A 2021 CfD Year in Review

In the past year, our faculty and staff have extraordinarily exemplified the Center for Design mission and core values.

The Center for Design is Northeastern’s platform for interdisciplinary design research; it’s a space for collaborative research activities and a hub for connecting the actors of the design eco-system. It aims at sharing knowledge and practices, shaping common tools and methods, strengthening a unified disciplinary ground.

The complexity of the grand challenges surrounding health, security, mobility, sustainability and democracy demands a long-term shared research effort that crosses disciplinary boundaries. Design as an ‘interdisciplinary and integrative discipline’–with its capacity to map the complex dynamics of an issue, foresee its evolution, and shape tangible and intangible interfaces, experiences, services and systems–can empower the network between and across disciplines. Design also facilitates the cross-disciplinary discourse itself through innovative communication methods, and as a ‘third discipline’ mediates across humanics.

The Center for Design opens up a new space for these interdisciplinary exchanges; it is where the design research agenda is collectively shaped and innovative solutions are collaboratively conceived and developed through joint research initiatives. Building solid ground for the bridges that CAMD faculty members have already established internally and promoting new collaborations with other areas both within and beyond Northeastern University, the Center for Design gathers the critical mass needed to leverage existing research initiatives, providing them a fertile environment to grow and systematically sustain them.

Our faculty were recognized for their achievements by the Dean of Northeastern's College of Art, Media and Design.

Ang Li

for her outside awards and fellowships: Now + There Public Art Accelerator Award, and University Design Research Fellowship from the Landmark Columbus Foundation

Casper Harveld

for $200K+ grants: National Science Foundation

Kristian Kloeckl

for $200K+ grants: National Science Foundation and Museum of Fine Arts and his book book: The Urban Improvise

Paolo Ciuccarelli

for $200K+ grants: Intesa and National Science Foundation

Research Scientist Sara Lenzi was honored for her work in sonification for disability.

She recieved the Quality Innovation Award 2021 presented by the Basque Foundation for Quality

...for her data sonification work ‘Datascapes’ developed with the Ibermática Innovation Institute. The project was the winner of the “Potential Innovation” category, which awards outstanding proofs of concepts and will represent Spain at the international final of QI Award which will take place in Moscow in February 2022.

The sonification project uses sound instead of visuals to alert operators of SOC on incoming anomalies, detected by AI technology. It not only helps reduce operators’ visual information overload but also allows any person with a visual disability to access a fast-growing market; for example, monitoring cybersecurity systems.

The hope is that in one or two years, the project will be in its commercialization phase, so that any person with a disability may be able to interact with AI and access any job they should choose. This is a great step towards a more equitable, just, and accessible future through design innovation and we are so very proud that Sara has helped make it happen!

Faculty showcased worked around the world.

Dietmar Offenhuber

New Elements

New Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow

“The idea that digital information is abstract and exists outside the physical world is a harmful myth. Since technology has entered all aspects of our lives, its material nature deeply affects us. Artworks at New Elements bring digital data back to reality and show how everything is interconnected”

— Dietmar Offenhuber

The exhibition NEW ELEMENTS, co- curated by Dietmar Offenhuber and Daria Parkhomenko, made in collaboration with Laboratoria Art-Science foundation and strategic partnership with Kaspersky, explores an unusual perspective on data and computation, centering on the physicality of information and its implications for how we make sense of the world. What if information is not abstract but physical? What if meaning is not created by a human mind but an integral part of the world? What if computation is not confined to binary logic but is a process everything around us is constantly engaged in?

read more https://blog.offenhuber.net/new-elements-analog-computing-and-the-environment-ceba7b530635

Kristian Kloeckl and Pedro Cruz

Visualizing the 17th Century Netherlandish Art Market

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

As part of a collaboration between the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Experience Design Lab and the Co-Lab for Data Impact Kristian Kloeckl and Pedro Cruz developed two data visualizations to complement the visitor experience at the museum’s new Center for Netherlandish Art galleries that were inaugurated on November 20, 2021. The project team also includes the two students Shan Wei and Niyati Kothari from our Experience Design and our Information Design and Visualization graduate program.

The two visualizations are based on datasets hosted by the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD) in The Hague on Dutch and Flemish artists and artworks. These datasets have been compiled over several decades, continue to be updated, and currently contain information on 374,330 artists and 258,832 works of art from the 15th century to the present day. The dataset is based on ongoing historic research for which not all parts are equally complete. The raw datasets are ontological – networks of concepts interconnected by relations – and had to be converted to a linear time-based data-narrative.

