UX Design Marks Its Spot as Growing Career Path for ATEC Students

From Dell Technologies to Capital One, companies that rely on the use of intuitive customer experiences are finding a wealth of talented designers among students and alumni from the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas.

Cassini Nazir, clinical associate professor in the arts and technology program and director of design and research for the ArtSciLab, trains students in user experience design. “If businesses exist in a digital space — be it a website, app, digital kiosk — they need to invest in good design,” he said.

Cassini Nazir, clinical associate professor in the arts and technology program and director of design and research for the ArtSciLab, trains students in user experience design. “If businesses exist in a digital space — be it a website, app, digital kiosk — they need to invest in good design,” he said.

The ArtSciLab — the school’s transdisciplinary research lab focused on the intersection of art and science — is immersing students into the field of user experience, or UX, design.

Cassini Nazir, professor in the arts and technology (ATEC) program and director of design and research for the lab, said UT Dallas is emerging as a leader in UX education in North Texas.

“There’s a growing trend in more courses focused on user experience (UX) design and interaction design at colleges across the nation,” he said. “Many of these concepts have come out of human computer interaction concepts, but design research and UX have really emerged as disciplines in their own right. Industry has helped by investing in design researchers and user experience designers in their spaces.”

Nazir said more companies, both established and startup, are employing a design-centric ethos, cognizant of the role UX plays in customer relations.

The Design Value Index — an evolving metric that tracks the value of companies that meet specific design-related criteria — showed in 2014 that 15 design-driven companies had outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index by 228 percent over 10 years.

Several enterprise-level companies such as Intuit and Sabre want to work with the ATEC program to recruit talent, he said.

“UTD has really benefited from it because there’s a boom of businesses setting up offices in Dallas,” said Nazir, who is part of the Dallas Design Council. “Many of those companies have been hiring teams of designers, and we’ve been successful in filling those needs.”

Emerging media and communication senior Lina Moon was selected to be a part of Capital One's inaugural Design Development Program, where she will spend two years learning about different fields such as interaction design and coding.

Emerging media and communication senior Lina Moon was selected to be a part of Capital One’s inaugural Design Development Program, where she will spend two years learning about different fields such as interaction design and coding.

Clear Line to Job Opportunities 

The lab has had students move into design positions at companies such as Sabre, Cisco Systems, AT&T, Siemens, General Motors, Fossil and J.C. Penney.

Debi Terry Ndindjock BA’13, a digital experience designer at Dell, first gained an interest in UX design while taking the interaction design course as a sophomore.

Ndindjock considered herself as purely a graphic designer, but she said she was intrigued by the psychological aspects of design, realizing UX design merges the two concepts.

“The turning point was when (design consultant) Stephen Anderson visited our class and spoke about his work,” she said. “I knew that was what I wanted to do. Since it is a relatively new field, we get a part in defining the industry as a whole.

“UX design requires such varied skills and education: visual design, writing, research and technology. You get to get in where you fit in.”

Cathryn Ploehn BA’14 said the same course — taught by Nazir — also propelled her into the field. Ploehn also served as designer for the ArtSciLab.

“Cassini’s enthusiasm was a gateway to taking further related courses, and finally a capstone in UX,” she said. “The application of the concept of empathy to design and development captivated me.”

Ploehn, who manages UX design problems and data visualization for Visionist Inc., said that developing a sense of empathy is fundamental to what makes user experiences successful.

“Really listen to what a person says to you both inside and outside of a user research setting,” she said. “Try to feel what it is like to be somebody else. Practice by exposing yourself to points of view beyond your comfort zone.”

For senior and UX Club president Lina Moon, there wasn’t an aha moment that led to an interest in UX design.

“I think being part of the UX Club as an officer and working in the ArtSciLab really gave me the confidence to pursue the field further, as it gave me a good support network and provided me access to more collective knowledge,” Moon said.

In July, Moon started a full-time position with Capital One’s inaugural Design Development Program.

The two-year program pairs students and recent graduates with a mentor who guides new associates through different fields such as interaction design and coding.

The growing demand for UX designers can be attributed, at least in part, to the growing demands of consumers of digital products. Nazir said designers often play the role of customer lobbyist, researching and voicing the needs of consumers to their business.

“Audience expectations of what constitutes a good experience are now much higher than they were in the past,” he said. “If businesses exist in a digital space — be it a website, app, digital kiosk — they need to invest in good design.”

