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Science Beyond the Laboratory: Opportunities & Challenges for Interaction Design


Thursday, March 03 • 5:30 • Room 113 A+A
Speaker: Dr. Stacy Kuznetsov, Assistant Professor • School of Arts, Media, & Engineering / Herberger Institute for Design & the Arts, Arizona State University

Dr. Kuznetsov will share her research on DIYbio* , a movement that aims to ‘open source’, tinker, and experiment with biology beyond the laboratory. Her work with DIYbio includes initiatives around the world, detailing the origins, practices, and challenges of these communities. By understanding the conditions—technological and social—that expand science practice beyond professional settings, she will offer touchpoints where interaction design can be applied to enable grassroots innovation to occur.

Dr. Stacey Kuznetsov leads the Social and Digital Systems group (SANDS ) , a transdisciplinary research collective that examines bottom-up participation in science, DIY (Do It Yourself) methods, and the intersections between art and technology. Stacey’s current work ranges from materially-oriented explorations (e.g., interactive screen printing, low-cost sensing, and hands-on making for citizen science), to fieldwork with communities in the domains of food science and DIY biology. She holds a Ph.D. from the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to that, she worked for Google in the start-up phase, and received her BA from New York University with a double major in Philosophy and Computer Science. Dr. Kuznetsov will be a visiting designer in the School of Art, conducting a workshop involving critically embedding computational media into the physical world. For more information please contact Jon Lukens,

*DIYbio = Do It Yourself Biology, a citizen science movement in which people
participate in biological science outside of professional settings.


Graphic Design and Smart Communities Initiative Making Impact


Midway through its first year, the Smart Communities Initiative at UT has already made a major impact—both on the students and faculty involved in the projects and on our first-year partner, the city of Cleveland, Tennessee.

This year, faculty and students in twenty courses are working on thirteen projects as part of the initiative. One of the projects is developing a marketing and branding plan for Cleveland.

Just before the winter break, Cleveland city officials came to campus for a two-hour presentation by Associate Professor Deb Shmerler’s senior graphic design class, which spent last semester doing research to lay the groundwork for the branding campaign.

Through interviews, discussions, and an online survey, Shmerler’s students learned that Cleveland residents want to retain their community’s history and balance its southern charm while embracing industry. Cleveland residents are also determined to counter urban sprawl with small-town ingenuity, capitalize on the beauty of the surrounding area, and promote a healthful, balanced lifestyle.

A small group of Shmerler’s students have traveled to Cleveland this month to present their findings to the Cleveland City Council. They’ll spend the rest of the semester developing visual ideas for the city’s brand and preparing a final report.

SCI is a key component of Experience Learning—the Universities new Quality Enhancement Plan, part of our reaccreditation process for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Read more about the Smart Communities Initiative here.

Graphic Design Open House

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The Graphic Design area at the University of Tennessee School of Art will host an open house on Friday, April 11. The evening will provide prospective students, area educators and the university community an opportunity to learn about the program in depth.

Beginning at 4:30, and occurring along the 3rd floor of the Art + Architecture Building, the evening is open for browsing during the entire three hours in order to:

    • view work of current students in the program
    • visit the undergraduate studio
    • tour the facilities
    • watch the outcome of the 2014 sophomore motion design workshop with Scripps Networks
    • speak with faculty, current students and alumni
    • read about alumni success
    • learn more about the curriculum and process for entering the School of Art

There will be light refreshments and a drawing for various design related door prizes.
For more information about the event, please contact Sarah Lowe at

A Conversation with Paige Braddock

Cartoonist, Illustrator, Graphic Novelist, Creative Director at Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates

Paige is a 1985 alumna of the School of Art and a 2014 recipient of the University of Tennessee Accomplished Alumna Award.

LECTURE: A Conversation with Paige Braddock
Thursday February 27 • 7:30pm • Room 109 Art + Architecture Building
Reception immediately afterwards on the 3rd floor

 page52Paige Braddock knew at the age of 7 that she wanted to be a cartoonist. Early in her career she worked as an illustrator for several newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune and The Atlanta Constitution. She launched her own publishing company, Girl Twirl Comics, in 2001 to make Jane’s World available in comic shops and bookstores. In 2006, Paige received an Eisner Award nomination for best humor book. Now distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, daily installments of “Jane’s World” appear on GoComics <> website. There are currently 10 volumes of “Jane’s World” in print. Additional work includes the science fiction graphic novel series, The Martian Confederacy, with writer Jason McNamara and a new graphic novel to be published in 2016 from Andrews McMeel Publishing entitled “Stinky Cecil,” a book for kids with a toad as a main character.

By day Paige is the Creative Director at Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates having worked with Schulz over the last 6 months of his life and being asked by his family to assume this position upon his death. In this role, she is charged with overseeing the visual and editorial direction for all Schulz licensed products worldwide. She has illustrated several Peanuts-themed children’s books, including a pop-up book released by Simon and Schuster, and several books featuring the Peanuts characters published by Running Press.


