An observation that LEGO Store design mimics LEGO pieces.
An observation that LEGO Store design mimics LEGO pieces. LEGO Store

Design Workbench is where design research, design education, and design practice are more clearly understood by showing them in action. This includes commentary and observations on how designed outcomes represent and impact communities of people and the challenges they face. It’s also explored through a network of sites that serve as workbenches where design research and education projects are operated. At Design Workbench, the past and current impacts of design outcomes are explored, and the future is built when designers partner and co-create with communities of people.

What Kinds of Design?

This site embraces design as the practice of defining problems, conducting insightful research, developing realistic goals, envisioning possible futures, creating and testing many different solutions, and arriving at the most successful outcome to meet the project’s goal. Regardless of the design discipline, this process is applied by designers to understand existing contexts more clearly and to create the future. Projects and discussions hosted at Design Workbench are open to any design discipline, including:

  • Architecture
  • Environmental Design
  • Fashion Design
  • Graphic Design
  • Industrial Design
  • Interior Design
  • Interaction Design
  • Service Design

There is much debate over the naming and positioning of design disciplines so the above list is not intended to be wholly inclusive or exclusive. One goal of Design Workbench is that designers across disciplines will work together to discover new insights into problem discovery and solving.

Design in Action: Contribute!

Design Workbench exists to show design in action and how it impacts and is impacted by people. In order to show design in action, contributors are invited to post different types of content to the network of sites.

Social Media

Thinking, insights, and observation are welcomed on Twitter by using #wkbnch as a hashtag so all can share in the conversation. A shared Pinterest Workbench board is open to those who would like to collaborate and share pinned content. Contact us through Pinterest to become a collaborator on the board. Visit our Pinterest feed page to get a feel for the types of content contributors are currently posting.

Design Projects

people looking at and writing on a whiteboard
Design research students work on a water conservation problem.

Individual projects can be operated on through standalone workbench sites in the Design Workbench network. Operators of each site will be given access to a variety of tools for engaging participants, gathering data, and reporting results. Each project should involve people and design, whether it be through research, exploring education, or in practice. If you are interested in securing a Design Workbench site or have questions, please contact us.


Design Workbench’s goals and features were inspired by presentations and discussions that took place at three design educator’s conferences held in 2014. Connecting Dots, an AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Designers) Design Educators Community conference, was hosted in Cincinnati, Ohio in March and focused on making connections between design research, education, and practice. Pica 2014, a GDC (Graphic Designers of Canada) conference that took place in May in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, focused on pioneering the future of design. New Ventures: Intersections in Design Education was hosted in Portland, Oregon, in September and invited discussions on design education’s reach, application, and evolution. Design Workbench exists to make connections and intersections more tangible by showing them in action as an extension of the conversations that started at each conference.

picture of website
The first version of Design Workbench.

This site was first launched in early 2013 as a tool developed to support research projects in the Design—Innovation Studies MFA program at the University of North Texas. Design Workbench was designed, developed, and is operated by Dennis Cheatham who is an Associate Professor of Communication Design and an Armstrong Interactive Media Studies Affiliate at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The Design Workbench network is supported by the xdMFA Experience Design program in the College of Creative Arts at Miami University.

Design Workbench

The admin for Design Workbench. Part robot, part person, all design.

Design Research to Empower