry
Designer at Unsold Studio
13:30 - 16:20
Working from the outside in: Using “The Big Three” investigative phenomena to situate and frame research endeavors informed by design [Workshop]

This workshop will help participants learn to effectively locate and frame their research.

Michael R. Gibson
Professor & Researcher
Keith Owens
Professor & Researcher
13:30 - 14:20
Demystifying Collaboration in Design Academia and Industry [Conversation]

Demystifying Collaboration explores best practices for doing and disseminating rich collaborative work in academia and industry.

Marty Maxwell Lane
Design educators, Researchers, and Authors
Rebecca Tegtmeyer
Design educator, Researcher, and Author
13:30 - 17:00
Thematic Micro-Collections of Design Objects

Visit microcollections of design objects at our campus art museum. The University of Michigan Museum of Art has been recognized as the top public university art museum in the Country by Best College Reviews. Available only to conference attendees.

Google Map:

https://goo.gl/maps/H46GwSRHYPE2

13:30 - 14:50
Racism Untaught

How design professors utilize design research to solve racialized design problems within project-based learning environments.

Lisa Mercer
Founder of Operation Compass
Terresa Hardaway
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Minnesota Duluth
14:30 - 15:20
UX practitioner & design researcher interaction [Conversation]

UX practitioners at Decipher are invited to a session to recap what they have gotten from learning about and discussing the academic version of design research.

Design researchers are invited to also join us, to share what they have gotten out of having UX practitioners participating in the conference.

We will see what next steps emerge.

Keith Instone
UX Practitioner & Design Reasercher Interaction
14:30 - 15:20
Expanding the Discourse: Future Practices in Scholarly Publishing [Conversation]

The value of design in scholarly publications across disciplines and future practices for publishing design research.

Amy Papaelias
Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the State University of New York at New Paltz
Jessica Barness
Associate Professor of visual communication design at Kent State University
15:00 - 16:20
Critical Race Design Studies: Fusing Research, Design and Social Work for the Design of Just Cities [Activity Group]

Between urban/social injustice and the spaces and audiences needed for justice is the research and practice employed to do so- Critical Race Design Studies. CRDS examines racism and oppression as systems that are imagined, designed, and executed. Treating graphics, designed objects, and illustrations as indexes for these underlying structures that can possibly be re-designed is one of the main theories around this new area of study.

This activity group aims to identify opportunities and develop best practices for integrating Critical Race Design Studies into academic classrooms and urban communities as well, as an urban pedagogy to address issues of race and oppression. There is an opportunity to explore intersections between academia and industry by defining the next design classroom as a fluid space where classroom walls are not fixed and problem-solving for justice happens within the academy AND amongst the public.

Nekita Thomas
Visual designer, researcher, and educator
15:00 - 16:20
The Creative Performer: Using Sport Psychology to Break the Mold in Design Education and Practice [Workshop]

Brief Workshop Description: A design educator collaborates with a licensed performance psychologist in the classroom to show benefits of incorporating key components of performance psychology (primarily mindfulness-based strategies) into the design process. Emphasis will be placed on building mental resilience, increasing capacity for empathy, supplementing existing design methodologies/skillsets & improving the quality / authenticity of creative outcomes amongst students participating in collegiate design programs.

Jarred Elrod
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Florida
Amanda Alexander
Counselor and Performance Psychologist
15:30 - 16:20
IBM Incubator: Teaching, Doing and Disseminating Design Research [Conversation]

The IBM Incubator drives the teaching, doing, and disseminating of design research at scale for IBM.

Kara Kotwas
Senior Design Lead at IBM
15:30 - 16:20
Teaching Designers to Write [Conversation]

This conversation unpacks the scholarly and pragmatic challenges and benefits of incorporating discipline-specific writing into design education.

Dori Griffin
Assistant Professor at Ohio University’s School of Art + Design
Gabriela Hernández
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Florida
16:20 - 17:00
Sessions Wrap-Up and The Group Walks to Michigan Theater

Michigan Theater

603 E Liberty St,

Ann Arbor, MI 48104

17:00 - 19:00
Keynote Speaker: Ariel Waldman
Ariel Waldman
Founder, Spacehack.org
19:00
Dinner (On Your Own)
08:00 - 09:00
Breakfast (On Your Own)
09:00 - 10:00
Keynote Speaker: Jessica Bellamy