MDes Students Win Best Social Impact at Microsoft Design Expo


Each year Microsoft Research sponsors several schools to participate in their annual Design Expo, as part of the Faculty Summit conference. In the Spring of 2013, the School of Design—along with eight other schools from the U.S. and around the world— was  invited to attend. Master of Design students in the combined Graduate Design Studio II and Research Methods for Design course were challenged with the design brief, “Making data useful: Improving your life, community, and world.”

Under the guidance of design faculty Peter Scupelli and Bruce Hanington, five student teams narrowed the scope of the broad territory, focusing their project work on a diverse range of topics that included optimizing volunteer experiences to strengthen communities; choosing an urban neighborhood for appropriate living; bridging the gap between remote and in-place workers; enhancing the interactive museum experience; and sharing and revisiting travel experiences through advanced technology. 

Working together with design faculty and Microsoft liaison Yong Rhee (BFA Communication Design 2007; Masters, Human Computer Interaction, 2007) , the teams developed their projects through phases of territory definition, exploratory and generative research, and evaluation of their design concepts. Iterative solutions were refined and presented at the end of the semester to Microsoft and a public audience in the School of Design, with one team selected to present at the Design Expo in Redmond, Washington, in July 2013.

The team selected to present at Microsoft this year was Brynn Flynn (CPID), Sarah Sykes (IxD), Jiwon Paik (IxD), and Wenni Zhou (CPID), for their project called “Seedlinks: Empowering People Who Care”, a platform designed to encourage volunteerism in communities.

Seedlinks helps people who care contribute to their communities.  The platform leverages data and the digital world to encourage action in one’s local community and measure impact.  It serves as a space for neighbors to identify local community challenges, create and contribute to local projects, share knowledge, and nurture relationships.”

Read more about the Seedlinks project.

In addition to the positive reception they received for their presentation, the students were awarded “Best Social Impact” for their project, by the Microsoft Research panel. Design Expo was also featured on, under the title “5 Civic Projects Aim to Make Data Useful.”  You can read more about all the Design Expo projects, including this comment on Seedlinks, “The design on this project is gorgeous.”

We are grateful to Microsoft for this opportunity, and are extremely proud of all the students who participated in the project, and the team who represented us so well at Microsoft again this year!

Bruce Hanington
Date Published: 
Friday, November 1, 2013
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