2022 Research and Creative Scholarship Showcase

March 17, 2022

Every year faculty, instructors, researchers, and students from across the College of Design present their research during the annual Research and Creative Scholarship Showcase. You can learn more about the 2022 presenters and their work in this year’s round-up.

Faculty, Instructors, and Researchers

Greater Minnesota Futures: Pilot Project
Professor Tom Fisher and Senior Research Fellow Mary Vogel

Over the last biennium, the Greater Minnesota Futures initiative (GMNF) at the Minnesota Design Center (MDC) has engaged in a pilot project for the State of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development to help communities under 5,000 in population in Greater Minnesota think and act more strategically about their economic future in this rapidly changing economy. In doing this work, the MDC has partnered with the regional non-profit community organizations Southeast Minnesota Together and Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, as well as with the University of Minnesota Extension.

The pilot’s goals include:

  • Demonstrate a new economic development and redevelopment model informed by design thinking.
  • Work with three small towns in Southeast Minnesota to create three different place-based, 21st-century community strategies for development and redevelopment activities that build on existing community assets, integrate efforts to strengthen community assets, and leverage more value from investments made.
  • Demonstrate how project funding requests to existing programs from small Greater Minnesota communities can be stronger, more competitive, and more effective

Bridging the Digital Divide Through an Immersive Design and Math Maker Program
Professor Abimbola Asojo and Professor Lesa Clarkson

Research highlights that minority and underrepresented students have unequal access to rigorous curriculum and technologies. Furthermore, learning losses due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the already significant gaps. Our interdisciplinary effort aims to bridge the digital divide and build pathways to design and STEAM careers. The Building the Digital Divide Through an Immersive Design and Math Maker Program funded by BestBuy is a hands-on project-based summer and after-school experience that exposes Black and other underrepresented K-12 students to design and math to provide access and pathways to higher education and contribute to diversifying the design and STEAM professions.

Journeys Unpacked: Designing Built Environments in Communities Where Everyone Can Thrive
Professor Tasoulla Hadjiyanni

Culturally Enriched Communities advocate for built environments in communities where everyone can thrive. Working to create these built environments however, is a slow process, one fraught with tension and laced with opportunity. Part of the challenge is the rush to outcomes, which directs attention away from the personal and collective introspections needed to unpack the question of how social exclusion might be related to, or even shaped, by the architectural profession. This project, funded by the Imagine Chair for Arts, Humanities, and Design uses documentary filmmaking to follow design educators, students, and professionals, alongside community advocates in Minnesota as they explore answers to this question and chart a trajectory for how to move forward. The documentary will focus on how community engagement in rural and diverse neighborhoods relates to the design process. Aspects tackled range from how relationships are built to who is in charge, who can participate and how, what types of representation are effective, and what the process means to us as humans and design professionals.

Design for Youth Research & Exhibition
Professor Julia W. Robinson

The Design for Youth: Equity and Opportunity exhibition presents the designs created by University of Minnesota architecture students and the background research on youth and at-risk youth, focused on the North Minneapolis community. The project was completed in a fall design class from 2018 to 2020, during which time Professor Julia Robinson worked with Angela Cousins of the Hennepin County Department of Corrections and Community Rehabilitation, architect Daniel Treinen, of BWBR Architects, and community consultant Alysha Price. Beginning in 2019 the design studio was affiliated with the University of Minnesota Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) and informed by community participants.

The studio focused on the design of supportive environments including after-school and post-high school activities (e.g. recreation, arts opportunities, job training, and therapy), and housing for youth graduating from foster care and in need of treatment. Originally focused on preventing youth incarceration and services for youth at risk of being or involved with the juvenile justice system, the goal of the design research project expanded to address the challenges faced by youth and families and in the neighborhood and beyond, where activity and service options are limited.

Northside Community Connection
Professor Julia W. Robinson

Northside Community Connection was initiated by research team members Professor Julia Robinson, Jamil Ford (Mobilize Design), Cathy Spann (Jordan Area Community Council), Tim Griffin (Minnesota Design Center), and Brandon Champeau (United Properties). The research-based studio worked with community members from the Minneapolis Northside, and community and university experts to create equitable and regenerative urban designs that uplift the Northside neighborhood and connect across the I-94 freeway to the Mississippi River.

Research on the neighborhood and discussions with community members revealed issues that students addressed in their designs, such as community wealth-building, supporting community gardens and access to healthy food, developing business and community assets, advancing safety, neighborhood greening, improving Plymouth and Broadway Avenues, and connecting to the Mississippi River. Students presented research, design innovations and urban proposals for feedback at community meetings, resulting in a set of community-informed designs.

