Art & Design

Current Student Research

Muhammad Ali Butt

MDes candidate in Visual Communication Design
Email: mbutt1@ualberta.ca

The fodder that a creative’s mind feeds upon is very much a result of their surroundings, but to what extent? How far do circumstances drive the mind’s creative production? Is a person riddled with hindrances all the more productive because of them? Would a very happy person be less creative because he may not have as strong an incentive? These are questions that I seek answers to.
Growing up in Pakistan is an experience that gives a constant feeling of being under a watchful eye, making one learn to be ‘careful’, and never project what is outside of the social construct. This, however, also piques the observant side in a person, as it did with me.
Being in an alert state of mind, I began to notice the people around myself in a new light. Seeing injustice bothers me greatly, and the streets of my country have proven there is a lot to bother about. This closed mindedness of society has been my trigger for some time. I have realized that a lot of my work stems from this inability to express myself openly. So, I tend to channel out some of these emotions through my work, and the question I become faced with is that when does the possibility of these distresses lessen, and what role could I play in that?
Here is where I feel foreign academic training could really help me because, having been taught by some faculty members with foreign degrees, I noticed that their way of teaching and understanding design was very different than anything I had experienced previously. Since then, I have a wish to gain a similar level of insight into design, by making the most use of a foreign qualification, studying among students and teachers from all sorts of diverse backgrounds and intellects, and learning and practicing design through a new, fresh perspective.
The Master of Visual Communication Design course in the University of Alberta’s postgraduate programs seems to be designed keeping the global shifts and trends of design in mind, which is a great plus point, and this being a degree that would be recognized globally, make applying here a sensible decision. The two year duration of the program, coupled with the industry knowledge and experience that I have collected over the past two years of my working as a professional, should help me become more centered to my work.
Canada, being a completely new terrain for me, provides me with a host of learning possibilities and opportunities. In the way that I have observed injustices and limitations in my own society, it will be intriguing to explore and find out what my interest would latch onto in a more accepting environment, and how I would design my work around it. The sort of characteristics I would notice in a society that is known to be a peaceful, polite, and tolerant, and how my creative instinct gets affected by this culture shock, where every person is free to express themselves and live as they wish to, will be an enlightening experience.
But the most important thing to wonder is how this experience could potentially change me as a person. Would I become ignorant to the issues that plagued me back home if my own issues were resolved, culminating into a personal strife, or will it make me more resistant, tougher and confident enough to become part of the select few who are trying to change the rhetoric.

Anna Chakravorty

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

Through attention to the minutest of detail, functionality is what I strive for. In my journey as a visual designer, I’ve always sought to (re)evaluate and assimilate concepts thereby, reinforcing my understanding of ‘good’ design. After graduating from NIFT, India, I worked as user interface and experience designer for two years which made me realise my inclination towards digital mediums. My motivation for pursuing a master’s degree is I want to explore the confluence of culture with design and technology. Rapid advancement without moral accountability has led to the demise of local communities (and culture), gradually wiping out indigenous arts and crafts and hence I feel it is upon us to initiate an appropriate effort for the preservation and promotion of such intricate knowledge. My idea is to explore how digital mediums can be used as an effective way of communication for promoting tourism and culture. In conclusion, a structured program that lays down the fundamentals of design and the applicability of them in this fast-changing landscape is what draws me to this course. Bringing design to the forefront of innovation and keeping myself updated with the changes around, under the mentorship of the faculty will certainly provide me with the skill set needed to implement my ideas, ones that are not only limited to functional design but those that are sustainable, both economically and socially.

Daniel Hanks

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

I’m a tinkerer who dreams of working in a shop lined with drawers, all containing unique parts and materials. I have experience with using design thinking to help international development agencies. From 2012 to 2015, I lived in Africa while working for the Peace Corps and a USAID funded organization. The 30 million dollar project’s goal was to improve literacy instruction in community schools serving underprivileged children. Over a period of three years, the project trained teachers from over 2,200 schools in Zambia. With colleagues, I went to remote reaches of the country training
teachers via video tutorials that we created and installed on cellphones. We also created and piloted an app to teach reading fundamentals to children in their local language. My goal is to continue providing solutions in the field of international development. I look forward to researching methods for low input food production with the potential to provide food security in developing countries.

