Shaping our World

– An introduction from Don Carr, M.F.A. in design coordinator

The decision to narrow your focus to a specific thesis topic can be challenging, even during the best of times. However, again this year our students have risen to the occasion and found ways to apply various research insights to their respective design solutions. It can be said that all design is a response to the times we’re living in. As such we can’t help but be influenced by the events taking place around us.

To reflect on these efforts I would like to begin by exploring the work of Jiayu Kang. For his, thesis Jiayu explored various ways design might help individuals to move beyond a simple text and hopefully find ways to communicate on a deeper level. If technology now allows us to create a personal avatar or digital self, what’s the right way to express your inner feelings in ways that are genuine and true? If music, motion graphics, and AI are used to capture the essence of what you want to express, to what degree are we willing to hand these efforts over, press send, and hope this message strikes the right emotional cord?


Jiayu Kang
Jiayu Kang

Considering the work of Shane Y Zhang, we can all agree hospitals are often places where emotions run high and people struggle to navigate the unfamiliar. From a design perspective, often the goal of these spaces is to present an environment that is neutral, well-lit, orderly, and clean. However, through the eyes of a child, these spaces are viewed as unfriendly or even hostile when dealing with challenges such as coronary heart disease. Therefore, for both the child and the family, there is a need to create a design intervention that begins long before the trip to the hospital to bolster the child and help prepare them to meet this challenge. In this case, the goal is to design a relatable journey or adventure that the child can access through storybooks and virtual reality.

Reduce anxiety for Children with CHD

Shane Zhang

With the work of Faezeh Tavatabaeimanesh, we find that in order to make change happen in our material world, it’s wise to partner with the Department of Chemistry and the work of Davoud Mozhdehi to explore a variety of biomaterials. How else can you discover that if you use ELP (elastin protein), which is a modified strain of non-pathogenic E.coli, you can create a skin-like, stretchable material in a variety of durometers and colors? As a year-long investigation working in the MOZ lab, Faezeh has forged a path for a graduate thesis that few have taken. As such, her work is pushing the design frontier and points the way to materials that have the ability to be created, perform their function, and at end of life, gracefully return to the earth. This cradle-to-cradle approach is often viewed as the ultimate goal of product design, and this research demonstrates that we are indeed moving ever closer to this penultimate goal.

Biodesign for Clothing

Faezeh Tabatabaeimanesh
Faezeh Tabatabaeimanesh

To reflect on the efforts of our graduate students is always a fascinating endeavour. It shows that designers are always at work looking to address the needs of others as they search for ways to make positive change happen in our world. The various ways in which they achieve change are always unique and often remarkable. As such, I hope you will enjoy taking a closer look at each of these thesis efforts.