Speculating aka research.


In totality, my research addresses interaction design and young audiences, visual literacy in the online environment, collaboration, and design pedagogy. These topics are all connected, with the boundaries being intentionally fuzzy. Since joining the University of Arkansas, my research has primarily focused on collaboration in design education and design pedagogy. Below you will find sampled evidence of these research paths. A selection of full abstracts, papers, and presentations of can be found in the drop down menu and in my cv.

interaction design, visual literacy, and young audiences
My research with young audiences began with my graduate work: Teen Independent Learning Online: Visual Literacy Tools for Assessing Credibility. I developed interactive tools to aid teens in judging the credibility of information when online. I focused on the role that the visual representation of information plays in making judgments in an increasingly participatory culture. I continued to expand this research and build collaborative research partnerships and present at international conferences, such as Media, Communication, Policy and Practice, MeCCSA’s 2010 Conference at The London School of Economics. I co-presented a paper and case-studies addressing Interactive Tools and Communities that Support Media Literacy.

In addition, I am currently working on a research project, Picturing the Past, in conjunction with Amy Allen (Special Collections Librarian at The University of Arkansas). We are working to develop an iPad application that explores the ways in which design and the creation of a dynamic interactive space may enhance the University’s Special Collections. We are particularly focused on diversity, while teaching history to teens through place-based learning. Seed funding was awarded through a Collaborative Grant offered through the Provost’s Office. Our primary research question asks, “In what ways might an interactive space enhance the University’s Special Collections while facilitating place-based history learning for teens and history enthusiasts?” We began the project by looking for connections in the University’s Special Collections related to the history of the University of Arkansas and downtown Fayetteville. We focused on unique history and issues related to diversity, specifically civil rights for African Americans, women, LGBTQ, and Native Americans. We worked to identify locations that have a rich historical story. Once we developed a body of research, we worked to create sketches of the interactive space. Next, we will create paper prototypes to test with our user groups. We envision the completed app to be available on tablets, phones, and desktop computers. It is targeted to teens, but will also appeal to history enthusiasts who may not have the ability or desire to search through dense archives. Using GPS technology, users will be able to learn the history of a place while standing in that exact location. This immersive, place-based learning, allows for a new type of discovery and engagement with historical artifacts. Imagine what it would be like to see historical imagery, review artifacts, hear audio, and watch video in the same context in which the events took place. The app will also allow for discovery from other locations, perhaps to go back and review and reflect on information discovered “in the field.”

My interest in collaboration, both as a working methodology and a research focus, can be seen in my approach to pedagogy, my writing of articles such as “Reporting For Duty: Collaboration’s Biggest Fan” and multiple presentations at competitive conferences such as RGD’s 2014 Conference: Colouring Outside The Lines: Teaching for the Future to Meet the Changing Needs of Industry.

In addition, I have been working with Rebecca Tegtmeyer, Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, as a means to practice and research collaborations in design education in more depth. Our forthcoming book, Design + COLLAB ED: Collaboration in Design will provide nineteen collaborative graphic design case studies and pedagogical methodologies from a wide variety of perspectives that will inspire and guide other design educators who are wanting to create collaborative cultures. Commentary and introductory text, provided by Rebecca and myself, will highlight insights, methods, tools, and findings throughout, along with visual diagrams.

We have been researching in this area for many years, presenting for the first time formally on this subject in 2014. Since then we have presented nationally and internationally at four competitive conferences and, as a result of the excellent feedback we received, we embarked on turning the work into a book. We sent out a call for proposals of relevant and compelling case studies and received 79 submissions and narrowed to 40 before requesting full descriptions and images from all the contributors. We intensively vetted the 40 robust submissions and strategically narrowed down to 19 case studies as revealed in the table of contents in the book proposal. The project is currently being financially supported through a Michigan State University Grant that was awarded to my collaborator. This publication is greatly needed by the design education community and that is proven by the overwhelming support received from design education peers, scholars submitting case studies, and interest from publishers. We are excited to share that we secured a contract with Bloosmbury Academic, with the full manuscript being due in the summer of 2018. 

design pedagogy
To provide a bit of framework as to why I position pedagogy as research and different than a teaching activity, I would like to refer to Ernest Boyer’s report, “Scholarship Reconsidered” in which he provides four categories, one of which is the scholarship of teaching. In this Carnegie report, Boyer’s scholarship of teaching describes that the work of a professor becomes meaningful only when it is understood by others and is something that both educates and entices future scholars. My research into design pedagogy does just that, educates and entices other scholars. This is evidenced in my acceptance into peer-reviewed conferences and journals, as well as my forthcoming book.

I am passionate about design pedagogy. It is one thing to teach and another to consistently reflect on, rework, refine, and disseminate pedagogical methodologies. We are undergoing a sea change in design education, being asked to address more and more complexities and look far beyond form-based problems. AIGA comprehensively covered these trends in the “Designer of 2015 Competencies” report, and we are now here in 2017. What have we accomplished? What’s next? By creating, assessing, executing and writing about design pedagogy, I play a role in keeping the field moving forward. My voice and perspectives are valued in the field as I am continuously invited to provide my personal commentary on current topics that inform design education. I have presented on design pedagogy at numerous conferences, both nationally and abroad, have published on the topic and am currently serving on the AIGA Design Educators National Steering Committee (AIGA DEC). The AIGA DEC is currently revisiting the Designer of 2015 Competencies, and I will play a role in writing the new Designer of 2025 Competencies that will guide curriculum across the country. At the upcoming national AIGA conference this October, I will lead a panel discussion titled The Civically Engaged Designer of 2025.