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.

Dongjun Li

MDes candidate in Industrial Design
Email: dongjun4@ualberta.ca

During the undergraduate period, I learned so much from various courses, some of which aroused my passion towards design, and some of which improved my professional quality. With more and more in-depth study, I gradually changed my understanding about industrial design. I realized that designers not only solved the pains, but also delivered the attitude of share. I used to superficially think that industrial designers are to solve problems so that I spent most time to solve problems in life. However, it is more important to find out the real problem after going deep into the industry. In most cases, we could not really solve problems, what we can do is to arouse people's attention to the problem or improve their enthusiasm on this problem. I truly believe design is to deliver our attitudes, so as to change people's way of life. Nevertheless, the most of design methods I have learned still considers the design from perspective in visceral level and behaviour level, instead of creating more positive and pleasant reflection level. Facing with such reality, I resolutely and determinedly decide to pursue a master’s degree, in order to gather more knowledge and experience. My research interests are building the cohort of working with people from different background. Designers may face with bigger challenge, because the elements of design are more diverse while the demands of the market are vaguer. I think there exists some gaps between design, business, and technology, leading to failure. An interdisciplinary team can be helped to extend thinking. Knowledge can be gained in all-round perspective with people from different backgrounds. I want be an interdisciplinary designer to stand at the frontier of design. University of Alberta has excellent interdisciplinary design resources, with which I can cooperate with people having the background in different subjects. Then I can propose more conceptual design views in the field of forward-looking concepts of industrial design based on more design experiments. I believe studying here with my above abilities will be beneficial to both my personal and academic growth.

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.

Chandni Luhadiya

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

Response to stimuli - a natural instinct found in all living beings, forms the cornerstone of our conduct and lifestyle. This is the nucleus of all my designs. The design space is constantly changing and I want to respond to that change by reinforcing human-environment interaction at the rudimentary level.
Intrigued by the idea of how a well designed space can transform human life, I pursued Interior design for my bachelors degree. Later, I graduated with an advanced diploma in design to foster my design acumen. I learned how a space is crafted according to the requirements of an individual, and worked on a multitude of residential and commercial design projects. Following my post graduation, I interned at one of the premier design institutes in India, Industrial Design Centre (IDC) at IIT Bombay, where I worked on furniture design projects.
I have more than 3 years of professional experience in the field of Interior, furniture, and graphic design. After understanding the practical aspects of design in last 3 years, I am driven to solve design problems ergonomically at fundamental level. I believe in developing personalized and unique furniture designs which provide a diverse experience to the users and are interactive at the same time.
Efficiently designed furniture can offer modularity and multi-functionality through sustainable development. This demands extensive research & University of Alberta’s historic setting, flawlessly structured curriculum and comprehensive research environment would accentuate my design prowess.
I am certain that interdisciplinary approaches and guidance of eminent supervisors at University of Alberta will establish a strong platform for me to enter the professional world of industrial design & would act as a positive augmentation for all my future endeavors in this field.

Raheel Malkan

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

Data requires to be complex and extensive but the process of its comprehension does not. Information is so omnipresent and easily available to us today, we no longer are concerned about its accessibility. Our need rather has evolved to seek increased comprehension of any information in a short span of time. Visualizing data sets, rich with meaning and nuance has helped me address this need beautifully.
My work stems at the intersection of Data & Design. How does one re-create a tangible narrative derived out of the complexities of maps, graphs, tables and the like? In my sophomore year of undergraduate studies an installation I built for the Mathematics of Planet Earth, visualized the exponential spread of the epidemic SARS from China to the rest of the world. The structure built of glass, string and light accurately mapped the exact number of cases in all affected countries.
Data sets can be overwhelming however when re-imagined in a visual / tangible form, can reveal narratives that the reader would have missed otherwise. My interest lies in the creation of these visual narratives and in the process to expose myself to a new piece of information, idea, story with each passing project.

