Posts tagged university of cincinnati
Screens of Good

Screens of Good University of Cincinnati DAAP 2018

If you had three days to work on a project with senior design students what would you do? That was the question asked of me by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville design program. The first thing I thought of was an episode of 99 Percent Invisible where an ingenuitive Los Angeleno designed and installed a new exit sign on an LA freeway so that he and others would no longer miss their off ramp. Out of that inspiration “Signs of Good” came to life. Signs of Good was a three-day design blitz with the goal of installing temporary signage around the university to create a more pleasing campus experiences (like the freeway sign). Below is an example of one of the resulting projects. It’s a texting lane so that students wouldn’t run into each other while walking across campus.

Texting Lane at University of Tennessee.

Texting Lane at University of Tennessee.

Fast forward to 2017. I had to come up with an assignment to conclude a user-centered design course at University of Cincinnati, DAAP. This time I was an adjunct professor. Rather than design "Signs" of Good, I decided with my TAs that the students would work toward "Screens" of Good.

The assignment was introduced with a quote from an interview with Tony Fadell, the inventor of Nest, and one of the designers of the iPhone. “I wake up in cold sweats thinking, what did we bring to the world?” Fadell shares his concern over the negative consequences of new technologies like the iPhone. He points out the fact that most new technologies are designed by men in their 20s without kids. They aren’t developing products with anyone else in mind but themselves. Fadell ends the interview with a question. How do we fix the technology? And that’s the question Screens of Good asks of the students.

Executing a user-centered process, the class was tasked with generating humble solutions to the gigantic problem articulated by Fadell. The students (split up into teams) had to demonstrate skills in user research and evaluative research. In a nutshell, they had to interview and survey users, design and build a paper prototype based on that research (use of the computer was discouraged), and evaluate the prototype for feedback that would make it better. In theory, their idea and design should get better the more it was filtered through the user-centered process.

Minimal app concept with only four options.

Minimal app concept with only four options.

The results? Here are a few examples from different stages of the assignment as reported from several different teams. Each are from the fall 2018 semester. It was my second semester giving the assignment. The final deliverable was a entry highlighting their design process from start to finish. Click here to read one of the more excellent essays.

Survey results to questions related to behavioral patterns connected to phone usage

An Affinity Diagram used to form insights from the research gathered.

Anticipated user experience sequence.

Evaluative testing of a paper prototype.

Paper prototype of a scavenger hunt app for children.

Paper prototype of a scavenger hunt app for children.

.This app reminds you when you haven’t heard or reached out to a friend in awhile.

If you'd like to learn more about Screens of Good or Signs of Good, please contact me at or

September Recap
Branch (Restaurant) & Night Drop (Basement Bar) Logos.

Branch (Restaurant) & Night Drop (Basement Bar) Logos.

Branch & Night Drop

Over the last several months I’ve been working with The Littlefield Group on the brand identity design of their latest venture, Branch & Night Drop. Branch is a beautiful, naturally lit, restaurant and Night Drop is the dark, basement level, bar below it. They're housed within the old bank building (formerly Central Trust) in Cincinnati’s historic East Walnut Hills neighborhood (next to O-Pi-O). Branch & Night Drop will serve up unexpected combinations of food, drinks, and art. Their doors are scheduled for this winter (2018). Sign up to be the first to know when at their site. And, also be sure to check out the window mural by Jon Flannery and Julia Lapowski of owls on a branch next time you drive/walk by the bank.

Examples of Assignment One - User-Centered Design.

Examples of Assignment One - User-Centered Design.

User-Centered Designer

As the first assignment for my User-Centered Design class, I had the students write about a professional designer who practices User-Centered Design in some shape or fashion. As a requirement, the students had to interview the professional designer or a person who has used or experienced the output of their work. I most enjoyed reading their takeaways from the assignment. Often, students shared how it was valuable to see how practicing professionals actually utilize the methods and tools learned in class. I pulled some of my favorite essays and used them in a lecture on modern day UCD practitioners. I’d notice a big smile in the crowd each time a student realized that the person I was presenting was the person they wrote about. Teaching continues to bring me joy, especially in the little moments like that.

Want to be a good design? Read.

Want to be a good design? Read.

What are we reading?

I’ve been reading the Man The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks and The Gift by Lewis Hyde. Both at a snails pace. The Man Who Mistook HIs Wife For A Hat is an entertaining, highly readable, look into what it might be like to lose different physical and sensory abilities. The Gift is an anthropological deep dive into gift giving and receiving. The book’s written specifically for creative people who make things and share them with the world (like designers). As someone who hopes to become more generous and less scarcity driven, it’s been enlightening and encouraging. 

Here’s a quote from each book: 

"What is more important for us, at an elemental level, than the control, the owning and operation, of our own physical selves? And yet it is so automatic, so familiar, we never give it a thought.” - Oliver Sacks

“Any exchange, be it of ideas of goats, will tend toward gift if it is intended to recognize, establish, and maintain community.” - Lewis Hyde

Tell are you friends!