See-through: Building Facades as Contested Grounds
Associate Professor Malini Srivastava

Buildings consume immense amounts of energy in order to mechanically create environments of cooled, warmed, filtered and (de)humidified air to shelter human activity. Building facades or exterior skins are layered material boundaries of various levels of air-tightness and efficiency, acting as conditioned containers of human activity, separating interior from exterior. Any discontinuities or inefficiencies in these assemblies result in transfer of BTUs between conditions inside to the outside. The energy wasted contributes to carbon emissions and thus, climate change. Yet, this waste through the exterior building skin is invisible to the human.

Thermography of Rapson Hall’s facade is stitched into a seamless thermal image and projected onto the building, creating a vibrant mapping of the building’s energy waste on the building itself. By making energy waste publicly visible through thermographic projection, this research layers contradictory imagery, as it transforms the building facade from a mechanism of concealment, a tool for projecting beauty, to one of unmasking and questioning notions of beauty. Thus the building facade is positioned as a contested boundary that recognizes that the surface does not belong to one or the other separate domains but are liminal thresholds of perception and action, where transgressions can foreground activism through an act of deliberate aggression.

Student Researchers

Designing For Wellbeing: The Role of Architecture in Addressing Social Equity in Response to COVID-19
Ebtehal Bahnasy (Masters of Science in Architecture, Research Practices)

The spread of COVID-19 has dramatically shifted the nature of the relationship between people and their surrounding environment. The way people inhabit a space, interact with its surfaces, and the occupation density is now guided by sets of rules that aim at ensuring people’s safety from the virus. Safety measures such as social distancing, working remotely, and self-quarantining are taken in order to slow the spread rate. Consequently, the design of the built environment is being retrofitted in response to the currently evolving situation. However, as people’s needs, abilities, and socio-economic circumstances differ, adaptation needs to be equitable and inclusive to all users. A response that doesn’t have equity as a central consideration risks the wellbeing of those occupants that are the most vulnerable such as people of color, immigrants, the elderly, and other vulnerable population groups. The goal of this research is to ensure a safe, inclusive, and equitable environment in light of the pandemic. It aims to provide designers with a robust set of principles to guide the design process.

Strategies to Identify and Engage with Project Stakeholders
Ebtehal Bahnasy (Masters of Science in Architecture, Research Practices)

Community engagement is a necessity to the success of public projects, with a specific cruciality in the infrastructure field. Several academic resources discuss the strategies that help identify and classify project stakeholders. However, it is challenging to follow theoretical models in practice for many reasons. This research aims to critically review the existing literature and engagement models through qualitative data analysis methods. Two series of interviews were conducted. The first series was interviewing practitioners experienced in community engagement projects. The second included interviewing community representatives about engagement processes during ongoing local infrastructure projects. Additionally, the study is supported by testing and developing engagement tools on ongoing projects. The result of the thematic analysis of both interview series along with the tools’ testing outcomes will provide a holistic understanding of challenges and opportunities that different stakeholders encounter. This knowledge is used to edit and update existing engagement models and tools, to meet the current conditions. Additionally, the study identifies research gaps for future investigation as well as areas of development to the existing tools. This project is a partnership between 4RM+ULA (Nathan Johnson, Lyssa Washington) and the Minnesota Design Center (Tom Fisher, Joseph Hang) with the academic advisors (Malini Srivastava, Elise Harrington).

I Feel Myself as More Malleable: The Effect of Augmented Reality Try-on Service on Malleable Self-concept and Self-brand Connection
Terry Haekyung Kim (Apparel Studies), Associate Professor Hyunjoo Im

Brands and retailers are eager to utilize the augmented reality (AR) technology to engage consumers and develop favorable relationships with them. However, there is a need for a theoretical understanding of the assumed AR effect. This study aims to identify an underlying mechanism of the AR (vs. typical online website) effects by focusing on consumers’ feeling of malleable self-concept. Through two experiments, the findings demonstrate that AR, when compared to a typical online website, increases self-brand connection through enhanced imagery and beliefs on the malleability of the self. The improved self-brand connection further heightens marketing outcomes such as revisit intention to the website. The AR effect is qualified by consumers’ self-discrepancy, suggesting an important implication for brand management. This research offers new insights into the role of AR interface in consumer-brand relationship and highlights the impact of AR on consumer’s self-perception. Innovative marketers and brands are likely to benefit from this study in improving their relationship with consumers by utilizing emerging digital retail Environments.