Playing games for the grade

Students in “The Idea of Design” are playing games for their grades. The Design(er) METAgame was designed by Professor Cary Staples to help students search for the right question, rather than collect the right answer. The game took two years to evolve to the point in which it is now used regularly in her design survey class. “When I put myself in the students shoes, I understood that they were trying to meet my expectations. They wanted to know what I, as the teacher, wanted from them. My frustration was that I needed them to ask their own questions. To develop their own database of references that they would need as a resource as they progressed through the sequence of design classes. They needed to develop an ongoing strategy to make connections, not just remember the connections that I made. I realized I had to create a framework to allow them to play.” A framework that Professor Staples has presented at several national conferences this year: DiGRA, Digital Games Research Association; at GLS 9.0, Games + Learning + Society; at AIGA, The American Association of Graphic Artists National Conference and the upcoming CAA, College Arts Association, conference in February.


The initial idea came from a workshop offered by the University of Tennessee Teaching and Learning Center, where the methods of a “flipped” classroom—where lectures are given outside of class through video and class time becomes a hands-on experience—were first introduced to Professor Staples. Later that year she attended a gaming conference and was introduced to the concept of a “META game;” a card game about video games designed to facilitate interaction in large groups developed by Colleen Macklin, John Sharp and Eric Zimmerman of Local No. 12 in NYC. This served as inspiration for the first version of the Design(er) METAgame which was formed and first played over the Summer of 2012. “The students who played the game appeared to be more prepared for upper division work in the design sequence, so the game continued, with modifications into the Spring semester class as well.”


The game provides a clear structure from which students can experiment. To play the game, students are first given all of the questions at the beginning of the semester. Questions contain elements of concept development, composition strategies and use of materials to enhance meaning. The students are then asked to consider the questions throughout the term as they explore required readings, both historical and contemporary. Instead of writing responses to the questions, students collect examples of images that they feel they can use to illustrate their responses to questions when they are posed in a debate. The questions remain constant, the fundamental nature of the problems and concepts used to solve them can be identified and allow students to trace strategies across time.


One of the new aspects of the game that has developed to accommodate the larger enrollment of the spring semester class, is the introduction of a tournament. Ader competing all of the readings, players “battle” to move forward in a single elimination style tournament. However, instead of the non-winning player being ejected, s/he becomes a consultant and his/her cards becoming part of the combined teams database. All players and cards may be consulted as the “champion” progresses in the tournament. One aspect of the game that is always part of the discussion is how the judging works. Everyone in class takes a turn being the judge and all participants must agree as to whether the best example wins the match, or the best argument or defense wins the match. Frequently students will find themselves faced with a question to which they have not planned an obvious response. Students work together to resolve how these situations will be evaluated.

According to Staples, “We are attempting to create an environment that fosters ‘Gracious Professionalism,’ a term coined by Dr. Woodie Flowers, FIRST National Advisor and Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Per Professor Flowers, Gracious Professionalism “is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. With Gracious Professionalism, fierce competition and mutual gain are not separate notions. Gracious professionals learn and compete like crazy, but treat one another with respect and kindness in the process. They avoid treating anyone like losers. No chest thumping tough talk, but no sticky-sweet platitudes either. Knowledge, competition, and empathy are comfortably blended. In the long run, Gracious Professionalism is part of pursuing a meaningful life. One can add to society and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing one has acted with integrity and sensitivity.”


Reflection is an important aspect of the individual game experience. Students record all bouts or rounds of the game in a process book. In addition, they are asked to notate cards they wish they had made from the readings ader playing the game as well as questions they would like to add to the “Q deck” or deck of questions cards. Since the first game was played in the Summer of 2012, the game has evolved and grown each year. Feedback from the class has been integral in advancing the content and helps Professor Staples see the value of such an activity being used in the classroom. Student comments have been overwhelmingly favorable and range from ones specific to students seeking a design degree:

“It has trained me to think my problems through more like a designer. This isn’t homework, it’s training and molding, shaping really.”

“I gained a lot of knowledge about many designers. It helped me look for influences among designers. It helped all of us to be able to discuss designs formally, which is important for all future art classes.”

to those reflective of students outside of the fields of Art:

“It is really a creative game. The game not only helped to have fun and interact with classmates, the game actually motivates you to learn about the past decades. It is a great resource to get your inspiration from.

“The game also helped to build your communication skills. It is challenging both as visually and conceptually. It is quick which helps to make the argument better and holds interest because you don’t know what kind of question they are going to ask. It is a fun & very intellectual game. I had fun!!”

The course in which the game is played, ARTD 150: The Idea of Design, is currently offered in Spring and Summer semesters and will be offered as an on-line course this summer. The course has been approved to meet the Gen. Ed. requirement for “Broadening Deeper Perspectives” in the Arts + Humanities category and Professor Staples emphasizes that the class is not just meant for design or art students. Asked to relate design as a valuable discipline, she offers up the words of curator Paola Antonelli “Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn’t know it was missing.”

Graphic Design program at-a-glance

Graphic Design Program at-a-glance.

The BFA in Graphic Design at the University of Tennessee is a 120 credit hour degree that sequences students from an introduction to the field and its history all the way to completing a self-defined semester-long project to be presented in front of a panel of business professionals. In between this there are investigations into typography, data visualization and research, workshops with both local and visiting designers, team projects solving interdisciplinary problems, and a at least 7 credit hours of gaining hands-on experience working as an intern in a professional setting. However, sometimes before that even can begin, what exactly a graphic designer does needs a bit of explanation.


The Graphic Design Program has compiled an information sheet that helps clarify a bit more of the options within the field of graphic design as well as answer common questions related to graphic design at UT. Faculty office hours are listed on the sheet, so feel free to stop by should you still have more questions.

UT design team named a winner in latest Regional Design Annual Awards

Project selected as an award-winning design from top creative teams and individuals.

Cincinatti — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville School Of Art MFA Recruitment Materials, a project developed by Deborah Shmerler in collaboration with SoA faculty and Graphic Design Students, Jared Langel, Ben Smith, Chris Ruppelt and Kelton Carter was chosen as one of 345 award-winning designs in the 2013 Regional Design Annual. This highly selective and well-regarded competition, sponsored by Print magazine, is the most comprehensive survey of graphic design in the United States and recognizes outstanding creative work produced by individuals and groups. The work in the 2013 Regional Design Annual is divided into six geographical regions: South, Southwest, Midwest, East, Far West and New York City.

The six regional judges evaluated more than 4,000 entries and selected winning projects that demonstrated an ideal mix of design, communication concepts, strategy and execution. Designers and creative teams from across the U.S., representing individuals, small firms and major corporations and organizations, such as Turner-Cartoon Network Marketing and MoMA, were among the entries. Submissions were judged by Petrula Vrontikis (Far West), Dana Lytle (Midwest), Stan Church (New York City), Frank Baseman (East), Hank Richardson (South) and Doug May (South West).

All winning entries will be prominently featured in the December 2013 issue of Print magazine.

About Print
Print magazine ( is the oldest bimonthly magazine about graphic design and visual culture, showcasing extraordinary design since 1940. Print covers all aspects of the field, from publication and book design to animation and motion graphics to environmental design. Print sponsors several design competitions, such as the New Visual Artists, and offers a wide variety of products, such as design tutorials, graphic design books and online education. Visit for more information.

School of Art alums and their time with Google Creative Labs

The UT Torchbearer online magazine recently did a story on some interesting School of Art alumni. Here’s a brief overview of what they covered.

simonSchool of Art graduate (2012), Simon Sok, was hired on with the Google Creative Lab Five. It is a highly competitive paid internship, where a team of five people work together to create and innovate. According to Graphic Design professor, Sarah Lowe, Sok is the youngest person ever to be part of the team. He is almost done with his year at Google, and he is in a great position to handpick where he wants to work next.

Another SoA grad (2005), Jeff Baxter, works with Sok in the Google Creative Labs. Another 2005 graduate, Paul Schlacter, came to GCL with Baxter, but now he works atYahoo as a mobile product developer. To read the entire article from the Torchbearer, just click here: Tech Design, and Vols.

Senior in Graphic Design places in EURECA competition


Tara Sripunvoraskul, a senior in the Graphic Design area, was featured in the Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Achievement (EURECA). It was a Chinese language mobile app. Below is the abstract for the project:

“This experiment has been designed to initially explore and eventually evaluate the quality of learning experienced by students who authored learning modules for their peers vs. consuming material authored by an instructor or other primary content author.

This project uses the ARIS platform to create immersive language tutorials in Chinese and are developed by students to increase participation and engagement to bridge the gap of learning the material to be used in real-world situations The tutorials or “mods” being generated could be components to create a standalone game which will allow future students to explore the material in a traditional gaming vernacular. The mods include ways to interact with other students through sharing of photos and videos, social media aspects most students are already use too.

‘When we play a game we learn about our own patterns and out own styles through the game, and oftentimes we try on new kinds of ways of seeing the world or ways of acting in the world that I think surprise us and give us an opportunity to reflect on how we interact in life.’ (Macklin, 2012)”

Tara’s faculty advisor for this was Graphic Design professor, Cary Staples.

Professor Sarah Lowe is a Fulbright Scholar


Sarah Lowe received a Fulbright research fellowship to spend the 2012-2013 school year working as a visiting researcher within InterMedia; an interdisciplinary research center located at the University of Oslo, Norway, that studies technology usage in informal educational settings. Her research there will investigate ways that technology is used to educate and engage learners within the cultural heritage sector.

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