Roger Malina Receives Honorary Degree

Roger Malina has been awarded an honorary degree from the Technical University of Valencia in Spain for his work promoting and advancing research at the intersection of art, science and technology.

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The Spanish University cited his role as director of the ArtSciLab as a contributing factor. As a transdisciplinary research lab, the ArtSciLab focuses on innovative projects such as the podcast platform Creative Disturbance.

For 25 years, Malina has been involved with the Leonardo organizations, which his father founded in San Francisco and Paris. The organizations strive to promote work that explores the interactions between the arts and sciences, as well as between the arts and new technologies. Malina currently serves as the executive editor of the Leonardo journal, published by MIT Press.

Malina earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his doctorate in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley.

PhD Student Attends Fellowship Program Conference

Conference Chaz Lilly

Charles Lilly, a Phd Student in the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication and member of ArtSciLab, received a Society for Scholarly Publishing Fellowship in March, 2016.

Lilly attended the 38th Annual Meeting of Society for Scholarly Publishing took place in Vancouver, Canada. This was the first year of the SSP Fellowship Program. While its previous incarnation (the Travel Grant Program) provided funds to attend the Annual Meeting, the Fellowship Program adds something much more valuable than money: mentorship, and immersion in everything that the SSP has to offer, through the opportunity to join committees and conversations.

The group of 12 Fellows consisted of seven early career professionals and five students – of whom three were “international Fellows” from outside the US. The different types of organizations, universities and backgrounds that we represented led to a thought-provoking number of perspectives.

Lilly talked about his role in the program:

To start, SSP has smartly invested in the future by providing resources for students and young professionals to attend the annual meeting. The fellowship program provided instant community: to walk through contemporary issues in scholarly communication with a diverse group of mentors and peers was energizing. As a student, my research revolves around the future of the monograph. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination offered discussion on potential transformations of the scholarly book. We “sprinted” down our thoughts using the collaborative authoring and publishing tool Overleaf. Some represented our conversation with multimedia; others penned poems. The end result was a multi-authored collection of essays, media and more.

In the panel “Transformative Publishing Platforms for Digital Scholarship in the Humanities,” university presses, largely funded by the Mellon Foundation, presented tools and platforms that aim to make open, networked, living (constantly editable, “always in beta”), digital monographs. I ran up to Susan Doerr from the University of Minnesota Press to discuss Manifold, which promises to think beyond static replications of print. I also found myself racing up to Dr. John Maxwell after he spoke about radical openness and networked books at the closing plenary, “Change is Already Here: Revolutionary Examples.” Dr. Maxwell, who is director of Simon Fraser University’s publishing program, promised to send materials on monographs.

Everyone I chased was accommodating and quick to give out their card. I expect many fruitful conversations to follow. So, the question may not be what did I learn, but what will I learn. Thanks to SSP’s generous fellowship program, I am certainly on a new, exciting path in my research.


Parts of this article originally appeared on the Scholarly Kitchen website on June 10, 2016.

ArtSciLab Paper and Performance Proposal Accepted for International Computer Music Conference

Scot Gresham-Lancaster,  a UT Dallas ATEC associate professor of sound design, has composed a piece and paper, “Culture of Fire” for Analog Neural Network Synthesizer, Geiger Muller Counters and Computer, which have been accepted for the  41st International Computer Music Conference hosted at the University of North Texas in Denton. The ICMC will take place September 25th to October 1st, 2015.

Below is an abstract:

“Culture of Fire” for Analog Neural Network Synthesizer, Geiger Muller Counters and Computer

Author:

Scot Gresham-Lancaster, UT Dallas

Abstract:

The “Culture of Fire” is an ongoing live performance piece constructed of residue from a project that was started by David Tudor and others to turn INTEL’s now defunct Electronically Trainable Analog Neural Net (ETANN) into a music synthesizer. A secondary layer of “control” in the live performance of the piece is that Geiger Muller Tube triggers are used as the source of actuation and location distribution of sonic events.

Roger Malina appointed to board of advisors for Sristhi Institute for Art, Design and Technology in India

Roger Malina was recently appointed to the international board of advisors for the Sristhi Institute for Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, India, whose founding director is friend and colleague Geetha Narayanan. Geetha is an educator with over four decades of experience as a teacher, an educator, a curriculum and instruction designer. At all times a catalyst, Dr. Narayanan has tried over the years to evolve paradigms of learning that integrate the mind, body and consciousness and in the last few years has worked at creating collaborative pedagogical frameworks for the teaching of mathematics, science and languages within the Indian educational system at the informal and formal levels of schooling.

