Art & Design

Current Student Research

Bahaa Harmouche

MDES candidate in Visual Communication Design
Email: harmouch@ualberta.ca

After 13 years working in the advertising industry on commercial and social issues and understanding the value of visual communication, it disturbs me to see an increasing number of AIDS related deaths in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Knowing the power of media (films, TV productions, diverse print and digital communications), it is frustrating to witness the marginalization and discrimination of HIV-infected people in the 21st century in the MENA region. HIV is still represented in diverse media by sad visual expressions that depict AIDS as a deadly disease. In my Master’s study, I hope to research questions that open a discourse on diverse socio-cultural matters such as the following: How has HIV/AIDS been visually represented in MENA cultures? Are these representations homogeneous across countries, classes, religions, age and sexual orientation? To what extend do such representations demonize, stereotype or foster a degree of discrimination against people living with AIDS? I feel confident that the M.Des. in Visual Communication program offered by the University oh Alberta will enhance my theoretical and research background, especially in socio-cultural issues that are close to my heart.

Travis Holmes

MDES candidate in Visual Communication Design
Email: tholmes1@ualberta.ca

I am currently focused on my development as a designer and creative thinker. My research interests are currently with independent publishing. It’s basically what drew me into design in the first place. The question I have been wondering lately is, how do zines, or independent print publications, grow and evolve into the digital platform. What is possible and how can they change? Print publication has its obvious limitations, which aren’t bad, but there are more options for the user to experience with the sharing of story and knowledge through digital outlets. I’m very interested in the user‘s experience. Zines are typically produced on small budgets. I’m interested in limitations of production cost of digital design. I would like to find the essence of the zine and use it to move tastefully from analog to digital. I am curious about the concept of “surprise.” I hope my research can uncover something unique.

Sarah Jackson

MDes candidate in Visual Communication Design
Email: smjackso@ualberta.ca

I have spent the past 12 years working as a designer, illustrator and art director. I am also an active feminist performance artist, through which I have taken part in various initiatives and experiments, such as participating in a “temporary placemaking/pop-up urbanism” project through Make Something Edmonton and City of Edmonton's CITYlab. My design work has won Distinction and Gold ACE Awards, Redgee Design Awards and I have been featured in Avenue magazine, Alberta Venture and Design Edge magazine.

Broadly, my research interests centre around communication design, art, media and gender. More specifically, I am interested in the analyses of female identity and the performance of gender.

I am planning on focusing my thesis research on female-owned spaces of performance art where gender is actively questioned and explored, particularly in the sphere of entertainment culture, such as with new burlesque. The relationship between performance art and female identity is complicated and politically charged — particularly in new burlesque, which pulls from both historic and pop culture references of the feminine, purposefully combining elements of beauty and the grotesque, pleasure and discomfort. This is an intimate discussion with a live audience that pulls on the tools of pleasure, humour, and live performance in an era where spatially distant, solitary and pre-recorded digital access are becoming the norm. I see new burlesque as a critical and uniquely positioned female art form that provides a space for performers and audiences to explore identity and the performance of gender.

The questions I am curious about exploring include: what does live performance art mean in a digital media era? What pleasurable, physical experiences are we lacking in our modern-day human interactions and what can these experiences offer us? What do female-owned spaces like new burlesque say about the current cultural experience of female identity?

Derek Jagodzinsky

MDes candidate in Industrial Design
Email: derekj@ualberta.ca

After Graduating with a Bachelor of Design degree from the University of Alberta in 2010, I launched my fashion label LUXX ready to wear that focuses on Modern Native design. As an Aboriginal designer, I feel a strong need to use my art to reflect upon, and generate discussion of, critical social issues as well as cultural phenomena. I fuse tradition with modernism, illustrating how far the North has come in the world. Fashion is a highly influential medium, and communicates at a very intimate level. It is a form visual of communication that we use every day. In my Industrial Design studies I will be focusing on Modern native design that will infuse tradition and technology.

