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Design and Innovation Building Grand Opening: UCSD’s front door to community collaborations

In November of 2021, the UC San Diego Design Lab unveiled their long-awaited new home in the recently constructed Design and Innovation Building, or as it is affectionately referred to, the DIB. The DIB will serve as a hub for academia, industry and community innovators to participate in design events, lectures, and other working partnerships within the design community that aim to create human-centered solutions to the complex problems facing our region and beyond. The grand opening of the DIB showcased the potential for such gatherings, boasting the presence of organizations like the UCSD Design Co., Girls Who Code, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, to name a few. Such groups showcased current and past projects to the students, professors, and industry leaders in attendance. 

The opening of the DIB marks a momentous occasion in the history of the Design Lab, as the building itself, which is a multi-use environment bringing together multiple disciplines under one roof, represents the journey and philosophy at the heart of the Design Lab’s mission–making UC San Diego a world center for design research and education that fosters a new way of thinking, which addresses the core issues with a systems point of view, and emphasizing the role of people in the complex systems of the modern world.

Postdoc Researcher Zhutian Chen is Visualizing Data in Augmented Reality

Currently a postdoctoral researcher at the UC San Diego Design Lab and at the Creativity Lab, Zhutian Chen describes what he does as visualizing data in an augmented reality environment. Chen seeks to visualize data “beyond the desktop” and to “allow the user to interact with [the data].” 

Before joining the Design Lab, Chen originally earned his B.S. in Computer Software Engineering at the South China University of Technology, eventually earning his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. During his time as an undergraduate, Chen was given the opportunity to intern for Microsoft Research as a research assistant where he discovered his newfound interest in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). 

“Before my internship in Microsoft Research, I think [I was] more interested in doing research related to data mining and machine learning,” says Chen. “However, I [found] out that HCI is much more interesting because it makes you engage the human.” 
Lily Irani

Lilly Irani: Seeking to the Community Behind the Wheel in Tech

Lilly Irani is currently an associate professor in the Communication department and an affiliate faculty member at The UCSD Design Lab. She’s the winner of the 2020 International Communication Association Outstanding Book Award and the 2019 Diana Forsythe Prize for her book Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India. Inspired by the work of Lucy Suchman, Lilly’s research in the field of design extends beyond simply “asking what’s right and wrong and for whom,” but encompasses giving workers and communities “an actual voice in shaping the technology” and getting “political agency over the technologies that we use,” as she put it. 

Her involvement with the community is nothing short of impressive. For ten years, Lilly co-designed and maintained a website for online gig workers on the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform to let workers share reviews of employers and jobs to take or avoid. Over the last two years, she has grown the software platform into a worker advocacy organization run by Mechanical Turk workers themselves, so they can also organize to improve their work conditions in ways that matter to them. 

More recently, she has worked with the United Taxi Workers San Diego to champion a program to digitize access to taxis for first and last mile transportation in San Diego. This project works towards maintaining good wages and rights for essential transport workers while working towards climate justice by using taxis to make public transit more useful to San Diegans. Design Lab members Udayan Tandon, Vera Khovanskaya, Enrique Arcilla, and Sam Muñoz work on this project. 

Meet Member of Postdoctoral Fellowship Program’s Debut Cohort: Jane E

Jane E is part of UCSD’s Computer Science and Engineering’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program and is currently a member of  The Design Lab under the guidance of mentor Scott Klemmer. E’s journey to The Design Lab started when she earned her B.S. in Computer Science in 2012 at Princeton, then studied as a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at Stanford University. Along the way, she has worked in the information technology sector for companies like Adobe and Microsoft, and her awards include the Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant. Jane’s research aims to expand the horizons of human creativity by searching for a balanced relationship between humans and computational assistance. 
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