Elnaz Aliasl Mamaghani

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

In high school, I was enthusiastic about solving geometry problems in my spare time finding smart and simple solutions. This was where I discovered the joy of innovation. Later, I studied architecture in university and learned how to cultivate a creative mind for design. I began to work on different interior design projects ranging from renovating to creating a totally new place guided by the needs of the user. For me, the main purpose of pursuing a higher education is to combine my architectural knowledge with Industrial Design. The area which really attracts me is Feminism in Design. As a woman, I have witnessed numerous societal issues that women face in their daily lives, due to the limited presence of feminism in Industrial Design. Moreover, women suffer from the persistent gap between what they are offered and what they want. I am eager to have more research experience in this field in order to help women in my country, Iran, to feel comfortable and confident and to participate fully in society with strong, clear voices.

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.

Azadeh Mokhberi

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

Designing something out of anything is my passion all my life. Since I was a child, working with my hands make my ideas tangible; by making graphic design, painting, model making, sewing, Puppetry and storytelling.
I did my bachelor in computer engineering, and with a great passion in art, I graduated my Master degree in Industrial design.
I have experiences as a service designer, and art manager in several projects. I have gained a good knowledge as well as skills in traditional Persian pottery making, and later became a school teacher to propagate those techniques. I have also voluntary worked in charities related to disabilities and cancer. Such experiences have enriched my attitudes, and helped me to put my heart and soul to design for vulnerable groups, and to improve their lives via better interaction with new technological advancements.
Now, I strongly persist to gain higher level of knowledge and experiences in this field. I am eager to focus in user research, user experiences studies, interaction and communication design ones. My strong motivation is to study an interdisciplinary program in design, in an international context focusing on new challenges. I am determined to focus in Humanistic aspects of design, because design can improve, facilitate and make new technologies more pleasurable for people with special needs. As an example, aging population across the world requires serious efforts and careful attention to design services compatible with their needs, with focus on independence in order to improve safety, security, and welfare as well as facilitate distance care. Communications in healthcare systems is also one of my research interests.

Elaheh Alizadeh Rabiei

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

I have been collaborating with different organizations and companies as an industrial and graphic designer for 10 years. Studying graphic design at fine arts school and moving to industrial design at the university have laid the ground for me to be more experienced and understanding of individuals and their concerns and desires in the everyday life. On the other hand, the problems the world encounters with health care, environment and social interactions have triggered me to pursue my academic goal further and never stop learning new things. In my Bachelor of Art thesis, I gave solutions to enhance the moving process, based on human-centered design by personal observations, conducting surveys on ergonomic principles based on OWAS system, interviewing with owners and the companies all over the country of Iran. The final concept turned into a product which could improve the process of moving with the least danger to the operator and to related items. Along with my academic studies, I started to work as an industrial designer in several companies with different fields, "stationary, Furniture, Electronic and food industry". Working on design field was a remarkable opportunity for me to expand my knowledge and experience on my environment. I always wanted to become a part of a skillful and professional team in higher educational level to improve my studies and my experiences in design field. In order to solve and alleviate environmental, social, medical and economic issues, I must be more qualified and skilled in industrial design and have more research experience on these fields. This is why I have applied to University of Alberta, Department of design, where I believe by working under supervision of its great professors and distinguished faculty members, I can achieve my academic and career objectives. In addition, I am so determined to pursue my graduate studies in a school with strong business objectives, which provides a situation for students to experience real projects and prepares a critical occasion by working under supervision of real companies. Alberta, by considering global development and upcoming needs and issues and demand for innovation, provides a unique opportunity for graduate students to collaborate in multidisciplinary design team on real world project. As a result it will fuel my journey towards success as I will add this amazing experience to my professional and personal life. I am deeply enthusiastic about doing research on fields of Medical Design, Sustainable Design and Interaction Design.

