Let’s talk about design


Meghan Krein

iA little over two years ago, Punya Mishra, professor and associate dean of scholarship and innovation, gave his students an assignment in his class, Education by Design. An intimate group of seven graduate students took on the project in full swing. 

A year later that assignment lives on as the website, Talking about design

This fall, the team hosted a virtual one-year birthday party. The hour was celebrated with hat making, haiku writing, design fails, design wins and drawing education spaces — over lunch. "We've had an extremely successful year of communicating research on education and design to educators and designers across the world,” says Kevin Close, graduate research assistant. 

Talking about design is just that. The team explores all kinds of design: designs of tangible things but also intangible things, of stuff you can see and touch, but also stuff you can only imagine. Their ideas are anchored in education, reflecting the backgrounds of educational practitioners and researchers. The work is guided by a broader framework that sees five spaces for design in education, from concrete artifacts to processes and experiences up to broader ideas of systems and culture. On a higher level, the website explores the diversity and relationships of designed things.

Close says, initially, the project started as a book. The students wanted their work to be easily accessible to the public. They interviewed: ASU President Michael M. Crow about his design for the university’s culture; escape room designers about the room designs; and educators about the design of education systems. 

Through the creative process, the genesis of the project shifted. “We realized that this topic would be better served in an interactive space,” Close says. And thus, the website was born.

Since that time, the design team has written 46 blog posts, hosted five speakers, given four academic presentations, received two small grants and published two articles. “This class project blossomed into a biweekly meeting of like-minded scholars trying to find innovative ways to share our work and start conversations,” says Close.

Nothing is without its challenges, of course. The main hurdle, Close says, is that each member of the team is working on various other projects. “Trying to push through articles for the website, on a tight schedule, can be difficult.” In an effort to overcome this challenge, the group keeps regular meetings with agendas that focus on feedback, encouragement and brainstorming. 

Their latest conception is Design Salons, in which they invite educational guest speakers to talk about their area of expertise. The salons are offered over YouTube and have featured guests from around the country, ranging from PhD students to classroom teachers. “All of our guests are interested in education, design and creativity, and have helped propel this project forward,” says Close. 

Meet the team.

Read more about the project.