I am currently focused on my development as a designer and creative thinker. My research interests are currently with independent publishing. It’s basically what drew me into design in the first place. The question I have been wondering lately is, how do zines, or independent print publications, grow and evolve into the digital platform. What is possible and how can they change? Print publication has its obvious limitations, which aren’t bad, but there are more options for the user to experience with the sharing of story and knowledge through digital outlets. I’m very interested in the user‘s experience. Zines are typically produced on small budgets. I’m interested in limitations of production cost of digital design. I would like to find the essence of the zine and use it to move tastefully from analog to digital. I am curious about the concept of “surprise.” I hope my research can uncover something unique.

Devaki Joshi

MDes candidate in Visual Communication Design
Email: devakiaj@ualberta.ca

My passion and study of creative art forms like music, dance and drawing drove me to choose design school for my undergraduate studies. While working on projects based on Illustrations, Information Design, Publication Design, Map Design and Identity Design, I attended Typography, User Experience Design, Design Management and Color Theory workshops held during the course and what I have learned has enhanced my skills. My final year project 'History Textbook Redesign' which was based on Information Design, allowed me to explore different areas like Information Graphics, Publication Design, Map Design, Illustrations and Icon Design. The solution is based on extensive research.

During my professional tenure in Companies like Infotools, Velocita Brand Consultants and Onio Design I handled projects like space design, book design, identity design and visual language for the brand and several more projects on Information Design. They made me realize the relationship between different design fields. Similarly, I was also exposed to the field of design research. My contribution for some ‘Research Projects' developed my interest in Ethnographic Research Interaction design, User Experience Design and information design goes hand in hand.

I look forward to the opportunity to expand my horizons in the fast-paced and diverse environment of the University of Alberta, Art & Design Department. Additionally, I will also be able to share my experience and knowledge and learn from others experience. I strongly feel that the interdisciplinary approach that this university has to offer will contribute to my knowledge of Design.

Xin Lou

MDes candidate in Industrial Design
Email: xlou@ualberta.ca

I have come to a deep understanding of industrial design and I love to study it in University. I participated in actual design works actively to enhance my professional level. The reason I decided to pursue my study after graduation is that there are far more things waiting for me to explore. I have become fully aware that industrial design has been playing an increasingly significant role in meeting the needs of humans in our daily life. I am determined to engage in designing more ergonomically and intelligent products with high technology. I want to explore interdisciplinary emerging design issues, such as global warming, human health, energy shortage and intelligence. I believe that many of these problems could be solved by the combination of industrial design and technology. The University of Alberta offers me an opportunity to turn idealizations into future realities. The U of A's professional interdisciplinary design teaching, abundant resources and International learning environment will deepen my understanding of creative thinking, design theory and practice.

Michiko Maruyama

MDes candidate in Industrial Design
Email: maruyama@ualberta.ca

I am half Japanese and half Irish, a unique combination, which I call “Jirish”. In 2008, I graduated with distinction from the University of Alberta’s Industrial Design Bachelor Degree Program, Engineering Route. As an industrial designer, I found my niche in toy design and children’s furniture. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer requiring surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Inspired by everything that I saw and experienced as a patient, I switched from toy design to medical design. My interest in medicine continued to grow and with the encouragement of my mentor, Dr. Shaun Robinson, I pursued a career in medicine. In 2010, I was accepted into medical school at the University of British Columbia, Northern Medical Program.

I am now in my second year of cardiac surgery residency at the University of Alberta. Despite the long hours in the operating room, overnight call shifts and training to be an open heart surgeon, I still find time to explore art and design. I am interested in medical design including surgical equipment, prosthetics, products and tools. My second area of interest includes medical education and looking at creative methods to assist the transfer of knowledge - from toy design for pediatric patients to simulation models for surgical residents.

My goal is to integrate my background in art and design with my medical career to create creative solutions and to advance the medical field. I look forward to working towards this goal during my Master of Design education.

