Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
In partnership with the Design Museum of Chicago
ID@85: 85 Years of Making the Future (2022) by Annie LeueInstitute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
ID educates designers to navigate a new industrial revolution—an unprecedented commingling of the digital, physical, and biological. As AI and automation technology accelerate human experiences, extraordinary products and services arrive only to be updated or replaced.
The varied dimensions of contemporary design require multidisciplinary, multigenerational thinking and a radical approach to collaboration. As our story demonstrates, ID has always fostered collaboration—between faculty and students, the school and industry, designers and users.
As Moholy first said, eighty-five years ago: “The New Bauhaus is not simply a school for designers. It tries to be, too, the nucleus of a cultural community.”
ID’s collaborative culture is very real, and our award-winning work proves that the best design derives from a community of shared ideas and expertise. At ID, design is by everyone, for everyone—and always looking forward.
Vamonde is a storytelling platform for urban explorers launched by ID faculty member Anijo Mathew in 2015. Intrigued by the ways people behave in urban spaces—and by their creation of “hyperlocal narratives”—Mathew wanted to provide a tool for creative sharing.
ID students and alumni, including Sipra Bihani, Aashika Jain, Shanti Mathew, Drew Raines, Mark Supert, Yujue Wu, and Junyoung Yang, contributed to the conception, build-out, and implementation of Vamonde.
The design of web/mobile and the development of the web experience represent a collaboration with Truth Labs, a digital design studio cofounded by Erik Klimczak, an adjunct faculty member at ID.
The Light Phone (2017)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
In 2015 ID graduate Kaiwei Tang partnered with artist Joe Hollier to provide the world with an alternative to the unrelenting smartphone. They created Light Phone, “an alternative to the tech monopolies that are fighting more and more aggressively for our time and attention."
In 2018 they released Light Phone II, which more completely replaces the user’s smartphone by providing the essentials to move about today: messaging, an alarm clock, and “a roadmap of future tools that will make it even easier to avoid reaching back for your smartphone.”
Design Intersections: Design + Networks + Activation (2019) by Institute of Design (ID)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
The belief that design alone cannot address the greatest challenges of our time propelled the conference Design Intersections: Design + Data + Behavior, held at ID in May 2018.
Consisting of two days of panels, presentations, and workshops, the sold-out event attracted a geographically and professionally diverse audience and spurred spirited conversation about the integrated roles of design, data, and behavioral science practice.
Topics covered included: navigating the relationship between humans and algorithms; how an increasing “conceivability gap” limits our comprehension about the use and value of personal data; and what skills tomorrow’s design, data science, and behavioral practitioners will need.
100 Years of Bauhaus (2019) by Institute of Design (ID)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
In an article, Todd Cooke and Jason Romano wrote, “The dilemma faced by modern pedagogues is similar to that of the original Bauhaus, who saw mechanization supplanting the work of the craftsman and the engineer taking the place of the artist in forging the future."
“Whenever you have new technology, you need to experiment to figure out what the best way forward is. If Bauhaus explored novel materials, such as steel and glass, data is one of our new materials.” —Denis Weil, quoted in Todd Cooke and Jason Romano, “Building a New Future: Adapting Bauhaus Pedagogy for the Future of Design”
100 Great Designs of Modern Times (2020)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
In December 2018, Daniel Bentley, senior editor at Fortune magazine, approached ID to rerun the 100 Best-Designed Products research study, originally overseen by Jay Doblin 60 years earlier. Doblin’s survey “100 Best-Designed Products” was published by Fortune in 1959.
“Our report clearly identified that design has moved from being value-adding to value-driving, and that its focus has evolved from form and aesthetics to framing strategies and driving social impact.” —Denis Weil
Flag Calumet (2020)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
Flag Calumet accelerates local habitat restoration in Illinois and Indiana in two parts: an installation to facilitate interactions between residents and their environment and an assembling service that entices residents and visitors to participate in restoration efforts.
The installation has modular components that can be assembled and customized in various forms, and a technical brain with sensors and other computational capabilities to support environmental data collection and communication.
Flag Calumet was funded by the Kresge Foundation and was part of “The Future of Brownfields” research project, a three-year partnership between ID and the Calumet Collaborative, with the support and active collaboration of the Keller Science Action Center.
In 2019, a research team of ID students and professional researchers from Sylver Consulting conducted qualitative, one-on-one interviews with fifty-one US design and/or business practitioners to learn about the near future of roles in the design field.
Research team: Divya Iyengar, Divya Jain, Prapti Jha, Laurel Komos, Renjie Li, Julia Rochlin, Harsh Wardhan, Andi Zhou. Faculty: Brianna Sylver.
