Design Research + Teaching + Practice
As a designer, researcher, and educator I am passionate about the potential of design to serve those who are marginalized, vulnerable, or under-represented. I’ve designed interfaces to support humanities scholars in their work; to connect breast cancer survivors; to help protect wildlife in provincial parks; to support factory managers in their decision making; and to challenge marginalizing practices in the oil sands. I’ve volunteered design services with numerous not-for-profit organizations, including UNICEF, John Humphrey Centre for Human Rights and Freedoms, Nova Scotia Palliative Care Association, and the Nova Scotia Heart & Stroke Foundation. Over the past decade, I’ve run a small design agency that focuses on interface and interaction design, information design, and data visualization.
I am a strong advocate of self-actualization and believe that, in the words of one of our nation’s heroes, “it’s a good life if you don’t weaken.”
In my academic practice, my efforts are currently focused in the following 3 areas:
1. Data Design Research
What happens to our perception of the self and our agency when we are turned into data? What are the personal, social, and ethical consequences of aggregating and abstracting people, environments, communities, or experiences into data; How can we mitigate or avoid altogether the negative consequences while preserving or strengthening the positive ones? How does the use of physical materials as representations of data impact users’ sense of a collection and what it can, will, or should be used for? MORE…
2. Intersectional Feminist Design Research
What does a decolonized design curriculum look like? What would a design community accountability mechanism that invites ongoing commitment to transformative, anti-oppressive design look like? How does feminism operate in public spaces through the lens of performative social media interventions; how can it? MORE…
What are the ways we can leverage the history of experience design in corporate settings to reconceptualize and re-situate these practices towards design for social good? What does a design curriculum that’s aimed at restorative justice instead of economic sustainability look like? If wicked designs are, by their very definitions, unsolvable, how do we know we’ve made a difference? MORE…
I am a designer in everything I do and look at problems as opportunities to “[devise a] course of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones.”Since 2005 I’ve collaborated on over 25 interdisciplinary design research projects, four of those had budgets in the millions, extending over longer periods (anywhere from two to seven years). I am a co-author on Visual Interface Design for Digital Cultural Heritage(Routledge Publishing, 2011), and two upcoming books, Design +DHand Prototyping Across the Disciplines(Intellect Books, 2019).
Alongside my research practice, I’ve embraced my role as an educator at Mount Royal. MRU has been the perfect home for me: we pride ourselves on small class sizes, on-going instructor development, and a focus on teaching excellence. I believe that the undergraduate experience is essential in establishing good intellectual and professional practices and, for over 15 years, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to teach students just entering these domains.
Downey, Gord. “It’s a Good Life if you Don’t Weaken.” The Tragically Hip. In Violet Light, 2002.
Simon, Herbert. The Sciences of the Artificial. 3d ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1996. Print.