Tell are you friends!

We’re Contracting…

We’re exploring what it would look like to contract a young graphic designer for two half-days a week (8-10 hours total). Hopefully, the need would increase, but we’re starting with baby steps. Ideally, the person would have typographic skills, a handle on the creative suite, and some experience with Squarespace. If you’re interested, click the button below.

August Recap
The auditorium in the Old Chem Building at the University of Cincinnati.

The auditorium in the Old Chem Building at the University of Cincinnati.


August is always in the back of my mind. That’s because class starts in August. As much as I love teaching, I’m often full of anxiety leading up to the first class. However, once the first class begins, I remember why I said yes in the first place. Most of the fear goes away. At least, that’s what I am experiencing this semester. It’s my second time teaching Interdisciplinary User-Centered Design at the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program. Now that the content is more familiar I can focus on creating a more engaging learning environment. That’s not exactly an easy task with 230+ students in a basement auditorium of the Old Chem Building. Still, a little goes a long way. One method that seems to be working is momentary pauses for reflection during class. I’ll ask the students to ponder how they can apply the content to their profession. At the very least, the pauses are a departure from the rambling nature of my lectures and a rare moment of silence in the stress-ridden routine of a design student.

Single-page Squarespace page for Scroggins.

Single-page Squarespace page for Scroggins.

Workshop to Website: Scroggins

We’re excited to share the outcome of our partnership with Scroggins, a custom home builder based in Loveland, Oh. Our work began with a Mindful Brand Workshop that uncovered the overall direction of the brand identity and led to various collateral items including a single-page Squarespace page. Our services included copywriting, logo design, web design, stationery design, and the design of a custom icon set. We collaborated with Colin Moore on the website copy, and Anna Maffy on the icon set. We’re proud of the results and anticipate working with Scroggins even more in the future.

Poster design for the Wine Over Water Wine and Food Festival in Chattanooga, Tn.

Poster design for the Wine Over Water Wine and Food Festival in Chattanooga, Tn.

Wine Not?

We designed the artwork for the Wine Over Water Food and Wine Festival in Chattanooga, Tennessee for the third year in a row. This year we gleaned inspiration from Arp and Matisse. We’re always in favor less literal, and in this case, we got to go pretty abstract. A big thanks to Jon Flannery of Cryptogram for suggesting we draw the shapes with a sharpie attached to a dowel rod purchased at the local hardware store.

Trischler Design Co Help.jpg

We’re Contracting…

We’re exploring what it would look like to contract a young graphic designer for two half-days a week (8-10 hours total). Hopefully, the need would increase, but we’re starting with baby steps. Ideally, the person would have typographic skills, a handle on the creative suite, and some experience with Squarespace. If you’re interested, click the button below.

Learn Through Making
Spring is here in Cincinnati. Maybe...

Spring is here in Cincinnati. Maybe...

Last year I heard Don Norman lecture at the University of Cincinnati. One thing stood out more than anything else he shared. He suggested design can be research and research can be design, that the two don’t have to be separate. In my experience, one usually follows the other, and typically it's research first, then design. My process often looks like this: Do a lot of research, collect a bunch of information, and glean loads inspiration that will inform the design (graphic design in my case). But if design can be research, and research can be design, as Norman suggested, why do I always lead with one over the other?

Something about starting with design (sketching, drawing, making) doesn’t feel right. It’s a lot like a painter beginning with a blank canvas. Where does one start? 

If I’m honest, I usually have an initial hunch at the beginning of a project. Why not follow that intuition? 

That’s certainly what I learned from the Soul Collage class at The Hive. To begin the creative process through intuition; by following the gut more so than the mind, at least to start. It was a fruitful and liberating process. Never before have I created so much in so little time. 

What if I started my design process, as the Soul Collage process, with intuition instead of information? That’s what I ended up doing this week. I began a couple of projects in my sketchbook with markers. It was hard. Several times I wanted to hop on the computer and make a project brief. I thought, “I should probably think about the audience, define my desired results, or see how others have approached similar challenges.” I ignored that urge. With a Crayola marker in hand, I began to make; I started to play. As intuition guided my hand, I observed with delight what showed up on the page. New ideas formed that I hadn’t considered. The imperfections of the medium led to happy accidents. I was able to quickly draw and explore different solutions rapidly. 

My experience in the sketchbook reminded me of what one of my wife’s professors, Sue LaPorte, at CCS used to tell her, “Learn through making.” Which is not unlike what Norman said about design being research and research being design.

In the end, I’m not suggesting one approach over the other (that would be dualistic). In reality, learning happens both through research and making. Whether one starts with research or design is determined case by case. As much as I wish there were, there’s no one size fits all approach. 

And now for the weekly links. 