Mischa Patel

MDES candidate in Visual Communication Design
Email: bhumycka@ualberta.ca

During the course of my undergraduate degree in design from the University of Hertfordshire (UK), I found myself increasingly interested in the intersections between various design spheres. Instead of working in a commercial design studio, I would like to find my footing in related aspects of communication, such as ethnographic visual culture and digital inclusivity. I am certain that the program at the University of Alberta is especially suited to my aims from graduate studies, in that it affords me the opportunity locate specific research interests within the discipline. As an international student, I expect to learn a great deal from exposure to unfamiliar lifestyles and world views different from those I have grown up with. Particularly interesting for me now, is to observe how cultural collisions in an ethnographically diverse nation might affect its design language, or perhaps, pose challenges to it. By incorporating the arts, crafts and folklore of local groups within my own practice, I want to bring their story to an audience that would otherwise be unaware of the beauty and mysticism of their traditions. I would like also to investigate methods through which design could be used as a responsive tool to integrate new technologies in culturally viable projects. My ultimate aim will be to concretize my own methodology around the dissolution of cultural compartments, and share with new audiences my experiences as a design thinker.

Zohreh Valiary

MDes candidate in Visual Communication Design
Email: valiarye@ualberta.ca

I conducted a comprehensive study in Arts ranging from music and literature to visual arts to prepare for the university entrance exam for a degree in Graphic Design—the first step on my path to pursue a career in design.

Graphic Design quickly became my passion. Publication Design, Calligraphy, and Typography became my firm favorites at school, so I started taking Calligraphy and continued this class to the highest level. Moreover, I attended drawing clubs in order to improve my drawing skill, as I believe drawing is essential for any graphic designer since it is the basis of all visual arts. To accomplish my bachelor degree, I designed and illustrated book covers for Milan Kundera's famous novels. Simultaneously, I prepared myself for the graduate studies in Painting.

To fulfill the requirements of my master's degree, I painted a series illustrating the difficulties of women in my society as a practical project. I also made an exploration in traditional miniatures of Iran for my thesis. I used the skills I previously learned in graphic design to clarify the message of my paintings, and from this I learned how fine art and graphic design skills complement and build on each other.

I planned to pursue a Masters in Visual Communication Design because I wanted to transform the artistic knowledge I possess into international language and break through the barriers imposed on me in my previous education. In addition, my interest in Typography means I want to learn about it for other languages than my own. I am passionate about Publication Design, and I want to expand my knowledge of the research and theories in this area, and put this knowledge into practice in my work.

Carson Wronko

MDes candidate in Industrial Design
Email: wronko@ualberta.ca

I have become interested in taking natural materials to their basics, then through a playful process of examining and extending the nature of their materiality, form, structure and scale. Conceptually, I isolate the objects to its bare function with a formal minimalistic mentality then introduce fine woodworking skills of joinery to visually and structurally enhance the object. The process of woodworking has informed many of my decisions when designing. Wood is a complex and wonderful material; it offers a sense of warmth, patina and familiarity. But knowing its limitations is fundamental to a successful product, in terms of its suitability for production longevity.

Siyi Xie

MDes candidate in Industrial Design
Email: sx3@ualberta.ca

Design attracts me as a vivacious and adventurous world attracts an inquisitive child. My internship in an architectural design company enabled me to gain practical experience in commercial design while I was studying in China. I decided to pursue my study after graduation, because there are far more things waiting for exploration. My main research focus on improving the sustainability of products and the humanization of user experience, include guiding sign design, health care products design and daily products design. I am willing to take different kinds of challenges by using design research methods involving new knowledge. It is designers’ duty to chase every possibility and to push the limits.The University of Alberta offers me an opportunity to continue my study, to train design thinking and to improve innovation ability. This is a progress of enhancing abilities in turning idealizations into realizable future. Designers should never stop absorbing others as well as self-examination. I hope to deepen my understanding of design by interdisciplinary approach, and I believe my experience in the U of A will contribute to my design theory.