Grad school

An eclectic collection of work from my 2 years in the MGXD program at NCSU. None of the projects were meant to be solutions or finished products, but exist as speculations in response to wicked problems. Each  greatly shaped how I think about design today.

1st year portfolios ✧

1st year portfolios ✧

1st year portfolios ✧

1st year portfolios ✧

Death to desktop


Did you know the desktop metaphor has been largely unchanged since 1984? And the use of paper as a metaphor in UIs (as well as the mouse) has been around since 1968?

I spoke at the AIGA DEC conference, SHIFT{ed}, on a rudimentary framework for redesigning the desktop experience to be more "natural" (not needing previous, conscious exposure to understand) and less "intuitive" (a learned familiarity by exposure to previous examples) in August of 2021.

Sadly the conference was virtual, but I did get to present in front of my classmates after a semester of tweaks (as pictured). The talk was originally called Redesigning the Conventional WIMP Desktop Metaphor Through the Lens of Our Conceptual Cognitive System, and is now less confusingly named, Beyond the Desktop: Metaphoric Interaction Alternatives for Emerging AR Technology. Below, I briefly explain what that even means.

The desktop problem

What is the desktop?

A metaphorical digital desktop (trashcan, files, folders, etc.) & the WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer) interaction system (created by Xerox Parc in 1974 & popularized by Apple in 1984 - keep in mind this is decades before the web)

Why was is created?

To be a low barrier, metaphorical entry point for new computer users, which is now unnecessary for intermediate to advanced users

The problem with metaphor

Metaphors limit the interface to a set of rules specific to the target domain, limits the user by defining who the users should be (a worker for the desktop) & what the user should be doing

The problem with WIMP

It was never a natural system (if there is a such thing), but is seen as intuitive because it is easily learned and familiar to users; it's time consuming & over relies on concealing information

What are modern users doing?

Blurring between online and offline activities; once purely desktop activities are now available for use on browsers; software is delivered digitally; files are stored in the Cloud; PCs are not static workplaces

Abstract: Exploring alternative sensorimotor interactions for future systems

As tech companies continue to invest in Augmented Reality Smart Glasses (ARSG), 2D screen interface design practices will not remain sustainable for 3D field-of-view interfaces. Previous introductions of new interaction systems, such as the desktop computer, implemented concrete metaphors to represent functionality. This project explores how utilizing the user's prior knowledge of sensorimotor and cultural experiences can allow for more flexible metaphors. Specifically, the studies investigate possible gestural and oral interaction metaphors, as well as functionality metaphors, for user tasks in order to inform principles for a future ARSG system.

Mini studies


A more in-depth review of some my projects from year one can be read about in the following PDFs:

Semester One Recap

Year One Recap

Otherwise, some work with limited information is placed below.

Responsive variable text for students who stutter

The application is intended to encourage students who stutter to sing when needed. The app is connected to the device microphone (and potentially eye tracking) and can pick up when a student is stuttering. It will encourage the student to sing if the stutter continues for a few seconds. Singing has been shown to help some people who stutter in numerous studies. 

The type is meant to encourage singing through its rhythmic manipulation of a variable typeface. In a future iteration of this idea, I would create the type as a monowidth font and elongate it vertically (and potentially at a slant) instead of horizontally to keep the text uniform. This idea might make the type feel too static, but I think it is worth exploring for the sake of readability of longer text.

View code for p5 example

View code for p5 example 2

Conceptual metaphor theory visualized

We explain our complex, everyday realities by communicating in metaphors based on our experiences. Metaphor are central to our thought processes and therefore central to our thinking and reasoning.

A conceptual metaphor is understanding one domain of experience (that is typically abstract) in terms of another (that is typically concrete). E.g.:
Good is up; Bad is down
Things are looking up.
We hit a peak last year.
Things are at an all-time low.
She does high-quality work.

*Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. (1980). Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago Press.

Anti-NYT: If tech affordances & Spatial Schemas determined the text structure

Using the New York Time's as a placeholder example, I experimented with new typographic norms & structuring for screen-based interfaces that followed an anti-NYT approach and spatial image schema framework (i.e. front-back, near-far, left-right, periphery-center, up-down).

*You can enter fullscreen by double clicking the video.
  • NYT Principles
  • Anti-NYT Principles
  • Static content containers
  • Reconfiguring, non-static, non-bound content
  • Traditional type groupings / stacking
  • Non-stacked, separated content
  • General categorization / content chunking navigation
  • User chosen paths / relevance to user
  • Picked for the general / bucketed user
  • Picked by the unique user
  • Vague title as main signifier / clickbait
  • Main fact or opinion presented / No guessing from user
  • Geographically central to user (North America / New York)
  • World community centered

nsf ngss Research

I proposed the idea of convergent learning, or building upon knowledge through interlinking concepts in the science classroom, as an alternative research exploration for the NFS research team at NCSU. The example to the left focuses on converging the Rock Cycle and Volcanism, both learned in the same year, in order for students to better understand the complexity and interplay between concepts normally simplified and separated in the classroom.

Can the design of type amplify a voice?

A call to democratize type design education & support community based type design.