The Uses and Gratifications Model of Voice Shopping
Jennifer Huh (Retail and Consumer Studies), Professor Hye-Young Kim

The growing popularity of artificial intelligence (AI) enabled voice assistants is driving changes to consumers’ automation shopping experiences. As a preliminary investigation for the dissertation project, this research investigated voice shopping behavior based on the uses and gratifications theory. Specifically, this research tested a model delineating four gratification constructs (i.e., life efficiency, affordance, social presence, entertainment), a mediating variable (i.e., satisfaction), and a dependent variable (i.e., purchase intention via voice assistant). A total of 166 responses were collected using Pollfish, a company that recruits respondents in real-time through their mobile-application developers by utilizing machine learning techniques. Partial Least Squares (PLS) modeling was conducted due to the small sample size and the exploratory purpose of the present research. The research findings revealed the importance of incorporating utilitarian (i.e., life efficiency) and hedonic gratification (i.e., entertainment) in using AI-enabled voice assistants. However, social gratification (i.e., social presence) and technological gratification (i.e., affordance) did not show a significant result. The overall research finding guides retailers in fine-tuning their voice commerce services by suggesting the importance of lessening users’ cognitive effort and offering amusing content.

Consumers’ Responses to AI-Designed Clothing: The Role of Perceived Authenticity
Garim Lee (Retail & Consumer Studies), Professor Hye-Young Kim

Artificial Intelligence (AI) application to design is one of the major themes of the 21st century’s fashion industry. Companies have already started using AI to understand customer needs and design better-suited clothing with increased efficiency (Gu et al., 2020; Sohn et al., 2020). Building on the authenticity literature, Garim Lee (Ph.D. student) and Dr. Hye-Young Kim (Professor) explored consumers’ responses to clothing designed by AI versus a human designer. The mediating role of perceived authenticity and the moderating role of brand type (luxury vs. mass market) in the relationship between design entity and perceived authenticity were also tested. A 2(design entity: AI vs. human) × 2(brand type: luxury vs. mass-market) between-subjects online experiment (n=121) was conducted. Compared to AI-designed clothing, participants tended to perceive human-designed clothing as more authentic, thus forming a more favorable attitude and being more willing to purchase the clothing. The effect did not vary depending on the brand type. This study contributes to the literature by advancing the knowledge on how consumers perceive AI-generated design work compared to human-generated work. Practitioners can benefit from the study, as the findings suggest that emphasizing the roles of humans in the design process will help enhance authenticity perception.

The Impact of Acoustics on Learning Environments for Neurodiverse Students
Michael Lekan-Kehinde (MS-RP Research Internship Project,
Interior Design), Professor Abimbola Asojo, B. Sanborn (DLR Group)

This research looks at guidelines and standards for spaces with good acoustical quality and relates it with the experiences of students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), their parents, teachers, and educators through a mixed-methods approach including selected case studies, interviews, and mixed surveys. The information obtained from these sources will be used to determine if selected materials (with properties relating to sound absorption and reverberation reduction) are equally useful in small, medium-sized, and large learning spaces. The results would describe the potential impact of acoustics on Neurodiverse students, considering factors that determine the complexity of sound in relation to the auditory processing capabilities of ASD students.

Knitted SMA Sleeve for Active Compression Therapy
Robbie Pettys-Baker (Human Factors & Ergonomics)

This project is focused on garments made using Shape Memory Alloy (SMA) knits for the purpose of compressive therapy on the foot and calf. These garments are useful for their low weight and encumbrance, easy donning and doffing, and the ability to activate the therapeutic compression as needed by the user. An initial prototype garment was successfully tested on healthy subjects, and current work is focused on improving the design of the garment. With the goal to eventually test on actual patients. Current work on this project focuses on testing ways to alter the performance of the knits. As these materials continue to push towards consumer-facing applications it is important to understand the best ways to improve performance. Through altering the shape-setting temperature of these knits we seek to find the best possible knit to construct our next generation garment. This includes prolonging compression after being activated, and reducing thermal discomfort.

Every year faculty, instructors, researchers, and students within the College of Design present their work during the annual Research and Creative Scholarship Showcase. While the 2021 showcase happened virtually, the research was as impressive as ever!

From the effects of advertisements on purchasing behavior to improving the fit of surgical gloves, faculty and students from across the college are working on the forefront of design research and creative scholarship.

From redesigning patient hospital gowns to creating a greenhouse for the winter months, College of Design faculty and graduate students work on the forefront of design research.