“We are known for our pioneering work in demonstrating the value of design to businesses, organizations, and communities. So, true to our roots, we extended our line of questioning to better understand the larger organizational picture and design’s roles within it.” –Denis Weil
Tomorrow's Critical Design Competition: Building a Course System for 21st Century Designers (2020) by Institute of Design (ID)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
Tomorrow’s Critical Design Competencies: Building a Course System for 21st Century Designers, curriculum, 2020.
The new curriculum considered considered “the school’s pioneering 80-year history, and the position design holds in today’s tech-oriented world,” to define three key competencies: embracing complexity, cultivating possibilities, and driving impactful change.
What role does design play in greening our electricity system? How can it address challenges at the intersection of social, environmental, and economic systems? Students at ID responded to these questions, using design to envision a more sustainable energy infrastructure.
The resulting design models (expressed as anatomy of infrastructure, archetypes, and action situation) then became tools for learning how to realize the microgrid as a civic infrastructure, one that binds communities to self-organize and hold them collectively accountable for making purpose-driven choices.
The project received recognition from Fast Company and Core77. Student team: Gauri Bhatt, Zeya Chen, Samar Elhouar, Mithila Kedambadi, Mrinali Gokani Rajesh, Zack Schwartz, Veronica Paz Soldan, Siwei Sun, Monica Villazon San Martin, Catherine Wieczorek, Alpha Wong, Kelvin Yu. Faculty guidance: Azra Sungu, Carlos Teixeira.
Redesigning Contextually Appropriate Education Materials for Incarcerated Women (2021) by Institute of Design (ID)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
WIND, Women Initiating New Directions, supports current and recently incarcerated women at Cook County Department of Corrections and Grace House, a residential re-entry program. To address the challenges of teaching virtually in jails and centers during a pandemic, WIND partnered with ID.
The ID team identified six design principles for rebuilding the connection during COVID restrictions: (1) accessibility, (2) flexibility, (3) equitability, (4) relationship building, (5) engagement, and (6) transparency. They also generated seed ideas with WIND facilitators, produced and tested prototypes, and delivered recommendations.
The project was recognized by Fast Company. Student team: Kelly Costello, Penny Hirsch, Tomoko Ichikawa, Jocelyn Jia, Haiping Liao, Anand Nagapurkar, Callie Zhou. Faculty: Kelly Costello, Tomoko Ichikawa.
“The project was a great opportunity to understand women’s situation in the criminal justice system and actually do something about it. It’s especially important because the needs of incarcerated women don’t get as much attention as those of men.” —Callie Zhou, designer
ID faculty member Chris Rudd, along with four ID students, facilitated three anti-racist pop-ups to bring design methods to Chicago communities. The team sought to use design and creative placemaking to intervene and disrupt the racist outcomes further amplified by the pandemic.
Set up in neighborhoods across the city, Anti-Racist Pop-Ups were a set of activities that enabled participants to identify racism, imagine equitable futures, and co-design anti-racist infrastructures to serve as protagonists of change.
Because the possibility of dismantling racism and building equitable futures depends on our collective capacity to identify racism, envision equitable alternatives, and take action, one of Rudd’s goals was for no “professional” designer to show up—it was for community members.
The project was recognized by Fast Company. Student team: Mithila Kedambadi, Azra Sungu, Monica Villazon San Martin, Julian Walker. Faculty: Daniel Chichester, Chris Rudd.
Osmo (2022)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
We are living in an era of interruptive technology, endangering not only our attention spans, but also our mental health. As the average American checks their phone ninety-six times a day, interactions with physical objects that don’t contain screens are disappearing.
Nested in the sweet spot between the digital and analogue, Osmo is a low-resolution, customizable desk display made of ferrofluid (literally, “liquid iron”) and LED lights that solicits attention only when truly necessary.
Osmo subtly notifies users with a quiet glow, as the ferrofluid comes alive. Instead of emitting constant distractions, Osmo’s soft movements and lighting produce a peripheral nudge. For example, Osmo sends an alert when a job application moves forward, while blocking out rejection updates.
Memiro (2022)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
Memiro is a set of designs that use self-tracking to address personal vulnerability. In a world of privacy violations and reluctance to share personal data, this project sought to empower users to engage with personal data through decentralization, encryption, and anonymization.
Designs like “personal encoding,” which embeds sensitive data in everyday objects, and “community-driven cartography,” which encourages sharing information among marginalized individuals to increase safety, support personal well-being among people who feel susceptible to harm.
Communication tool, prenatal cost-of-care conversations with low-income patients (Findings published 2018 and 2023.)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
Communication tool, prenatal cost-of-care conversations with low-income patients, findings published 2018 and 2023.
Courtesy of Kim Erwin.
