Projects and Papers

Design-Driven Transformation

Executive Education

Jointly with UCSD’s Rady School of Management, we offer Executive Education programs in Design-Driven transformation of companies. This program goes beyond the usual “Design Thinking” curriculum to ensure that design actually gets done, that the entire hierarchy of company management has been trained in design methods so that they can all appreciate the value that the designerly way of thinking can guide the company strategy in all divisions, all the way to the C-Level Strategic decisions.

Our founding partners in this enterprise are two industry leaders: SAP and IBM design.

The executive education program plays a central role in the Center for Design-Driven Transformation. The Center provides the background research, the development of case studies, metrics for measuring the current state of the company and its progress, and continuing development of the scientific basis for design.

Health Design

Kid Print

There is a pressing need for reliable methods to identify infants for vaccine delivery and health record access, particularly when primary caregivers are unavailable. These issues are compounded in resource limited settings where cost, logistics and infrastructure add further hurdles to efficient Individual and public health management. Our objective is to develop a field deployable yet inexpensive biometric platform to link intrinsic and constant markers of identity with vaccination and medical records in remote and developing parts of the world.


Changing demographics in the US over the next several decades will present new opportunities to rethink how even basic healthcare is administered. By 2030, more than 20% of the population will consist of older adults, compared to 13% in 2010. Life expectancy for 65-year-olds is expected to increase by approximately 3 years between now and 2050 (US Census Bureau 2014). We seek to understand the unique healthcare needs of this aging population and to innovate with these needs in mind. One current project in this area is employing ethnographic methods to investigate best practices across several senior-specific emergency rooms nationwide. Senior emergency rooms are becoming increasingly common, and furnish the opportunity to integrate traditional emergency medicine with home-based healthcare, social outreach, and other programs that target the whole person. This project exemplifies our larger vision in which healthcare innovations evolve toward supporting healthful aging in addition to treating illness.


Inspired by Larry Smarr’s personal healthcare journey, GE Healthcare, CalIT2 and the UCSD Design Lab are exploring future-oriented imaging and intervention paradigms that assimilate new technology with human-centered design processes. This will foster guided collaboration and help to achieve systems that are more people centered, robust, and impactful. GE Healthcare’s Global Design and Research teams will provide “Design Thinking” strategies – combining empathy, imagination, and action bias – to help unlock ways to deliver better, more integrated continuity of care to patients, while serving the needs of all stakeholders in the healthcare system.

Large-scale Learning

Gut Instinct

Project Lead: Vineet Pandey

Gut Instinct is an online system that encourages citizen scientists by teaching them about the gut microbiome and then having them reflect on their experiences and life stories to generate unique insights. On the site, users can pose and answer health-related questions. This sets up a dual-objective system: not only do users learn about the gut microbiome, but scientists also get a deeper look at people’s insights and folk theories they may not be able to collect in a lab.

Techniques for Improving Feedback

Project Lead: Ailie Fraser

Feedback is a critical part of learning, especially in creative domains. However, good feedback is rare because it is time-consuming to give and people are not consistently skilled at providing it. This project uses technological interventions such as task structuring and just-in-time guidance to help people give better feedback. We are actively developing an online peer feedback system for use in both online and in-person classrooms that embodies these techniques.

Social Computing

Community Feedback for Civic Designs

Project Lead: Narges Mahyar

This project explores novel opportunities for how can innovators obtain and make sense of diverse feedback from potential stakeholders or customers. We have been developing tools to enable innovators to post designs, to author evaluation criteria, to recruit feedback providers through social media or other online forums, and to visualize conflicting feedback so as to prioritize changes for future iterations of designs. The goal is to enable people to obtain authentic, honest, and knowledgeable feedback with clear and actionable steps forward.


Project Lead: Amy Shannon

Our team seeks to improve peer feedback on student presentations. Many college courses require students to give in-class presentations. This raises a number of challenges. Students who watch the presentation are typically not participating actively. Professors can be overwhelmed trying to provide feedback while also managing the class. The presenting students would benefit from receiving more feedback than the professor can provide. This project introduces PeerPresents, an in-class peer feedback system we developed to improve the feedback process for in-class presentations.

Protolab Research Group

Project Lead: Steven Dow

Even the most brilliant individuals cannot solve today’s most daunting problems working alone.  The ProtoLab combines research in design thinking, crowdsourcing, and decision making to create novel social technologies that motivate participation and organize people around complex problems in civics, healthcare, climate change, and education. Our research investigates the underlying social and cognitive mechanisms that impact how different groups— from local communities, to classrooms of students, to online crowds — tackle complex problems creatively and collaboratively.

Social Ideation

Project Lead: Joel Chan

This project investigates how social computing systems can optimize real-time creative collaboration, whether in teams or with crowds. We are actively developing a Web-based social computing system for brainstorming that facilitates managing the interactions of brainstormers with each other so that the solution space is explored with the right combination of breadth and depth. This is accomplished through real-time analysis, synthesis, and adaptive filtering of interactions between brainstormers and their ideas.

Join Us

Are you a Design practitioner, student, or industry professional interested in getting involved with the Design Lab? Contact us, we want to hear from you.

Contact Us