Ang Li presented not one, but two public art projects!

Place of Assembly

Boston's Chinatown

The project invites visitors to reflect on the cycles of building and rebuilding that have shaped the development of the neighborhood. Using reclaimed brick pavers sourced from Boston’s City Hall, the installation recalls the historic row houses that once defined Chinatown’s residential fabric and the vibrant stoop culture these buildings supported. The project reimagines the familiar symbol of the stoop as a series of modular, brick structures that could be reconfigured to allow for different seating arrangements.

As Ang puts it, “Once I started digging into this topic, I realized a lot of other artists and residents were doing something similar and preserving the oral histories from the neighborhood, specifically around the historic row houses that were demolished during the highway construction projects in the 1950s and 60s. It’s been exciting to plug into this history in some way and consider how to recreate this social environment that isn’t really there anymore.”

for more info: https://www.nowandthere.org/blog/2021/11/1/accelerator-artist-ang-li-place-of-assembly

Window Dressing

Exhibit Columbus, Indiana

Window Dressing invites visitors to reflect on the architectural legacy of Late Modernism. Through a temporary cladding system of ornamental shingles, the installation recalls the façade of the Commons and Courthouse Center by Cesar Pelli and Norma Merrick Sklarek for Gruen and Associates (demolished in 2008).

Using mylar film, a lightweight precursor to mirrored glass developed by the aerospace industry, Window Dressing draws inspiration from community events that took place inside this air-conditioned civic interior—high school proms, fashion shows, and election nights. Throughout the course of the day, this dynamic architectural tapestry encourages multiple readings of its surrounding context that responds to changing atmospheres and events: wind and light, pedestrian traffic, and the civic rhythms of downtown Columbus.


  • Ang Li

  • Isabella Greco

  • Alessandro Ricciardi

  • Michael Deitz

Production and Fabrication

  • TK Prestige/FastSigns

  • H. Loeb Corporation

  • Millennium Die Group

Fabrication Supporters

  • RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency)

  • Drytac

  • TK VViVid Vinyl

  • Northeastern University, College of Arts, Media and Design

for more info https://exhibitcolumbus.org/2021-exhibition/university-design-research-fellowship/ang-li

We welcomed our first-ever designer in residence...

Steven Geofrey

An Assistant Teaching Professor in the Department of Art + Design at Northeastern's College of Arts, Media, and Design. He received his B.A. in chemistry and Asian studies from St. Olaf College and his M.S. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University, with some time spent as a research student (Fulbright Fellow) at Kyoto University (Japan) in between. Prior to joining Art + Design, he served as the Data Analytics and Visualization Specialist in Snell Library at Northeastern for 4 years.

and hired 3 new team members.

Estefania Ciliotta

Estefania joins us after her Master of Fine Arts in Experience Design from Northeastern University. She is an international expert on working effectively with cross-cultural teams.

Estefania was born in Peru and has worked in many different countries and industries. She observed and researched innovative practices in team building for international teams. These experiences sparked her passion for understanding people and helped her develop a human-centered approach which led to the field of Experience Design. She has presented her work in different design conferences like DRS and UXPA. Driven, proactive and creative, she loves traveling, music, getting to know other cultures, and understanding and embracing our differences.


Sara Lenzi

Sara Lenzi holds a Ph.D. in Design from Politecnico di Milano and a MA in Philosophy from the University of Bologna. A trained classical musician, Sara worked for more than a decade as a sound designer and sound branding consultant both in Europe and Southeast Asia. As a sound designer, her expertise is mostly in sonic interaction design and sound branding for the automotive industry - she worked, among the others, for Ducati Motors, BMW, Volkswagen, FIAMM and in interactive sound design for public spaces - she created sound installations for, among the others, Changi Airport Singapore, Marina Bay Sands Singapore, Tokyo Design Week, Giugiaro Architettura.

Her research focus is on data sonification i.e., the use of sound to represent and communicate data, and, more in general, on the design of sound in the context of an embodied perspective on knowledge and our everyday experience. She will be co-chairing the Design Research Society 2022 conference on behalf of the city of Bilbao, Spain.

