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Research and Engagement

The Ph.D. program of the College of Design seeks to advance knowledge in design through research and scholarship. This is built on the recognition of fertile common ground between the design disciplines and on the need for specificity and depth within them.

Research Areas

The Ph.D. program addresses issues for which there is a college history of scholarship and instruction. Interdisciplinary groups of faculty advise students in coursework and research broadly related to seven research interest areas including:

Design for Sustainability

Includes research related to balancing the relationships among the effects of population growth; the uses and re-uses of natural resources; and the sustainability of the built and natural environment.

Design for Sustainability aims to:

  • Address design strategies at the level of systems and their interrelationships with other systems;
  • Expand design thinking to consider and measure the impact of life cycle choices on communication, products, and environments;
  • Develop models of design response that manage complexity and anticipate the forces of change from within and outside systems.

Related Dissertations:

Design for Health and Well-Being

Includes research related to the growing public concern for the relationship between the built environment and human health, development and well-being.

Design for Health and Well-Beings aims to:

  • Identify and calibrate associations between the design features or attributes of products and environments and the health and well-being outcomes for specific populations;
  • Build a knowledge base about design strategies that counteract the health crisis of sedentary lifestyles;
  • Empower healthcare professionals to make informed decisions about health-promoting design strategies;
  • Inform citizens about the role of design in shaping products and environments that promote health and well-being.

Related Dissertations:

Design and Technology

Includes research related to the design of high-performance and intelligent buildings with the development of advanced building (energy, control, and envelope) systems.

Design and Technology aims to:

  • Develop energy efficient (high-performance) buildings, utilizing advanced energy and environmental technologies such as energy modeling and simulation, performance M&V, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Genetic Algorithms;
  • Improve the quality of life of specific populations through research on technological products and environments that embed human-centered features and attributes in their design;
  • Identify, describe, and measure the outcomes of technology design on social and cultural practices, including work, leisure, learning, access to the privileges of democracy, and commerce;
  • Build knowledge about the role design plays in people’s physical, cognitive, and emotional interactions with technology and technologically mediated information and environments.

Related Dissertations:

Design and the Urban Context

Includes research related to the city as a center for human affairs.

Design and the Urban Context aims to:

  • Understand how urbanism and urban design processes affect the quality of people’s lives, perceptions of the city, and patterns of behavior;
  • Measure how design and development decisions influence sustainability in urban contexts;
  • Build knowledge about the impact of design planning and policy on urban development;
  • Develop strategies for community participation in urban design.

Related Dissertations:

Design Methods

Includes research related to the investigation, creation, and validation of methods of processes used in the development of design concepts for communication, products and environments.

Design Methods aims to:

  • Study observational, physical, transactional, organizational, and informational tools and improve these tools in relation to the enhancement of user participation;
  • Expand the role of users in the design problem-solving process (moving them from consumers to co-creators);
  • Develop new strategies for understanding and describing user contexts and settings (physical and virtual).

Related Dissertations:

Umut Toker, Space for Innovation: Effects of Space on Innovation Processes in Basic Science and Research Settings

Design for Learning

Includes research related to design thinking and issues of learning and education.

Design for Learning aims to:

  • Improve the quality of teaching and learning in formal and non-formal education settings through design-based strategies;
  • Improve the effectiveness of learning materials and environments through research into the relationship between design and students’ learning preferences, abilities, and healthy development;
  • Inform citizens of the role design plays in shaping learning communities and cultures;
  • Empower educators and students to make informed decisions about environments, products, and communication.

Related Dissertations:

Design History and Criticism

Includes research related to the study of the history of design disciplines, theories of making and interpretation, and critical perspectives on design.

Design History and Criticism aims to:

  • Build knowledge about the interrelationships among design disciplines;
  • Develop new interpretive perspectives and modes of inquiry across and within disciplinary boundaries.

Related Dissertations: