Faces of Design

Challenge

Gather and visualize data about CMU Design alumni in Pittsburgh, PA. Inspired by AIGA's 2017 Design Census.

Outcome

An interactive installation that allows visitors to discover and explore the experiences and career paths of 33 design professionals.

Role & Contributions

  • Survey design
  • Data analysis
  • Data visualization
  • Installation design

Teammates

  • Tiffany Jiang
  • Anqi Wan
  • Raphaël Weikart
  • Sharon Yu

Overview

Survey Questions

My team wrote a survey asking CMU School of Design alumni about their classes and summer experiences, as well as other factors that influenced their current career choice. We selected 5 questions from our survey that we felt best showed the journey from student to professional designer:​

  • Which classes or skills learned at CMU have been particularly valuable to your current work?
  • How has your experience in college influenced your career choice?
  • What's the best piece of advice you received from a Design faculty member while at CMU?
  • What were deciding factors in choosing your current (or last) job?
  • What was your most formative summer experience as a student (job, research, travel)?

Installation & Cube Design

In the installation, each cube represents one designer who answered our survey. We used 5 of the cube's faces to represent our 5 survey questions, with the last face displaying the designer's current job title and workplace.

Visitors would place a cube in the glowing "active" spot, displaying the designer's answer for the question on the side that is face down. Then, the interface would highlight other cubes with similar stories to the "active" one. We found it delightful to discover the common threads that people have through school and design, regardless of where they are in life now.

Visualizing Data

Initial Concept

The responses we received were anecdotal and compelling. In order to keep the integrity of the content, we wanted our design to allow for deeper understanding of the individuals while displaying their surprising interconnectedness as CMU alumni. We brainstormed ways to highlight the connections between the diverse stories we received.

Brainstorming through sketching.

Exploring 3D Form

The team explored 2D, screen-based interfaces for a while, but then we got the idea to use 3D objects to increase interactivity. Cubes were an interesting form to consider because of their reminiscence to building blocks, bringing connotations of play and exploration.

To test out our ideas, we used a combination of digital and physical mock ups.

Visual Language

We worked to create a visual skin for our cubes that would communicate the meaning of the faces. Exploring a range of abstract and literal representations, we looked for ways to visually represent the questions we posed.

Below are some of my individual explorations. The last one shown is close to our final design.

The final cube design (shown above) uses simple shapes that suggest letters, paired with a word representing the question. We found the meaning of the faces to be most accessible to people this way. The color palette was chosen for being appealing and not too flashy. We later used motion to help clarify the intended interaction as well.

Prototype Process

Intro Video

We imagined the piece existing in a space where visitors (students at CMU, perhaps) can walk up and interact freely. To explain how to interact with it, we included an introductory video that would start playing when someone walked up. The team worked on the video script together, and I animated several parts of it. The intro is shown in our final project video above.

Proof of Concept

As a proof of concept, the team set up a mock installation. We projected the digital interface and spoofed responsive interactions to convey the feeling of exploring our census data.


Learning Outcomes

  • Exploring collected data and identified points of interest by layering it together
  • Designing for the experience of discovery
  • Balancing readability and clarity of information in a large and physical interactive display, especially when using motion
  • Storytelling for a clear proof of design concept

Reflection

Although explorative and abstract, I see this project as possibly a proof of concept for an interactive experience that could enhance data-driven stories. For example, I could see exploring an adaptation of this project for a social media or networking platform like LinkedIn.