Nicole Zizzi

Nicole Zizzi is joining us after recently completing her M.Arch degree here at CAMD. She additionally has her B.S. in Physics with a minor in Dance from the University of Rochester. Nicole has previously worked with the Center for Design on the 2019 Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture project and the ongoing Data Embodiment research project (find out more below). As the co-founder and director of a local concert dance company, she is a creative movement practitioner and is able to pull from her experiences in the dance studio to inform her research practice and methods. A notable project titled Every Room A Dance received a 2021 CAMD student project award as well as the King's medal presented by the architectural research centers consortium

Paolo Ciuccarelli, founding Director of the Center for Design

joined the European Academy of Design SafeHarbours Conference 2021 as a Thought Leader for Experimenting with Humans and Numbers.

Launched 11 new projects, events, and initiatives.

Starting with our inaugural CfD Conversation Series.

A new series of Conversations to discuss the role of design in mitigating the spread of misinformation, in supporting a pluriversal approach to global challenges, in creating experiences that respect patients' dignity, in making data more human, in activating citizens through art and public spaces, and in designing better tools for designers.

Read our summaries here, or click on the flyers to watch the recordings!

The Metadesign Initiative

We envision a meta-platform comprised of existing and new platforms, for building a common understanding and fostering collaborative action. This meta-platform will consist of talks, seminars, documents, and other shared initiatives. We aim at sparking conversations within and outside the design field, both in the academic context and in the professional domain: we are reaching out to practitioners, design lovers, academics, and industry players.

Design Research Society's Festival of Emergence

The DRS Festival of Emergence was envisioned to be a new type of DRS event. Not as formal as a conference, more interesting and unpredictable than a meeting, something which transcends timezones and geographies, allows people to ‘drop in’ when they fancy, and is built upon novel, original and experimental participant-generated content.

The event took the form of an open conversation centered around the themes of our meta-design initiative. The conversation was between invited panelists which included

  1. Nathan Felde, Northeastern University.

  2. Paolo Ciuccarelli, Northeastern University, Center for Design.

  3. Paul Pangaro, Carnegie Mellon University.

  4. Silvia Barbero, Politecnico di Torino / Systemic Design Association.

  5. Christian Nold, The Open University, Design Group.

  6. Michael Arnold Mages, Northeastern University.

  7. Remy Bourganel, Independent researcher, with Umea Institute of Design & IEP Paris.

Check out a summary of the event in our notion meta-design repository here

Chairs of DRS2022Bilbao Theme track 06


Nathan Felde, Northeastern University.

Paolo Ciuccarelli, Northeastern University, Center for Design.

Paul Pangaro, Carnegie Mellon University.

Silvia Barbero, Politecnico di Torino / Systemic Design Association.


Christian Nold, The Open University, Design Group.

Estefania Ciliotta Chehade, Northeastern University, Center for Design.


Sara Lenzi, Northeastern University, Center for Design.

Michael Arnold Mages, Northeastern University.

Remy Bourganel, Independent researcher, with Umea Institute of Design & IEP Paris.


A diffused sense of crisis for design – meaning the urgency of making a critical decision about its future – is producing a number of initiatives that aim at reframing/rethinking design, as a discipline and as a practice. With this track we want to explore the variety of meta-design approaches, where design ‘transcends’ the specificity and the contingency of the single design act to engage in: (a) the reflective practice of re-designing design: its purposes, processes and methods; (b) the design of design systems – sets of generative rules and principles, or spaces of opportunities – that enable further design instances, both by expert and non-expert designers; (c) the (co)design of a shared purpose, of aims and tools that can drive eco-system dynamics and enable a pluriverse of context-sensitive net-positive/regenerative activities.

We aim at finding a convergence in the diversity of all approaches to – and applications of – meta-design, consolidating a long and multifaceted tradition into a reinvigorated framework for both researchers and practitioners.


  1. Meta-design and the pandemic of AI

  2. Meta-design in the pluriverse

  3. Meta-design as politics

  4. Meta-design in education

  5. Meta-design in practice

learn more: https://www.drs2022.org/theme-tracks/

Design for Emergency & Italian Design Day

Italian Design Day (IDD) is the annual theme-based review launched in 2017 by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in collaboration and with the support of the Ministry for Heritage, Cultural Activities and Tourism. IDD offers an extensive program of promotional events created by the network of Embassies, Consulates, Italian Cultural Institutes, and ICE Offices abroad and has established itself over the years as an effective instrument in supporting the promotion of design and the internationalization of a strategic industrial sector for Italian exports. Every year, to mark the occasion, 100 different testimonials become the narrators of Italian design and creativity throughout the rest of the world. In 2021, the Center for Design was one of those testimonials.