Watch the full video with sound on YT

Read about the concept (PDF, pg 15-16)

Dark Patterns & Cognitive Bias in Digital Political campaigns

Dark patterns are maliciously crafted interfaces that adversely influence users and their decision making abilities. When dark patterns are combined with cognitive biases, users can be subjected to manipulative tactics that they may not be aware of. Political campaigns, along with third party agencies, use data-driven marketing to target voters. The combination of user data from online platforms and voter files create micro-targeted audiences. The role of micro-targeted dark patterns  has not been researched in regard to the design of web, email, mobile apps and other platforms of official electoral campaigns. The literature review map to the right summarizes the literature and working taxonomy to date.

Read the literature review (PDF, pg. 18-19)

Scaleworlds: nfs ar research for understanding scale

Based on the work done from the Scale Worlds VR experience created by Dr. Karen Chen and her team of researchers, AR was investigated as a possible, more widely available, alternative to VR (Chen et al., 2021). The investigation sought to help users conceptualize scale worlds considerably distant from the human scale by leveraging mobile AR’s ability to enhance physical environments with abstract, digital components. (Dirin., 2018). A series of studies were conducted beginning with AR experiences specifically targeting discrimination and logical proportional reasoning cognition (Magana, 2012). These first studies placed importance on users understanding the relative size of more distant scales by using methods like ratios as an analogy between multiple entities, and not necessarily within the confines of powers of ten. The studies that followed targeted numerical proportional reasoning and mathematical reasoning (ibid). These latter studies emphasized the concept of exponential growth through the use of powers of ten and included numeric representations of each entity.

*You can enter fullscreen by double clicking the video.

Rethinking Mac Desktop conceptual framework

This research was the preliminary conceptualization for my thesis. It is a digital domain mapping framework identifying an opportunity to rethink digital abstraction through our underlying sensorimotor understandings of the world. Through that spatial patterning, we could map image schemas and conceptual metaphors to resituate the Mac as a spatial extension of the mind.

Read the framework (PDF, pg 8)

LABORATORY of Analytic Sciences: Malleable interface for INTELLIGENCE agents

A Knowledge Graph (KG) is essentially a machine-readable concept map that structures data as triplets (subject-predicate-object). KGs are usually extremely large--imagine millions of connected data points. Well known examples of KG’s are Google’s Infobox located next to search results and Wikipedia.The Laboratory of Analytic Sciences (LAS) at NC State University asked us to explore how a KG might be useful to an intelligence analyst’s job.

Watch the full video with sound on YT

In-depth look into UX process (PDF, pg 9-14)

DEmocratizing & Decolonizing museums

Museums are cultural powerhouses of Western countries that store priceless artifacts from around the world. Some of these artifacts were stolen & looted from their home culture during the colonial era to live in these museums & most have not been returned. It is not a Western museum’s place to display & keep stolen items from other countries. By doing so, museums are upholding colonial power & undermining other cultures.

This project turns the museum itself into an artifact to be viewed. Upon entering the museum, the user chooses from a list of contested museum artifact. Scrolling passes time through the artifact's life. The user can then become the artifact--viewing the differences between being a valued cultural object in its intended culture to an exotic item on a pedestal. After entering into the present, the artifact fast-forwards into a repatriated future where museums are no longer needed, an artifact of the past.

In-depth look into UX process (PDF, pg 2-6)



Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to work as a Design Instructor at NCSU's Digital Design Camp, a Teaching Assistant at NCSU, and speak as a Guest Lecturer at StudentU, Winthrop University, and NCSU.

Below are lectures and workshops I've given (some of which I go into more detail below):

  • Traditional Bookbinding Techniques
    - NCSU Intro to Type
  • Beyond UI Expectations
    - NCSU Intro to Branding
  • Type Manipulation Techniques
    - NCSU Intermediate Typography
  • Digital Privacy & Surveillance Workshop
    - NCSU Emerging Tech
  • Emojis: A Post-Alphabet Future Workshop
    - NCSU Intro to Branding
  • How to Visualize an Idea
    - StudentU High School Art + Design
  • Type in the Post-Classroom World
    - Winthrop University Intro to Type
  • Very Corporate Branding Terminology
    - NCSU Intro to Branding

Postcards: Design Histories from our Hometowns

I assisted the uber talented Tasheka Arceneaux-Sutton with her senior level identity class. The students were given a semester long side project to research the design histories of their hometowns and put the information together into a collaborative zine. It was an intense exercise in researching, storytelling, and synthesizing information over hundreds of years, with each student condensing the information down to 3 pages of writing and graphics. The students discovered a patchwork of unique and relatively unknown histories from around the world and in their backyard.

Emoji Workshop

After giving a talk on the history, implications and cultural differences of emojis (breaking down the dual-script, phatic language which is quite interesting to all my linguist and type nerds out there), I lead a workshop on creating new emojis that both adhered to or went against the Unicode guidelines.

Each student was charged with creating:
  • An emoji that combines 2 existing emojis (ex: sad cowboy) 
  • A new emoji that is really needed (and can’t be conveyed using a sequence like 🗑️🔥 for garbage fire)
  • A rejected emoji with justification

NCSU Design Camp: Modularity & information Graphics

I co-taught (with the amazing Ashley Anderson) a graphic design summer camp for high school students interested in studying design at the college level. Over the course, students gathered information on any subject that interested them and learned the ins and outs of creating an infographic by synthesizing data. As a fun side project, we also delved into the basic principles of type design with modular type. For many students, this camp was there first exposure to learning design, so the format and requirements were quite loose with more focus placed on the concepts.
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