Are you passionate about the ways design can address global challenges and social issues, and create better connections between people? If so, the ORBIT Lab is looking for you! We are a multidisciplinary and multigenerational team working on several different projects. The common threads between these projects are designing for human connection and social change. Our lab is divided into smaller teams who work together on specific parts of each project, and we also meet together regularly as a larger group to give each other feedback, help each other, and check in on progress. The faculty lead for the ORBIT Lab is Stamps Associate Professor Kelly M. Murdoch-Kitt. Her research partner, Dr. Denielle Emans, teaches at Roger Williams University, a social justice-oriented institution in Rhode Island, USA.
As part of the ORBIT Lab, you’ll learn about things like:
- User experience and design,
- Digital product development,
- Qualitative design research,
- Visual design,
- Social media marketing,
- Academic writing / publishing
Because our projects are centered around promoting collaborations, particularly between people from different cultures, you may also learn about
- Intercultural communication
- Collaboration skills
- A variety of global issues
- working with people in a variety of locations across the globe.
ORBIT online platform: The current beta version enables educators across the globe to create a profile and find teaching or research partners. We are working to improve the UI/UX and expand and promote the resource to grow our user base. We are also working on new directions for the platform, including how to best design for the needs of faculty in the humanities to create even more robust interdisciplinary collaborations.
Middle School Collaboration Platform: An exciting new direction for the ORBIT platform is an adaptation for student use. Our test group for this future new version of the platform is middle school students, and we will be partnering with schools to help us research, test, and pilot this version of the platform. COVID has magnified the need to improve remote and hybrid learning, especially to support collaborative work. Bringing your skills to this project will help us accelerate the timeline and help make peer-to-peer learning more accessible and resilient.
Visual thinking activities to improve collaboration: We are also developing hands-on design-based methods to improve collaboration in physical classrooms and hybrid spaces; you can check out some of our prior foundational work in this area in our first book, Intercultural Collaboration by Design (the full ebook is available through the U-M library HERE). As a next step, we are interested in making these methods accessible through interactive online experiences (on the ORBIT platforms and beyond).
Creative Resilience: Faculty leads Kelly Murdoch-Kitt (U-M) and Dr. Denielle Emans (Roger Williams University) are also working on an exciting new book project called Creative Resilience. This new book is about ways in which people in creative disciplines work productively with uncertainty, and to create positive change. As an edited volume, Creative Resilience will include case studies, project ideas, exercises, short essays, and visual narratives from faculty, students, and practitioners in various creative disciplines, including visual communication design, photography, filmmaking, and product design, among others.
Writing about design research: We are working on publications related to all of the above projects, including journal articles and grant proposals. We always have room on the team for a dedicated publications assistant to help us with literature reviews, logistics, and other aspects of the writing process. There may be opportunities for you to be listed as a co-author on some of our publications if you are interested.
ManageHF: Finally, Kelly Murdoch-Kitt is also involved with an ongoing UX research project called ManageHF—it is a decision dashboard for providers of heart failure patients. She collaborates with a cardiologist and pharmacology professor on this project. Often, students who end up working on the ORBIT platform find it interesting and satisfying to work on the decision dashboard as well. Again, there are opportunities aplenty to do field research, including with heart failure care providers. You can also put design and/or development skills into practice creating a tool that will help heart failure patients receive better care.
Faculty Project Lead
Kelly Murdoch-Kitt, an Associate Professor in the Stamps School of Art & Design, is a user experience designer and educator focused on people, systems, and interpersonal interactions. In her work and teaching, human connection drives the creation of effective and socially responsible concepts.
She integrates visual communication, user experience, and service design with behavior change and social engagement, drawing on her professional experience as a user experience strategist in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Murdoch-Kitt is the co-author of Intercultural Collaboration by Design: Drawing from Differences, Distances, and Disciplines through Visual Thinking (Routledge 2020). Based on her research with Dr. Denielle J. Emans at Roger Williams University, their book offers more than thirty visual thinking activities to support effective collaboration among diverse teams. Murdoch-Kitt and Emans are currently working together on a new book about how people in the creative disciplines demonstrate and utilize resilience.
Before joining the Stamps School of Art & Design faculty, Murdoch-Kitt served as an Assistant Professor in the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She also created and taught a variety of courses in the Graphic Design Programs at the University of San Francisco and California College of the Arts. She is a recent alumna of the National Steering Committee for the AIGA Design Educators Community, an organization that aims to support and foster professional development for design educators. Her excellence in teaching and contributions to service within the discipline have been recognized by the Design Incubation Communication Design Educator Awards: Intercultural Design Collaborations in Sustainability; and the Decipher 2018 Design Educators Research Conference.