In particular, Dr. Malina will be helping with the new PhD program in Art and Design at Srishti, which is a recognized research center of Manipal University. Six scholars joined the PhD program in 2014, and nine more scholars from India and abroad are expected to join the program in 2015.

The advisors for the program are an interesting cross-section of the international art, design, and technology-practicing community. They include:

Joichi Ito, who is the Director of the MIT Media Lab and the Chairman of the Board of PureTech Health. He is also on the Board of Sony Corporation, The New York Times Company, The MacArthur Foundation, The Knight Foundation, and The Mozilla Foundation and the co-founder and board member of Digital Garage. He is a member of the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Center of Innovation (COI) STREAM governance committee.

Brandon Gien, who is the CEO of Good Design Australia and current President of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID), the world organization for Industrial Design. Through his work with ICSID, he co-founded the World Design Impact Prize to honor design-driven projects that make a positive impact on our social, economic, cultural and environmental quality of life.

Ezio Manzini, who has been working in the field of design for sustainability. Most recently, his interests have focused on social innovation, considered a major driver of sustainable changes. With this perspective, he started DESIS: an international network of schools of design specifically active in the field of design for social innovation and sustainability.

John Newbigin, who is Chairman of Creative England and of Cinema Arts Network. As Special Advisor to the Minister for Culture, Rt Hon Chris Smith MP, he was closely involved in developing the UK government’s first policies for the creative industries in the 1990s. He was Head of Corporate Relations for Channel 4 Television and executive assistant to Lord Puttnam as the Chairman of the film company Enigma Productions Ltd. As a policy advisor to the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition, Rt Hon Neil Kinnock, MP, he had responsibility for environmental and cultural issues, amongst others.

Soon-In Lee, who has been a graduate school lecturer in design management. He was also Dean of International Design School for Advanced Studies of Hong-ik University. Soon-In Lee was President (2011-2013) of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID), Chair of the Korea Design & Brand Management Society, and General director for Gwangju Design Biennale 2007. Since 2003, he has been the Chair of Asia Design Network and Korea 3D Printing Culture Forum. At present, Soon-In Lee is Executive Managing Director of Seoul Design Center.

Performed Data from One Antarctic Night to be featured in soundtrack for BBC’s Sound of Space

Sounds from One Antarctic Night, a series of interactive artworks created from 287,800 images of the night sky, are to be featured in the soundtrack for the BBC World Service series The Sound of Space.

One Antarctic Night, led by a creative team including Ruth West, Roger Malina, Lifan Wang, Scot Gresham-Lancaster, Alejandro Borsani, Andrew Blanton, and Brian Merlo, used data from the robotic telescope CSTAR in Antarctica and created electronic instruments that participants could interact with to make digital image and sound remixes. The resulting project sought to blend art and science in new ways, and has been featured in venues including the San Francisco Exploratorium, the New York Hall of Science, and the Rubin Center.

The Sound of Space, which features a tour of the Universe using audio that has either been recorded by probes such as Cassini-Huygens, or sonified from data gathered by spacecraft and telescopes, will have a soundtrack that includes artworks inspired by space. The soundtrack will include 5 sonifications from One Antarctic Night, including Deep Choir and White Noise Universe. Other audio in the soundtrack will include works from Caroline Devine, Louis Dandrel, Radioqualia, Sigur Ros and Semiconductor.

This project can be found under the ArtSciLab Projects page for more details.

ArtSciLab Paper by ATEC PhD Candidate Accepted by Union College Symposium on Engineering and Liberal Education

An ArtSciLab paper by Kathryn Evans, Senior Lecturer in Music and ATEC PhD Candidate at UT Dallas, has been accepted for the Union College “Engineering and the Liberal Education” symposium in Schenectedy, NY.

Below is an abstract:


 

“Does studying music enhance higher order learning skills in undergraduate non-music majors?”

Authors:

Kathryn Evans, Senior Lecturer in Music, School of Arts and Humanities, Frank Dufour, Associate Professor, Rosanna Guadagno, Associate Professor and Roger Malina, Professor, Arts and Technology, The University of Texas at Dallas

Abstract:

Many studies have looked at the correlation between music study and academic skills. A review of over 11,000 studies between 1950 and 1990 conducted by Harvard Project Zero tested the claim that studying the arts leads to some form of academic improvement. Only three areas were found that demonstrated a clear causal link between education in an art form and achievement in a non-arts, academic area. Two were in music: a medium-size causal relationship between listening to music and spatial-temporal reasoning and a large causal relationship between learning to make music and spatial-temporal reasoning. (Winner 2001). The majority of these studies have been conducted with students in primary and secondary education, but little research has been done on students at the undergraduate college level who study music, either as a minor or for general interest. Most pedagogical studies in music address the needs of music majors and not non-majors.

