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Photo Courtesy of Estefania Ciliotta Chehade, from Thesis Project.

CAMD alumna Estefania Ciliotta Chehade, who recently graduated with her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Experience Design, ran a workshop at the International Design Research Society (DRS2020) Conference, alongside Michael Arnold Mages, Assistant Professor in the Department of Art + Design.

Their presentation is extrapolated from Estefania’s thesis work (which was recognized with CAMD’s Best Graduate Thesis Award) as well as Professor Arnold Mages’s work on objects that can help organize civic conversations. It addressed and explored how companies can facilitate and harness the power of diverse and collaborative teams.

DRS2020, which is a major forum to discuss and present cutting-edge design research, took place from August 13-15 and attracted a global audience. The 2020 conference theme is Synergy, which explored design research as a driver for creating transformative change for good, through collaboration and co-creation. The theme acknowledges the powerful force that occurs when voices in design research work together – and united, grow stronger.

Estefania and Professor Arnold Mages’s workshop – entitled Facilitating collaboration and trust on cross-cultural teams: Designing for conversations through evocative objects – aligns with this theme of Synergy, focusing on how to develop techniques for better co-working in intercultural contexts. In the session, participants learned tools and techniques to build team cohesion, and surface deep understandings using objects to facilitate those difficult conversations. They shared their own experiences helping teams communicate more effectively through building common ground and understanding among diverse teammates.

As Estefania and Dr. Arnold Mages explain, “our goal is to direct participants towards openness and awareness of cultural differences, to then build common ground with the workshop activities. The innovative and engaging part about this workshop is the use of facilitative designed objects — informed by user research and cultural probes. We hope to continue to develop our understanding of how these objects are used, by exploring their use in the context of the international design community attracted by DRS2020.”

Estefania and Dr. Arnold Mages had planned to present their work in-person to an international audience at the biannual meeting of the Design Research Society in Brisbane, Australia. While many conferences were cancelled, the Design Research Society is planning to continue with online participation.

With this new format, experts from two of CAMD’s Media Studios Organization (MSO) labs – the Immersive Media Labs and Shillman Hall Studio Spaces – along with a group of CAMD students who work in the labs, were eager to help develop a multiuser tabletop simulator from scratch to interact with the shapes during the conference. Having the ability to interact with the shapes remotely through the tabletop simulator cultivated the interactivity that would have been possible in-person. The participants who joined the presentation had the opportunity to move the 3D modeled shapes and talk about them as if they were really there.