How To Think Like An Anthropologist (Book)
While some argue that a designer should learn how to code, I'd like to learn how to think more like an Anthropologist. 

Architects without Architects (Book)
This quote struck me as incredibly pertinent for being written about a century ago: “the expectation that every new discovery or refinement of existing means must contain the promise of higher values or greater happiness is an extremely naive thought... It is not in the least paradoxical to say that a culture may founder on real and tangible progress.”  –  Johan Huizinga 

Death of Stalin (Movie)
During the credits, the lady in front of me turned around and said I had a wonderful laugh. That's because I couldn't stop laughing. The movie was hilarious. I highly recommended it in combination with the book "A Gentleman in Moscow." 

Kudos to Tyler for suggesting "How To Think Like An Anthropologist" and Megan for helping me hone and communicate my ideas. 

Social Innovation / Social Justice 2018

My mind is full and fatigued. Megan (my wife) and I spent the last two days in a symposium at The University of Cincinnati (UC) called Social Innovation, Social Justice: Rethinking Design Anthropology (SISJ). I initially heard about SISJ because I am an adjunct professor at DAAP. When the e-mail came through my inbox, I was intrigued because the visual design wasn’t the typical red and black, masculine and modern aesthetic so often seen in advertisements around DAAP. SISJ is more hospitable, with organic qualities, and leaned refreshingly feminine (I later learned that it was designed by Stephanie Sadre-Orafai, an anthropologist who studies typography). The beautiful visuals, impressive line-up, and a desire to meet other UC faculty were enough to persuade me to sign up. 

The best place to begin describing this event is that it's the brainchild of Stephanie Sadre-Orafai (anthropology) and Brooke Brandewie (fashion), professors from different schools at UC. Collaboration is often preached from podiums, but less often modeled as powerfully as what these two organized. The lineup, composed of predominently female, black and brown, lecturers was the most diverse that I’ve experienced. Each person shared root shaking perspectives that challenged my preconceptions and biases while seeding new and refreshing tools and methodologies.

Instead of sharing my usual weekly links, I decided to share information about each presenter along with nuggets from each of their presentations. I wish I could include more context, but that would take more than a blog post. At the very least, I hope that these reflections give you a glimpse. I also hope that there’s another SISJ that you can attend next year. No pressure Brooke and Stephanie…  



Danya Glabau - Medical Anthropologist and Science and Technologies Scholar

I enjoyed these questions that Danya encouraged us to ask throughout the design process to scrutinize our biases (or often times, whiteness): 

“What does the thing serve?" 
“Who does it represent?"
“Who is it made for?"
“Who are we borrowing from/appropriating?”
"What is the social context?"
"What are the social forms and norms?"

April De Simone - Social Impact Designer and Strategist

“People are experts of their own experience.” The people we work with hold the wisdom and experience that informs our design work. 

“Own your own shit.” April shared this quote after a student asked what can be done to make DAAP more diverse. I suppose her answer is a bit like admitting your powerlessness and that what you’ve been doing isn’t working out so well (i.e., step 1 of the 12 steps).

Todd Nicewonger - Project Director for Destination Areas at Virginia Tech

Todd led an improv workshop that Megan and I attended. Both of us were intimidated by improv but are glad we went. There was a lot of laughter and learning. Todd had us do several improv exercises (one of which included selling a chair made of granola) that we can use with students and clients to facilitate creative conversations and processes.

Lara Penin - Associate Professor of Transdisciplinary Design at Parsons School of Design

“Designers are not really humble.” This goes back to what April shared about people being the experts of their own experiences. What strikes me about this is that designers are usually the first to call for empathy. Perhaps what we really need is a call for humility.

“Personas flatten complexities.” This one hit home. I teach about personas, and I often use them in my professional practice. They have been helpful in encouraging my clients to better understand how to meet the needs of the people they serve. But, at the end of the day, personas are generalizations. They’re not actual people but, rather, ideas of people.

Ashlyn Sparrow - Game Designer and Educator

“Work with strength models, not deficit models.” Start with what is positive in people and places.

“Gaming teaches agency, trial and error, creates a safe space to fail, and introduces systems.” I do believe that the many hours I spent during middle school in my basement playing Final Fantasy 7 (a role-playing game) have informed my career. It certainly taught me each of the Ashlyn's points.

Elizabeth Chin - Professor at Art Center College of Design

“Make ideas. Don’t just write about them.” I think this one speaks for itself. 

“Universal design is not universal.” It’s hard, but necessary, to be reminded that what a bunch of white dudes deems right isn’t necessarily what everyone else believes is right. 

“Own the fact that you don’t fit in.” Ah, yes… This is an excellent reminder for me when I'm at the university. I often feel out of place because I’m not an academic. The temptation is to try to do what I can to fit in. Read more books, dress differently, speak the language. I hate standing out… This will be a challenge.