Jeremy Swanston, University of Iowa

Design plays a fundamental role in the effective presentation of complex information. Given the emphasis on scholarship and collaborative inquiry, university campuses often present ripe opportunities for cross-disciplinary research that can elevate the role of design in projects involving the humanities, science, and education. Beyond incorporating design and aesthetic principles to engage the target audience, designers can harness the potential for connecting with the user in a digital environment, effectively showcasing design’s function in not only packaging scholarship, but defining the very way such projects are conceptualized and communicated. The role of the designer as an active agent in shaping scholarly inquiry goes beyond that of the traditional broker, one that simply educates and guides non-design experts while working with them to realize a preconceived vision. Designers can instead present design as an essential dimension of scholarship, one that can transform the conceptualization of inquiry from the very beginning, creating purposeful, meaningful, and evocative connections between researchers, users, and the broader community. This presentation will focus on three case studies that highlight the fundamental role of design in the conception and execution of impactful cross-disciplinary scholarship.

Design & Humanities Case Study: Word Thug

Word Thug is an all-volunteer digital literary multimedia magazine that challenges the boundaries of language access, power, and privilege through creative expression. It is conceptualized as an interactive space for any artist, writer, or citizen who has things to say through the creative word, but who has not always been afforded the time, space, and/or opportunity to express them. This scholarly project infuses the fields of graphic and interactive design, creative writing, language, literacy and culture. From the conceptual branding of the magazine, to experimentation with user interface and experience, prototyping and usability testing, this case study will illustrate how design can forge powerful and dynamic connections between a disenfranchised community and the creative arts, effectively removing traditional barriers and promoting positive social change.

Design & Science Case Study: Gravity Simulator

The Gravity Simulator is an interactive sandbox that simulates gravitational dynamics and was developed to teach astronomy to middle school students. Utilizing a 3D camera, and inputting information the user provides through an app, the simulator projects computer-generated graphics onto the surface of the sand. This scholarly project infuses the fields of interactive design, astronomy, physics, and computer science. For this project, the functionality of the simulator and potential for teaching depended on the app component, with user interaction, interface, and usability testing being an essential component to realization of this project. This case study will illustrate how design can visually bridge abstract concepts and simplify them for the young user, creating a fun and engaging learning experience.

Design & Education Case Study: SO•BE Stories

SO•BE Stories is an educational app that teaches Kindergarten students social skills. Through interactive stories and games, students navigate social dilemmas and practice positive behaviors. This scholarly project infuses the fields of graphic and interactive design, school counseling, and education. From conceptualizing characters, story environments, and game play, to usability testing, and interface design, this case study will illustrate the central role of the designer in creating a social skills intervention tool that emotionally connects with the user and creates measurable change.



Jeremy Swanston is a graphic designer whose research interests pertain to the utilization of graphic design in visualizing data in an accessible and meaningful way. He is passionate about the impact social design can have not only in an academic environment, but also to the community, and has developed several socially-based projects, including an educational app (SO.BE Stories) for preschool students.

Over the past decade, he has developed extensive print and digital skills to meet the design needs of diverse clients, including the United States Congress and the Department of Justice. During this time, Jeremy has worked as a graphic designer in Washington D.C. for the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars as well as the United States Government Publishing Office, where he conceived and carried out high-level multimedia communication and brand identity projects, including the 2013 Presidential Inaugural materials.