Reyhaneh Alizadeh Rabiei

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

I have been studying design for more than twelve years. I have majored in Industrial design at the university and have studied graphic design in high-school. When I was going to choose my university major I had already been in many graphical design projects due to my high school major and for that reason I wanted something more out of design, something with a physical actual representation in people's lives that can leave a footprint on their lifestyle. Furthermore, I wanted to play a more active role in solving environmental problems such as all kinds of pollution, public health, deforestation and last but not least, resource depletion, which threaten human existence and ecosystem balance; and I chose industrial design. I wrote my Bachelor of Art thesis on ways of improving and designing a pediatric dental units; the research focused on medical and human-centered design factors and ergonomic principles by personal observation, conducting surveys, collecting papers and reviewing literature on the subject. The result was a concept product that could improve the experience for children and help dentists with a smoother dental procedure. Along with my academic studies, I started working for a foreign language institute as a senior graphic designer and a member of their Research and development group. During the time, I was given the opportunity to design four series of educational books that could meet industry standards especially since American and British publications already dominate the market and students have gotten used to global standards in this subject. In the course of designing the books, I did a wide research on international publications and employed presentation, visual communication and storytelling skills that I had learned during my high school majoring in graphic design, and applied interaction design principles to the layout of the books. We achieved a positive result, which affected students’ and teachers’ relationship with books and increased student’s understanding of subjects. Studying and working on two general fields of design for almost twelve years and winning two national awards for my illustrations in graphic design field, I want to further fulfill my dream by becoming a part of a more advanced and comprehensive educational program in higher academic levels. That is the reason, I am pursuing to have an outstanding graduate education to continue with my studies and to broaden my knowledge and experience in Design field. I am specifically interested in doing research and working on Medical Design, Human-Centered Design, Interaction Design and Sustainable Design fields.

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.

E. Jessamyn Van Horn

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

While I have been an artist since I was a child, I spent my undergraduate and early professional years in Business Management. However, the call of art and design is strong and I kept feeling a desire to return to it. My career took some twists and turns in my journey back to design. I entered the healthcare industry when I became a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator and then eventually was able to parlay that knowledge into a job with a construction company that was a subsidiary of the healthcare company I worked for. Through this construction position, I have been able to not only continue to utilize my management skills, but also to stretch my creative wings again by exploring the concepts of design and function of interior spaces and furniture design for nursing homes. Our focus is on the residents and staff who live and work in these spaces and who utilize our furniture products. This strange and twisted career path has spurned a curiosity about the interaction between interior spaces, specifically small spaces, and the products that we need and use within them. Additionally, there is the challenge of how those spaces and products have to change and adapt when the user has health, mobility, or aging issues. My goal in this master’s program is to explore the concept of interior design and small space living and to integrate the challenges of health/aging to discover new solutions for people with these issues.

Yiwen Zhou

MDes candidate in Visual Communication Design
Email: yiwen1@ualberta.ca

As a designer, I believe that the design process, bridging gaps between people and virtually everything around them, should involve creating and presenting textures, because texture helps design practices and their final outcomes appeal to multiple senses, such as tactility, vision, and smell. In addition, as a visual communication designer, my belief is that the aesthetic aspect should receive the same amount of attention as the information a design piece conveys. I appreciate the eye-catching features of a design work, which can draw viewers’ attention at the first glance and then inspire further interests. Pursuing my visions has led me to apply traditional art media such as watercolour, ink, charcoal, painting and printmaking, to my previous projects I did during my undergraduate study in the University of Alberta, rather than only relying on working digitally. From those touchable processes and the qualities I embrace by applying the actual traditional art media, I see a quality of steadiness in such traditional mediums. However, during the age of network information explosion, this sense of steadiness remaining in the traditional print publications seems much more precious. Therefore, in my graduate study, I will focus on book design: how can the roles and formats of book design positively influence and preserve the lastingness of print publications. From here, by researching, analyzing, creating, and summarizing the information about the current situations of print publications, I hope to support tangible book design products. As well as, I firmly believe that book design can be valued more as a significant component composing a positive prospect for print publications.