An ID team collaborated with the University of Chicago and Sinai Urban Health Institute (SUHI), on a tool for patient-provider conversations about costs of care, and then with Advocate Aurora Health and Advocate Aurora Health Research Institute to pilot test the tool.
To develop the tool, the team engaged 20 pregnant or postpartum women, 15 of them within 400 percent of the federal poverty line, and interviewed nurses, obstetricians, and other members of the medical community. They used drawing activities and projective exercises with the participants to inform 13 prototypes of a communication tool.
Next they evolved the content, language, and positioning of the tool for patients concerned about sharing information that could generate judgment or lesser care. To pilot test the tool, 21 clinicians in three clinics distributed the tool to 187 patients over 56 weeks. Low-income patients were five times more likely to report experiencing cost and time-related benefits related to attending their appointments than higher-income women.
Project team: Kim Erwin, Veronica Fitzpatrick, Melissa Gilliam, Sarah Norell, Amanda Geppert, Tomoko Ichikawa. Both phases of the project were funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Chicago has some of the highest asthma rates in the nation, with particularly high rates of disease in predominantly minority neighborhoods. Led by faculty member Tom MacTavish, an ID team conducted field research, supplemented by further research by ID’s Kim Erwin.
The project culminated in the design of a paper-based communication tool called CAPE—Chicago Action Plan after ED discharge—to help healthcare staff and caregivers more effectively record, track, and preserve information at the time of a child’s discharge from a hospital.
A description of the tool, its underlying theory and application, was published in the Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research. Erwin is now associate professor of practice at ID and director of the Equitable Healthcare Action Lab.
FLOW: a future of hybrid working collaboration (2022)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
FLOW: a future of hybrid working collaboration, 2022.
3D rendering of the project.
Courtesy of the designer.
Existing products and services related to audio/visual capabilities overlook the auditory experience. An ID team created FLOW, a speaker and light system that uses spatial audio to create a collaborative experience that bridges virtuality and physicality for the user.
FLOW is an immersive experience that controls sound waves according to the movement of users. Light changes according to the user's feeling, supporting collaboration for better communication and engagement.
In the prototype stage, the team developed different lengths of speakers to represent different waves and hung them on the ceiling to convey three-dimensional sound.
Project team: Claire Xu, Sara Park, Sylvia Kim, William Chen. Faculty: Anijo Mathew. Project partner: Herman Miller/ Dubai Expo.
Digital Ghost (2022)Institute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
Digital Ghost, 2022.
Courtesy of the designer.
Digital Ghost is an interactive VR exhibition that uses an AR filter generated by facial recognition and AI data collection to explore the ethics of the relationship between humans and AI machines.
Operating on four themes—AI development logic, data and identity, data cloning technology, and AI-based society—it not only helps to demystify the black box of AI, but also exposes a possible dark future. The AR filter looks like a mosaic mask composed of countless photos.
As photos are placed regularly according to the color and light on the face, different people have different generative models. Visualizing the mathematical data in the form of photos simplifies the interpretation of AI model development and stimulates further thinking.
Humane Tech, the Invisible Woman (2019) by Xuning GuoInstitute of Design (ID) at Illinois Tech
Humane Tech, the Invisible Woman: Divvy Physical Data Visualization, 2019.
Courtesy of Xuning Guo, designer.
This project addressed the gender gap in Chicago’s Divvy bike-sharing program. Research shows that although the step-through design of the bikes appeals to both men and women, women are underrepresented in the system due to safety concerns and cultural attitudes.
An ID team used Divvy user data—a big challenge, given the vast amount of data available—to create visualizations that showed the gender disparity in ridership, with men making up a larger portion of users.
After exploring ridership patterns throughout the year, including in winter conditions, the team used Grasshopper to create an algorithm.
ID and the Design Museum of Chicago partnered to organize this exhibition, which uses 85 key stories to demonstrate the vital role of design—and ID—in improving life, from gas stations to space stations; camping shelters to an app for urban explorers; a better bar of soap to a doable reimagining of water resources for food, energy, and manufacturing.
These stories fall into four eras:
3) Human-Centered Design
4) [Era in Process] (this story)
With thanks to William Chen, Todd Cooke, Kristin Gecan, Nathan Keay, Mitchell Kunichoff, Annie Leue, Ashley Lukasik, Anijo Mathew, Mindy Pugh, Kevin Reader, Sujith Samuel, Adam Strohm, Amy Teschner, Martin Thaler, Hendriana Werdhaningsihm, and Tanner Woodford.
The institute of Design thanks all the lenders who contributed objects and materials to ID@85: Making the Future—particularly, the Illinois Tech Archives for the largest known set of objects the archive has ever loaned for public view.