Design for Human Experience

The College of Arts, Media and Design adopts a holistic approach to design that aims to improve the quality of the human experience, taking into account human goals, needs, and desires. Our faculty and students employ advanced design methodology and cutting edge tools that enhance creativity, communication and collaboration across disciplines and industries while investigating the human experience through form, function, emotion, and behavior.


Associated Faculty



David Fannon, Michelle Laboy, and Peter Wiederspahn, How to Build a Better Building

Associate Professor Kristian Kloeckl (Art + Design, Architecture) Delivers Keynote Address at International Event on the Future of Cities.

Professor Tad Hirsch (Chair, Art + Design) Uses Machine Learning to Assess Therapy.

CAMD Faculty from Art + Design and Architecture Contribute to Innovative Fog Sculpture Exhibit on the Emerald Necklace.

Assistant Professor Meryl Alper (Communication Studies) Investigates Impact of Mobile Communication Technologies on Youth with Developmental Disabilities.

Assistant Professor Ang Li (Architecture) Explores Alternate Endings for Buildings and Materials.

Assistant Professor Michelle Laboy (Architecture) Leads Effort to Make Water Visible.

Architecture Faculty David Fannon, Michelle Laboy and Peter Wiederspahn Win Prestigious Latrobe Prize for Future-Use Architecture.

Dean’s Research Fellows: Design for Human Experience

The Dean’s Research Fellows conduct cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research that expands the boundaries of traditional disciplines.

Meryl Alper, Assistant Professor, Communication Studies

Christoffer Holmgard, Assistant Professor, Art + Design

Deirdre Loughridge, Assistant Professor, Music

Ronald Smith, Associate Professor, Music


Design for Human Experience: Automation and the Senses


Humans have long been fascinated with technologies that automate processes through various mechanisms, including mechanical, electrical, and computational means. Because automation off-loads to machines manual and mental activities that would otherwise be performed by people, it raises profound questions about the nature of the human experience. This includes our physiological capacity to provide data for perception, otherwise known as sensing. While the human sensory system is enormously complex, sophisticated algorithms draw ever closer to being able to emulate how the human brain interacts with the world using multiple sensory modalities (e.g., “computer vision” that automates tasks completed by the human visual system). In turn, automation has generated serious ethical concerns considering how easy, quick, and cheap it is becoming to simulate and approximate how humans feel, see, and hear. This includes facial recognition software that potentially contributes to racial discrimination, as well as “deep fake” audio and video clips that superimpose sources to create a politically persuasive look- or sound-alike.


Against this backdrop, the social sciences, humanities, and arts have a central role to play in providing a richer understanding of how humans relate sensorially to their increasingly mediated environments, uncovering the histories and associated lessons of past experiments in automation, and pushing the imaginative boundaries of where robotic sensors and the human senses might productively meet. This team of Dean’s Research Fellows will interrogate “Automation and the Senses” from the disciplinary perspectives of art and design, communication studies, game design, and music history and composition. Alper (Communication Studies) will explore how disability, core to the diversity of human experience, illuminates both the promises and perils of algorithmic automation for sensory processing. Loughridge (Music) will examine the history of automation in music, attending to the dynamic between replacing existing practices and enabling new ones in order develop a theory of design for human experience. Holmgård (Art + Design, Game Design) will examine the constant presence of personal automation and surveillance from smartphones through a pervasive game foregrounding and reinterpreting the technology’s ability to continuously track, analyze, and respond to our movement through the world. Smith (Music) will examine the relationship between the mechanical and the musical through an interactive computer composition that is informed by recent work in machine listening and music cognition.


Miso Kim, Assistant Professor, Art + Design

Kristian Kloeckl, Associate Professor, Art + Design and Architecture

Dani Snyder-Young, Assistant Professor, Theatre


This research team is pursuing three distinct investigations that explore human experience in urban space. Miso Kim’s work focuses on dignity and service design. Through collaboration with a nonprofit that provides job training to disadvantaged populations, she is designing a prototype for dignity driven educational services for prison inmates. Kristian Kloeckl’s work focuses on human interactions with the hybrid city. Through observational studies and interviews in parts of Boston with a high concentration of digital networked technologies, he is exploring how today’s urban environments impact everyday human behavior. Dani Snyder-Young’s work focuses on the behavior of audience members at theatrical events dealing with race in America. She is conducting interviews and observations to understand how audience members respond in real time and how they articulate their experiences following the performance, leading to better understanding of how the events are or are not achieving the artists’ goals of political and social intervention. This research team is also organizing a colloquium series to illuminate various domains of human experience while encouraging connections across their individual areas of investigation.


David Fannon, Assistant Professor, Architecture and Civil and Environmental Engineering

Michelle Laboy, Assistant Professor, Architecture and Civil and Environmental Engineering

Casper Harteveld, Game Design, Art + Design


This research team is combining unique online tools and gaming platforms to increase awareness and understanding of urban resilience and sustainability. David Fannon and Michelle Laboy, in cooperation with engineering colleague Matthew Eckelman, created the Resilient Homes Online Design Aid (RHOnDA) to help homeowners and tenants gauge the sustainability and resilience of their personal dwellings. Casper Harteveld developed Study Crafter, an online platform that allows users to create scenario-based games without programming. With support from the CAMD Research Collaborative, these researchers are integrating their tools to create a series of serious games that will engage students and community members and increase awareness and understanding of urban resilience and sustainability, specifically home energy efficiency and risk of floods and sea-level rise.


Northeastern University Visualization Consortium (NUVis)

NUVis is an interdisciplinary cross-university initiative funded through a collaboration between the College of Arts, Media and Design and the College of Computer and Information Science. It supports research efforts in visualization and connects faculty and students to foster a visualization community. Associate Professor Dietmar Offenhuber, head of the Information Design and Visualization graduate program, is Co-Director of the initiative.

Information Design and Visualization, MFA Program

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Scout is Northeastern’s student-led design studio. It aims to foster the design community at Northeastern through client work, speaker series, and interactive workshops.

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