Voices

Societal Urgency: UTD’s Cassini Nazir on the First-Person Experience

It would make sense that the best education in user-experience would involve a first-person experience. It's about finding needs and figuring out how to fill them.

Cassini Nazir is the director of design and research for the ArtSciLab at the University of Texas at Dallas. [Photo: UTD]

The Design With a Big ‘D’ series digs into the scope and depth of the Dallas-Fort Worth UX/UI industry as the region becomes a hot spot for design talent and companies. To follow the series and get the news on what’s now and next in Dallas-Fort Worth, sign up for Dallas Innovates Every Day.


SERIES: PART 10

It would make sense that the best education in user-experience would involve a first-person experience.

“Education has been forced to rethink itself with the emergence of massive online open courses (also referred to as MOOCS) to give the same kind of education as they would at Harvard,” says Cassini Nazir, director of design and research for the ArtSciLab at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Nazir and former NASA astrophysicist Roger Malina oversee the ArtSciLab in the School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communications at UT Dallas. Nazir’s role as director of design and research at the lab is to solve problems through collaborations between artists, scientists, and designers.

For example, the lab collaborated with brain scientists to make data from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) more meaningful using sound. The approach, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), allows data to be represented by sounds from which a trained listener might be able to discern patterns of brain connectivity not readily seen in available visualization strategies.

Students are attracted to making things look good. But we want them to make things behave well.

“Many students, when they come in, see how design can be fun. They’re not doing math problems by and large,” he says. “You’re dealing with things that are tangible and visible. Students are attracted to making things look good. But we want them to make things behave well.

“That’s where in-person education comes in,” Nazir says. “Reflection is important for people who build things. There are lots of assumptions we make when we build something because we put ourselves in that position. You’re going to build your assumptions into it. You’re designing for people who are unlike you.”

It’s where students learn — truly understand — the concept of “societal urgency:” finding needs and figuring out how to fill them.

“Some students found many seniors don’t go to medical appointments because of logistics,” Nazir says. “They started to look at a ride-sharing system to make it possible.”

While the UTD students didn’t develop a functional product in that case — their project went only as far as a prototype — they learned the practical process of design thinking.

“It’s about an approach long term,” says Nazir, a member of the Dallas Design Council, an organization formed by design leaders of Fortune 500 companies in the Dallas Region. The council’s mission is to help meet the region’s need for talented designers. “It’s about helping people — that’s not necessarily the mindset that they (students) come into it with.”

A version of this story was first published in Sept. 2018 in a Dallas Regional Chamber brochure: “Design With a Big ‘D'”.


READ NEXT

PART 1: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
The DFW Experience

Part one examines DFW as a UX hotspot. Today, four out of 10 Texas user-experience professionals work in Dallas-Fort Worth.

PART 2: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
How the Big Design Conference Came to Be

Part two looks at the beginnings of the conference. Big Design co-founder Brian Sullivan shares its origin story.

PART 3: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
Corporate by Design

Part three shares insights for how design pros help companies such as Walmart, Accenture, Bottle Rocket, Sabre, and more gain competitive advantage.

PART 4: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
Leading by Design

Part four covers a few big thinkers who are leading by design at companies such as Capital One, BBVA, Intuit, and USAA. Whether it’s slaying piles of paper receipts at tax time or making shopping an adventure, these Dallas area thoughtleaders are making their marks in their respective industries. The common thread? Dogged persistence.

PART 5: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
Meet 6 UX/UI Experts Delivering Solutions

UX/UI designers and experts are integral parts of many company operations and span across almost every industry. The Dallas-Fort Worth region has no shortage of thought leaders who are helping create the solutions for some of today’s most popular products. Here are six you need to know.

PART 6: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
Norm Cox, Iconoclast: Creating a Legacy in Design

Tap a menu on your smartphone to pay for your coffee, or edit a Word doc. Either way, you can think of Norm Cox. The North Texan was was on the Xerox team that developed the graphical user interface systems that we still use today.

PART 7: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
XR: The Experience Extended

In the service economy, winners will be companies who can best anticipate customer needs and can provide the best customer experience. Enter Extended Reality. Here are four DFW companies making bets on its future.

PART 8: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
A Look Into the Future:
Industry Leaders Say Universities Provide UX Firepower

From developing autonomous trucks to incorporating science and the arts, universities in Dallas-Fort Worth are churning out UX-perts

PART 9: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
Teaching the Next Evolution of UX Design Thinking

Multi-dimensional UX: Preston McCauley has been working to help UX professionals discover new ways to approach the craft.

PART 10: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
Societal Urgency:
UTD’s Cassini Nazir on the First-Person Experience

It would make sense that the best education in user-experience would involve a first-person experience. It’s about finding needs and figuring out how to fill them.

PART 11: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
By the Numbers: Tech Roots Give DFW the Edge in UX/UI Boom

The user experience sector is exploding in Dallas-Fort Worth. That’s a good pairing with the region’s history as a high-tech hotbed.

PART 12: DESIGN WITH A BIG D
Creative Vault: Your Guide to Resources for Designers and UX/UI Pros in DFW

There are plenty of area associations, events, organizations, and educational institutions to help designers brainstorm, commiserate, learn, and hone their skills. Here’s our resource guide to get you started.

#DesignThinking #UX/UI #DesignWithABigD #Cornerstone

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Dave Moore has 27 years’ experience in writing, editing, reporting, and analysis. He’s traveled to Bosnia to observe efforts to boost the country’s post-Soviet economy, explored the causes of h(...)

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