In my Interaction Design classes at Miami University, I have my students start their adventure in HTML by producing the de-facto first page: “Hello World!” It only seems fitting then that the first page at Design Workbench is named the same thing. By now, you have probably read the description of this site, but in case you haven’t, here it is:

Design Workbench is a network of websites where designers in research, education, and practice focus on human problems and make, share, and discuss discoveries.

So you may be asking… “why on Earth does this thing exist?” or “what would prompt someone to spend time making such a thing?”

I’m glad you asked.

A session at New Ventures in Portland, Oregon.

Design Workbench was shaped by conversations and interactions that took place at three Graphic Design Educator conferences: Connecting Dots, an AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Design Educators Community conference on connecting design research, education, and practice, Pica 2014, a GDC (Graphic Designers of Canada) conference on pioneering the future of design education, and New Ventures: Intersections in Design Education, an AIGA Design Educators Community conference focused on where and how design education and educators are expanding the discipline. The discussions I had revealed a few things that stuck with me:

  • Outside of the world of design, it can be unclear what design is and what designers are doing with regard to societal issues.
  • Design researchers, educators, and practitioners don’t show each other their work very often so the lines of communication can be a bit broken.
  • Design researchers don’t show each other their work very often so it can be unclear what kind of design research they’re doing and why.

Notice a theme starting to emerge?

Jorge Frascara presenting at Connecting Dots in Cincinnati, Ohio.

After the time spent at these conferences, I was compelled to do what I could to help facilitate future conversations so those inside and outside of design might understand, discuss, and grow each others’ efforts. Enter: Design Workbench.

I won’t rehash all the stuff on the About page—you can read it for yourself. But quickly, the main goal for this site is to reveal how designers are working with people to take on challenges together in real-time. This is done through quick posts of design in action through Instagram posts, shared Pinterest boards, and posts on this site. It’s also done by providing online workbenches where projects can be operated. Each of these sites come with tools for surveys, posting research results and updates, sharing galleries of images, and inviting research participants to interact with content, all the while serving as an online “home base” for projects in design research, education and practice.

A PechaKucha presentation at Pica 2014 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

What hopefully will come from all of this may be:

  • Outside of the world of design, what design is and what designers are doing with regard to societal issues is more clear and it’s discussed.
  • Design researchers, educators, and practitioners will show each other their work often so the lines of communication for collaboration will be open.
  • Design researchers will show each other their work so design research is more clearly understood, encouraging collaboration and new knowledge.

So now that I’ve said “Hello World,” the proper way to respond is to “hello” back. Contribute your imagery on design in action. Comment on and discuss what you see here. If you want a free online workbench for a project or would like to contribute your own posts, contact me, and I’ll make it happen.

After all, the future is not a spectator sport!

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Dennis Cheatham

Associate Professor, Communication Design

Miami University

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