A Q&A with the School of Design’s New Faculty

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For the Fall 2015 semester, Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design is proud to announce three new faculty members. Joining as Assistant Professors are Austin Lee and Kyuha Shim (“Q”) and Molly Wright Steenson will be serving as an Associate Professor.

Austin, Q, and Molly bring with them a unique blend of experience and expertise and are perfect additions to the School of Design’s faculty. We sat down with each of them for a brief Q&A to talk about where they’ve been and what they’re looking forward to the most at the School of Design.

Austin S. Lee

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Austin S. Lee. I’m a designer and researcher interested in exploring the intersection between design and the future of technologies in our surroundings. Starting this fall I’ll be teaching Design for Interactions Studio and Environments Lab at the School of Design as an Assistant Professor.

I hold an M.S. from the MIT Media Lab and an M.F.A. from the Art Center College of Design. I’ve taught Fundamentals of Visual Communication at the MIT Media Lab (Spring 2013), and Emerging Technologies and Experience Design at the Art Institute of Seattle as an instructor.

My research projects have been presented internationally at academic conferences and I have received several international design awards. In the industry, I have had rich experience taking part in communication design for various products related to AR applications, wearable computing devices, videoconference systems and speech interactions. I would like to bring the enriching academic research and professional design experiences to the classroom.

What are you most looking forward to about working at CMU?

I have been always enthusiastic about the idea of inspiring students with new visions and collaborating on interesting design challenges. The CMU School of Design’s fantastic setting for designing and the rich technical resources across the university have attracted a talent pool of bright students. I look forward to working with the students on blending creative thinking and design with meaningful innovations.

What can future students look forward to as they interact with you as a faculty member?

I emphasize the notion of “making as a way of thinking” and “playing with technology as designers” in my teaching. I would like to enable students from diverse backgrounds to build new skill sets on top of what they are originally good at. My goal is to inspire the students to become creative thinkers who can make and visually communicate their designs.

Design for Interactions is one of the overarching themes of how design education works at CMU. What does Design for Interactions mean to you and why is that a good focus while getting your education?

Design for interaction can be applied in various areas such as professional industry practice, media art, communications, HCI research and emerging technologies. At its core, design for interaction entails designing the aesthetics, experience, expectation, and behavior (motion) of a product (artifact) while considering its relations with humans, digital information and the physical surroundings. Interfaces of a product will constantly evolve as technology advances, and producing the best design solution or the right vision will always be an interesting challenge. Through methods of seeing, inventing, hacking, designing and ideating innovations, we’ll focus on helping designers to think outside the box and provide meaningful designs for today and tomorrow in diverse fields.

Kyuha Shim (Q)

Please introduce yourself.

I design systems to generate appropriate solutions for communication problems and write code that automate my concepts in the software environment. The critical process here is to map out conceptual layers into multi-sensory representations. 

I will be teaching courses in the communication track focusing on computation and data. For this fall, I will co-teach the undergraduate course, ‘Time, Motion and Communication (TMC)’, with Professor Boyarski and teach the graduate course, ‘Interaction Design Lab (IxD Lab)', for new students in MDes and MPS programs.

What are you most looking forward to about working at CMU?

I am excited to meet and work with CMU faculty members and students. I would like to explore data-driven design, the aim of which is not to simply visualize data but to utilize data in the decision-making processes in design. Also, I am looking forward to meeting people in the art and design communities in Pittsburgh.

I would like to learn more about the inner-organizations such as HCI Institute, Computational Design in the School of Architecture, and the Center for Computational Thinking in the School of Computer Science. I am also interested in CMU’s interdisciplinary programs such as STUDIO for Creative Inquiry and Integrative Design, Arts and Technology Network (IDeATe).

What can future students look forward to as they interact with you as a faculty member?

With belief that students are the ones who will design the future, I am prepared to explore up-to-date topics and share insight together. My research interests are listed under ‘Visualizing’ and ‘Emerging Boundaries’ on the Faculty Research & Practice. If you are interested in topics related to computational design, data-driven / visualization projects or generative art, just knock on my office door and let’s chat.

Design for Interactions is one of the overarching themes of how design education works at CMU. What does Design for Interactions mean to you and why is that a good focus while getting your education?

To me, interaction design is designing parametric systems that treat human input as a primary factor in generating sensory experiences for communication. With interaction design as my main theme, I can focus on the relations comprising the designer, object, system and user. While continuing to shape my practice and research, I would like to contribute to the School of Design by expanding the horizons of design processes with computational thinking.

Molly Wright Steenson

Please introduce yourself.

I study the history and connection between computation, AI, design and architecture from the 50s to the present. I have a PhD in architecture from Princeton and was a professor at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea in Italy in the early 2000s, and an adjunct faculty member at Art Center's Media Design Practices program. Before that, I worked professionally with the Web in its earliest years starting in 1994 at companies like Netscape, Reuters, and Scient. (Bonus: I worked with Terry Irwin at MetaDesign in 1999.) 

My design background is unorthodox. I come to CMU from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication, where I was an assistant professor for 2 1/2 years. I taught a number of design-oriented and digital studies courses there, and led digital humanities research projects. It's also my alma mater, where I got a BA in German—the perfect way to begin to study design and architectural history.

This semester, I'll be teaching the seminar that all incoming master's students take— Interaction & Service Design Concepts. It draws on principles, practices and perspectives in design, ranging from fundamentals to affiliated disciplines that inform our most pressing concerns.

What are you most looking forward to about working at CMU?

I've dreamt of joining the faculty since I first learned about the School of Design almost 20 years ago. Many of my mentors, friends, and colleagues have studied or worked at CMU. I'm excited in starting new projects that investigate the university's history in computation and design, and fostering new collaborations inside the School and across campus.

What can future students look forward to as they interact with you as a faculty member?

They'll find someone approachable and curious. I mentor and work closely with students, and I very much enjoy watching their ideas stretch in new directions. I'm interested in working with students across the board, from undergraduate to masters to doctoral students. 

Design for Interactions is one of the overarching themes of how design education works at CMU. What does Design for Interactions mean to you and why is that a good focus while getting your education?

It's a point of departure for important questions. How do design disciplines interact and what new ones are emerging in the process? What changes can we make in the world as designers? What can we learn from the histories close to our own and how do they indicate where we are headed? And what kind of designers do we want to be?

Date Published: 
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
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