This pilot study looked at students at the University of Texas at Dallas who enrolled in music studies (either music performance, music theory or sound design) who are not majoring in music. Many are students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) areas. Through phenomenological research methods, we looked at the experiences of students who study music or sound design and how they perceived it affects their academic skills in other areas. Emails for students currently enrolled in music or sound design courses in AY2014-15 were obtained from registration records and they were solicited to take an on-line survey, with an option to volunteer for an in-depth interview. Over 800 students were solicited in February 2015 and a response rate of 20% has already been obtained. Additionally, over 30 students have volunteered for the interview. Initial data and a preliminary analysis will be presented.

DataRemix Paper Live on Leonardo Just Accepted Page

“DataRemix: Designing the Datamade,”is now on the Leonardo Just Accepted page, hosted by MIT Press. The paper was a part of the Special Section of Leonardo Transactions “Highlights from VISAP’13”, and was previously announced by the ArtSciLab as presented at the 2013 IEEE VIS Arts Program (VISAP) in Atlanta, Georgia. The authors of the paper were Ruth West, Roger Malina, John Lewis, Scot Gresham-Lancaster, Alejandro Borsani, Brian Merlo, and Lifan Wang.

The full paper can be downloaded here: DataRemix: Designing The Data made Through ArtScience Collaboration

The article is forthcoming in the Leonardo print publication, and can be cited with the DOI: 10.1162/LEON_a_01060.

ArtSciLab Paper Accepted for Understanding Visual Music 2016, Brazil

An ArtSciLab paper by Andrew Blanton, Connectome Data Dramatisation: The Human Brain as Visual Music, has been accepted for Understanding Visual Music to be held June 10, 2015 in Brazil.

Below is an abstract:


 

Connectome Data Dramatisation: The human brain as visual music.

Authors: Andrew Blanton, MFA; Sruthi Ayloo, MS; Micaela Chan, MS; Scot David GreshamLancaster, MA, MFA; Roger Malina, PhD; Tim Perkis; Neil Savalia, BA; Maximilian Schich, PhD; Anvit Srivastav, MS; Gagan Wig, PhD

Abstract

We, as a collaboration of scientists and artists, have built a visual and sonic representation of highly connected areas in the human brain. This model was developed to not only be a tool of scientific research but also as a tool for art creation. In the process of developing the software, the tool was built to interface with musical instruments for real time visualization and sonification. Working conceptually with the idea that scientific data can be repurposed for art creation, the Connectome is performed as both a sonic and visual representation of fMRI data, manipulating the model in real time as a form of multimodal data dramatisation.

Introduction

Partnerships between artist and scientist allow for creative forms of collaboration that can push both scientific and artistic research. With the Connectome Data Dramatisation project, our principal interest was in the creation of a hybridized tool, one that could work as both scientific instrument as well as artistic work. Beginning with a dataset that consisted of 441 neural bundles or nodes systematically differentiated into 21 areas or systems of interest in the human brain based on fMRI data collected by one of us (Gagan Wing) as part of the work of the UTDallas Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab.[1]

Area Centers Coded by System Membership

Our team was able to extract visual and sonic representations of the connections between those areas using custom software. We then developed that representation further in the form of an interactive three dimensional node edge graph and sonification of the 421 highly connected areas of the brain (in the case of the visualization, the width of the edges).

This would form the basis of the representation. With the addition of the ability to activate nodes from external data feeds via Open Sound Control[2] different nodes could be excited at will creating a virtual, three dimensional instrument that could be used for visual and sonic performance. Using four small drums, the visual and sonic representation of connections between areas of the brain can be played in real time. Custom software receives input in the form of audio signal from each drum and excites specific areas of the brain. Each section of the brain that is played will present a unique visual and sonic representation.