The Design for Emergency (DfE) initiative interprets the theme of the Italian Design Day 2021 edition, “Design and Matter” by moving the focus from the product to the process of design: Design for Emergency is a catalyst of creativity, a platform established to enable designers of all levels and provenances to tackle the challenges of the current pandemic and other future emergencies. Ideas are the matter here, and design is applied to create the conditions for designers to make an impact on a societal scale. During the event, speakers shared their experiences with the initiative, its origin, current state, and future plans.

Read more about the event and initiative our medium publication here

Find the Design for Emergency open platform https://designforemergency.com/

COVIC Archive

COVIC is a broad multi-lingual, multi-cultural view of visualizations created during the global COVID-19 pandemic. The project classifies articles and figures in a format that is available for teaching and research purposes; contains a snapshot of information design practice during the pandemic period; illustrates the range of qualitative and quantitative visualization possibilities; preserves a persistent record of ephemeral online visualization artifacts; provides a portrait of this moment of inflection accelerating the transition from print to online; represents both a problem space — how can visualization practice be used to address this problem — and a solution space — the techniques being used at different times, in different languages, and in different contexts. If you would like access to the archive, please email the center.

Team Members: Paul Kahn, Paolo Ciuccarelli, Sean Durham, Wilber Mui, Robbie Roxas, Matthew Siu, Cody Wackerman, Liuhuaying Yang, Yixuan Zhang

Students: Alison Booth, Jayden Khatib, Matthew Wolfinger, Mayra Parrilla Guerrero, Elizabeth Cory, Yinan Dong, Yuke Li, Yuging Liu, Ziuan Yang

Partners: Dubberly Design Office

view the archive here: http://covic-archive.org/

Data Sonification Archive

The Data Sonification Archive is a curated collection part of a broader research endeavor in which data, sonification, and design converge to explore the potential of sound in complementing other modes of representation and broadening the publics of data. With visualization still being one of the prominent forms of data transformation, we believe that sound can both enrich the experience of data and build new publics.

Team Members: Paolo Ciuccarelli, Sara Lenzi, Yuan Hua, Houjiang Liu

view the archive here: https://sonification.design/

Design Observatory

To disambiguate the meaning of design practice in different domains, the Center for Design is launching the “Design Observatory,” a research project that will use various methods and materials to map out the landscape of design in different spaces of practice. The Observatory aims to examine how design is talked about, referred to, and practiced in different domains, in the process investigating how it has evolved and where it is going in the future such as to situate encounters with design in a larger historical, practical, and theoretical context.

Design Resources Repository

The Center for Design is curating a collection of resources that might enlighten us to think about design, design research, and design practice in general as collaborative practice. We have been gathering different available resources and have built a Repository of design tools, trends, methods, publications, case studies, and podcasts to help designers and general practitioners easily find and access information and design materials, following the meta-design approach of enabling platforms for others to choose, design, and act.

See the repository here

Experience Design Lab was officially launched.

The Experience Design Lab explores

new approaches for how we design systems, environments, and services with a focus on how humans experience concrete situations.

Every day, the way we construct our environment changes the way we experience our world in profound ways. The most advanced technologies thrive when they connect with people’s experience in everyday life. Experience is active, participative, imaginative and creative and the Experience Design Lab at Northeastern University explores new approaches for how we design systems, environments, and services with a focus on how humans experience concrete situations. In this way, people’s experience and actions, rather than technological capability, become the guide for innovation.

We are always interested to hear from designers, researchers, students, as well as organizations in the public and private sector that are interested to explore together with us.

Learn more https://xdlab.camd.northeastern.edu/

We started our first publication.

The publication was created so that we might continue the conversations we are having internally with the general public and our network of design professionals. Subjects and sections of the publication include:

  • MetaDesign

  • Cfd Conversation Series Event Summaries

  • Designing Experiences, Shaping Futures

      • For this series, current and past students involved with work occurring within the Center for Design reflect on how their academic and professional backgrounds have come together through their involvement in CfD interdisciplinary projects.

  • coming soon: Interviews with CfD faculty!

Check it out at: https://medium.com/center-for-design

Made progress in our 7 other projects.

Embodying Information

What affordances, opportunities, and challenges emerge when interpreting data through the body using dance? The Data Dance team has been working with a contemporary dance company in a series of workshops which guide participants through activities aimed at creating space for embodied engagement with data. From these workshops, the team is designing a toolkit to guide other researchers, practitioners, and communities in using movement as inquiry, approaching data together, and fostering data curiosity. Data Dance is part of the larger Data Moves project at the Co-Laboratory for Data Impact that explores participatory embodied data practice more broadly including dance, theater, and other somatic approaches.

