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Unfolding. 2020 MFA Thesis Show


The MFA class of 2020, from the Information Design and Visualization and Experience Design programs, is proud to invite you to the opening of the “Unfolding” online exhibition.


Nine students translated the planned physical exhibition of their thesis works into a digital experience, as part of the ARTG 7990-02 thesis course. The online exhibition will be unveiled during the event.

The title “Unfolding” doesn’t only imply revealing and explaining something that was hidden or complex – assuming a definition of design as problem-maker and not (only) as problem solver – it also conveys the sense of indeterminacy and uncertainty and the need of understanding that characterizes the current state of emergency.

Please join us on Thursday, April 30, at 4:30 p.m. to learn more about each project and hear from the students!

Unfolding in Design

Think of design as an unfolding process — a highly iterative combination of varied activities and outputs
(Wayne C. Chung).

Design is also the tool to reveal the thoughts of the designer behind the scenes. It is a channel for designers to transmit their voice and attitude. “Unfolding” is an intent to transmit and share our voice, on how we framed our design work by focusing on unfolding different problems that motivated us, and to think systemically on diverse action pathways. We wanted to share our work showcasing the unfolding of our design process and challenges we had to face throughout.

Get a sneak-peek into each thesis project below:

Facilitating collaboration and trust in multicultural teams: Design for intercultural conversations through evocative objects
Estefania Ciliotta

Today’s workplace dynamic is rapidly changing increasing workforce mobility. Thus, it is inevitable that diverse teams will be formed. Understanding and embracing diversity is imperative to foster collaboration and trust in today’s workplace. Yet, many teams fail in this endeavor due to a lack of openness and awareness towards their coworkers. Designing for conversations is a way in which teams of diverse individuals can communicate effectively by building common ground and shared understanding.

Mobility Patterns of Boston Workers: Visualizing Origin to Destination Flows
Yinan Dong

Visualizing Origin-Destination (O-D) flow is always a challenge, in terms of the visual clarity for representing multi-dimensional data in a single plot. This thesis explores design approaches for Origin-Destination (O-D) flow, to efficiently encode and communicate this spatial data. A 3D tree-node diagram analyzed the Boston workers flow in various spatial granularities, as one method been discussed throughout this exhibition.

Design for Persuasion: Rhetoric in Information Design to Communicate on Social Problems
Yuan Hua

Information design can help people sift through the blizzard of information to identify social facts and to make further tough, but reciprocal decisions. This thesis performs an analysis of information design centering on persuasion and explores its rhetorical taxonomy. It implements experiments addressing recycling contamination by applying the rhetorical tactics.

Breathing Injustice: Redesigning Asthma as a Collective Illness Experience
Todd Linkner

Breathing Injustice is an open-source workshop centered around a simple device to explore asthma as a sociologically produced disease using the breath as a physical interface. The workshop simulates spatialized socioeconomic and environmental factors and their impact on the experience of asthma.

Enriching Gifts: Participatory Design Research to Understand Human Relationships
Houjiang Liu

Gifts are emotional and reciprocal objects that invoke human interactions. Their aesthetic values do not only come along with the designed appearance, but also the experience of emotional fulfillment. This project is to explore their pluralistic values by two participatory design research: a gift-giving card game and a gift-sorting activity.

Family Portrait: Visual Atlas of Households Census
Yuqing Liu

Census data could be a resource not just used by statisticians, demographers but also by designers whose work enables public access to the unexpected or unaware aspects to help the public understand themselves. This thesis explores visual languages to represent individuals and internal relationships within the family. Through abstract visual representations, contextualizing data brings these representations back to the actual families.

A dancer’s trace: Visualizing movement in the Indian classical dance of Kathak
Arushi Singh

Indian classical dance performances have traditionally been used to communicate spiritual ideas, stories, and values dating as far back as 400BCE. These performances are a combination of facial expressions, intricate and well-structured movements, compelling narratives as well as accompanying musicals to form a unique experience for the audience. Kathak, originating from Northern India, is characterized by its rhythmic footwork in tandem with graceful upper body movements. This thesis explores movement in Kathak through three non-traditional methods – tracing paint on paper, long exposure photography, and motion sensors.

Visualizing Group Therapy: Designing a tool to visualize conversations and improve therapist skills
Libby Thomas

Medical charts and visualizations have historically focused on quantitative data. This thesis explores an intriguing new possibility for data visualization in mental health care: using transcript data to visualize conversations in group therapy sessions, and ultimately use these insights to help therapists and supervisors provide better care.

Decoding Sensory Information for Augmented Dining Experience
Anni Xu

Information on restaurant menus has mostly been limited to lists of terms, ingredients, and prices, making it difficult for people to dine in unfamiliar/foreign restaurants. This thesis explores ways of communicating sensory information as an additional layer of information to traditional menus that provides visual explanations to what foods taste like. The goal of the project is to make people aware of their senses and to enhance dining experiences by eliminating fear, uncertainty, and barriers to communication in a restaurant.