Historical Perspective

Building on previous explorations in bridging art and science through the development of new technology, we were actively looking to understand how this project is situated within the history of visual music. In looking at the work done at Bell Labs in the 60’s and 70’s[3] and with the work of artist such as James Whitney[4], the question emerges, what are the components of a successful art and science collaboration? How do separate practitioners collaborate while furthering each of their own research? Phill Mortin and Dan Sandin’s image processing units[5] also played a role in both the conceptual development as well as the technical development of the work. How is information shared and disseminated after it’s creation? Other contemporary artist were looked at as well including the work of Noisefold[6] in their sound extraction techniques form visual information, Ryoji Ikeda[7] in his visual and sonic representation of data as well as Semiconductor[8] in their blending of art and science amongst others working with visual music as a contemporary practice.

Visual music has been historically tied to the development of technology. This holds true now as much as it has in the past. Current rendering technologies are evolving rapidly within the gaming community and practitioners of visual music are greatly benefiting from real time rendering advancements within the gaming communities. Robust community support and the indie gaming movement have provided new tools for interfacing with gaming environments[9]. Two areas that are underdeveloped with regard to these environments and practitioners of visual music can provide insight are in the development of procedural animation, and the assimilation of data into these environments. With this project we have begun to build a framework that can both provide a series of procedural animations with regard to node edge graphs as well as interface a gaming environment with a dataset of approximately 77,000 connections. In doing so we have tried to maintain the work as both a piece of art and a scientific instrument.

Future Work

In the process of building this project, we have worked with many technologies to find the right combination of frameworks and development to allow for extensive flexibility in artistic representation of the data set. We have worked with Max/MSP Jitter[10], Unity[11], Syphon[12], Three.js[13], node.js[14] midi.js[15], coffee collider[16] and D3.js[17] in a exploration to find what technology would serve the representation of this dataset best. Beginning with a representation using three.js hosted on a node.js server we were able to bring in live data via OSC to trigger the model. We found ultimately that building everything in the web browser provided great accessibility for global use of the tool, however, confining the project to the web browser also creates limitations with regard to power for rendering and audio synthesis. We have built a framework that now uses the Unity game development environment specifically for it’s strength with regard to real time rendering and are working on integration of Pure Data[18] via the Kilimba Unity extension[19]. This process will allow us to build a platform addressing the two primary areas of dataset integration into gaming environments and procedural manipulation as well as sonification and visualization of said dataset.

Summation of Findings

The creation of the Connectome project has led to some interesting further work in collaborations between artist and scientist. Beginning with the fundamental question can scientific instruments be used as tools for art creation and can artist tools produce scientifically valid results, our team was working to further a dialogue between artist and scientist while creating real value for each party involved. In doing so we have opened up another path of exploration in the form of using game development platforms for data visualization and sonification as well as the reappropriation of these platforms for use in real time audio visual work. By creating a core representation, we were able to build a model that could be manipulated in real time using incoming Open Sound Control data and provide a scientifically accurate representation of the underlying dataset.


[1] Area of interest in this case were areas of concentration of neurons in the brain as identified by researchers at of the Center of Vital Longevity Cognitive Neuroimaging Lab at the University of Texas at Dallas. http://vitallongevity.utdallas.edu/cnl/ accessed march 7 2015.
[2] http://opensoundcontrol.org/ accessed March 7 2015
[3]http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Archives:Bell_Labs_%26_The_Origins_of_the_Multimedia_Artist accessed March 7 2015
[4] William Moritz on James Whitney’s Yantra and Lapis http://www.centerforvisualmusic.org/WMyantra.htm accessed March 7 2015
[5] Museum of Modern Art https://www.moma.org/momaorg/shared/pdfs/docs/press_archives/5958/releases/MOMA_1982_0014_14.pdf?2010 accessed March 7 2015
[6] http://noisefold.com/
[7] http://press.web.cern.ch/press-releases/2014/01/japanese-artist-ryoji-ikeda-wins-third-prix-ars-electronica-collide-cern
[8] http://semiconductorfilms.com/
[9] http://pjim.newschool.edu/issues/2011/01/pdfs/ParsonsJournalForInformationMapping_Medler-Ben+Magerko-Brian.pdf
[10] https://cycling74.com/ accessed March 7 2015
[11] http://unity3d.com/5 accessed March 7 2015
[12] http://syphon.v002.info/ accessed March 7 2015
[13] http://threejs.org/ accessed March 7 2015
[14] https://nodejs.org/ accessed March 7 2015
[15] http://mudcu.be/midi-js/ accessed March 7 2015
[16] https://github.com/mohayonao/CoffeeCollider/wiki accessed March 7 2015
[17] http://d3js.org/ accessed March 7 2015
[18] http://puredata.info/ accessed March 7 2015
[19] https://github.com/hagish/kalimba accessed March 7 2015