Team members: Laura Perovich, Ilya Vidrin, Nicole Zizzi, Rahul Bhargava, Jesse Hinson, Amanda Brea, Victoria Palacin

Partners: Co- Lab for Data Impact, Evolve Dynamicz Dance Company

LUCID Framework (NSF)

This project imagines user-centered design processes where the latent needs of myriad users are automatically elicited from social media, forums, and online reviews, and translated into new concept recommendations for designers. This project will advance the fundamental understanding of if and how AI can augment the performance of designers in early-stage product development by investigating two fundamental questions: (1) Can we build and validate novel natural language processing (NLP) algorithms for large-scale elicitation of latent user needs with cross-domain transferability and minimal need for manually labeled data? (2) Can we build and validate novel deep generative design algorithms that capture the visual and functional aspects of past successful designs and automatically translate them into new design concepts? Our convergence research team is well-positioned to undertake these questions, with expertise across four disciplines of engineering, computer science, business, and design.

Team members: Mohsen Moghaddam, Lu Wang, Tucker Marion, Paolo Ciuccarelli, Estefania Ciliotta

Partners: Northeastern College of Engineering, D'Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern, University of Michigan

Service Design Metrics Research Paper

While there are many resources for service design professionals, there is rarely any mention of relevant service metrics. Most often, when metrics are referenced, they are high-level that capture the overall experience, such as NPS (Net Promoter Score), CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score), and Customer Effort Score (CES). Furthermore, there lacks a comprehensive inventory of relevant metrics for service design professionals. Therefore, the goal of our work is to build a comprehensive inventory of service design metrics that are relevant as part of the service design process, as well as the validation of a service experience.

Team Members: Miso Kim, Houjiang Liu, Estefania Ciliotta

Partners: William Albert – Bentley University

Design Bridge, Iterative Design + Extended Reality: A New NUFlex

A foundational element to design courses is an iterative design process. Students understand this process easily and intuitively and can apply it to projects and challenges they encounter. For many students, the iterative process through which they learn is opaque. Students want to improve their learning process and have some level of metacognition about how best they learn but lack a formal framework about how to apply this information. In this project new learning interventions and instruments will be developed to further these ends in design courses. This will include updating current materials for NUFlex and developing new pilots for design courses and expansion into other courses that use iterative creative processes including art

Team members: Mark Sivak, Jamal Thorne, Nick Wilson

Banca Intesa

This project was a collaboration between Banca Intesa S.p.A., an Italian banking group, and the design team led by Paolo Ciuccarelli from the Center for Design, Northeastern University. The project aimed to create a collection of data visualizations for Banca Intesa S.p.A. to explore its impacts on the growth of knowledge depth in the company. The results will be used for developing the training program and supporting the future business plan.

Team members: Paolo Ciuccarelli, Houjiang Liu, Yuan Hua

Partners: Banca Intesa, Italy

Designing Solutions to Misinformation

We are investigating how UI and UX elements can affect the consumption and spread of misinformation on social media platforms. In particular, we are exploring how design can mitigate the negative effects of social metrics (SM) and filtering algorithms (FA) on the consumption and spread of information and news on such platforms. Our assumption is that we can influence users’ behavior and try to limit the spread of misinformation by designing new ways to present and visualize SM and to increase users’ awareness of the hidden effects of FA and SM. This assumption is based on previous research on the impact of UX design on user’s digital behavior.

Team Members: John Wihbey, Myo Chung, Mike Peacey, Estefania Ciliotta, Paolo Ciuccarelli, Yuqing Liu

Partners: Sara Colombo and Guangyu Chen – TU Eindhoven

Climate Change and Health

This research group is seeking to understand attitudes in young adults (18-24) regarding climate change and how it affects mental health and health behaviors. We hypothesize that the environmental risk wrought by climate change and the national conversation on sustainability likely leads to a spectrum of beliefs, behaviors, and values regarding personal agency and resilience, which we are loosely defining as climate nihilism, climate ambivalence, and climate hope. The working group is pursuing two phases of data collection using complementary, cross-disciplinary methods (i.e., Design Toolkits, Online Surveys) to explore collective and relational aspects of climate change and health.

Team Members: Miso Kim, Michael A. Mages, Sara Carr, Susan Mello, Estefania Ciliotta

Students: Madison Thomas and Yechan Yang

Continued work with our partners both outside and within Northeastern University.

Thank you for being a part of our biggest year yet, we are excited to see the continued progress that 2022 will bring.

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