Hye-Jin Nae, Rochester Institute of Technology
Tim Wood, Rochester Institute of Technology

The ongoing acceleration of technological development and the creation of breakthrough interactive platforms continues to transform the role of the design practitioner and educator. Roles once deeply rooted in the arts and humanities are now being pushed beyond those traditional domains to integrate ideas, topics and methods from computer science, software engineering and even electrical engineering into the design process. While this may appear to be confusing and frustrating within an interdisciplinary context, expanded design roles are facilitating greater dialog and productive interaction within interdisciplinary teams. We believe that we can make the argument that indeed, now more than ever, Design is STEM!

The presenters; one a former design executive and the other, an agency creative director with extensive experience designing consumer electronics and digital products for Fortune 500 clientele, will showcase how they see the emerging collaborative model of designers working with engineers has changed design practice and blurred the definition of design and engineering. Now in new roles as educators, both presenters will provide examples of how higher education is leveraging this new model to prepare the next generation of designers and creative technologists to have relevant careers. Through the exploration of an interdisciplinary model of curriculum; design, digital humanities, software engineering, human-centered computing and other allied disciplines are being integrated in ways that were not possible just a few years before – providing unique design educational opportunities to traditional STEM students.

Our approach to an inclusive and interdisciplinary model of design education has expanded the understanding of creative problem solving within our institution. As an appreciation of ‘design thinking’ has become more mainstream, the academic interest in design processes, methods and approaches have increased in colleges and departments outside of RIT’s School of Design. Not only has this reinforced an appreciation for the power of design, it also provides visibility into how design methods can be used to address the complex problems facing society today.

We have elevated the perception of design, not merely as the thoughtful application of aesthetic sensibility, but as a powerful tool for change. In turn, this model has yielded more dialog regarding the relevance of design thinking while creating collaborative opportunities within the educational environment. Currently, the greatest interest comes from ‘design adjacent’ disciplines, i.e., those disciplines focused on the same problem domains or those disciplines that may collaborate with design within a production or commercial context.  The symbiotic relationship of the industrial designer to the mechanical engineer, or interaction designer to software engineer is absolutely critical. Educators within those fields are creating opportunities for students to learn about and model those relationships before they enter a professional environment.

Interdisciplinary collaborations and industry sponsored engagements are balanced with a rigorous 4-year interdisciplinary degree program to maintain a strong creative component and comprehensive design focus. However, it is on the edges between the programs where the true creativity and collaborations are emerging. This presentation will explore the academic programs, teaching processes and student experience that drive design education beyond the traditional scope.


New Media Design Demo Reel


Cross-disciplinary Collaboration Design Education Examples
Beam Beats – https://www.behance.net/gallery/38491043/Beam-Beats-New-Media-Team-Project
Ripple – https://galacticod.tumblr.com
Mendo – http://mendo.cias.rit.edu
Space Race by Bitness – http://bitnessfitness.github.io


As an award-winning and patent holding designer specializing in user experience design, Hye-Jin Nae brings her diverse and detail orientated drive to every project and class she encounters. Originally from South Korea with a background in fashion design, she is currently Assistant Professor in New Media Design at Rochester Institute of Technology. Prior to this current teaching position, she held the positions of Visiting Assistant Professor in New Media Design and Assistant Professor in Graphic Design at RIT. She holds a MFA in Computer Graphics from RIT, a BFA in Graphic Design from University of Wisconsin and a BA in Clothing and Textile Design from Sungshin Women’s University.

Prior to her academic career, she worked in the user experience design industry as a creative director and lead experience architect at EffectiveUI, lead designer at Yahoo! Inc., and sr. visual interaction designer at Eastman Kodak. She specializes in researching applied UX design and bringing that design sensibility and multi-disciplinary thinking into the classroom. Her diverse background and knowledge from designing experiences for applications, retail point of sale, consumer products, a wide variety web applications and web properties are directly integrated into the classroom. Her detail oriented approach to design is shared with freshman to seniors from basic design elements to cutting edge UX design projects. She continues to research UX for traditional and new paradigms while building the foundation for tomorrow’s design education.

Tim Wood is currently Assistant Professor of Industrial Design and Interaction Design at Rochester Institute of Technology. Tim is most interested in emerging technologies, the frontiers of interaction design, and how these two areas are rapidly changing the nature of the human experience and even how we think about design itself. With extensive experience in design strategy, the architecture of interactive systems and the design of digital products, he is keenly aware of the changing nature of design and new roles designers are being asked to fill. In his role at RIT, he is committed to ensuring that the next generation of product designers have the right skills to shape the future of our world.

Tim holds a MFA in Computer Graphics from Rochester Institute of Technology, an Advanced Certificate in Interactive Media Development from Rochester Institute of Technology and a BFA in Design Arts from Memphis College of Art. Prior to RIT, he was VP of User Experience and Design at EffectiveUI and before that he held the position of Creative Director for Design Innovation & Advanced Development at Eastman Kodak. Tim is an award-winning designer in his own right and is an internationally recognized speaker and author on the topic of user experience and user interface design.