Design / Research + Sponsored Projects

The Division of Design consults on design projects for corporate, municipal and non-profit organizations. Our program promotes design as a strategic communication tool that can inform an audience, influence their perceptions and move them to act. Exposing students to client-based work contributes to their understanding of professional practice while allowing them the opportunity to apply their skills in an educational context.

Design consultation can take a variety of forms:
—Managed by a faculty member as part of an established undergraduate or graduate course.
—Managed by a faculty member as an independent study with a smaller group of selected students.
—Undertaken by a faculty member as an independent design consultant.

Recent Design Projects

Case Study 1: College Of Arts & Sciences Identity

In Spring 2001, Visual Communication Design juniors researched and developed a new identity system for the University of Washington College of Arts and Sciences. The investigation was led by Adjunct Associate Professor Anne Traver, a UW design alumnus and Principal at Methodologie, a Seattle based corporate design studio.

In the course of the project, students researched the college and interviewed its Dean and staff. They worked in teams to define the brand platform, establish the brand hierarchy, and create a variety of unique marks. The marks were then applied to print, signage, multimedia and other applications before a final presentation to the College for selection.

The final solution, “Paths of Discovery” was inspired by the College of Arts & Sciences’ mission: “Understanding what is/Imagining what can be.” It evokes the progressive attitude of the College and projects motion, change, growth and discovery. Containing two paths, the lower is grounded, symbolizing “understanding what is”. It continues into the horizon to illustrate a lifetime of learning. The upper path then ascends above the horizon, visualizing the stimulus of discovery – “imagining what can be.”

Case Study 2: Celebration Of Distinction

The Celebration of Distinction honors a distinguished alumni of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington. Honorees are nominated on the basis of their personal and professional accomplishments by faculty and staff in the college, with the Dean and Divisional Deans making the final selection. Past recipients include Washington State Attorney General Christine Gregoire, archaeologist Kent Weeks, and human rights activist Gordon Hirabayashi.

Under the direction of Professor Douglas Wadden, Visual Communication Design students have been involved for several years in designing promotional materials for this fund-raising event. Students work in teams to develop an invitation, commemorative program, award plaque and event signage. The project allows students to explore issues in creating design systems and sequential documents. It also introduces students to simple printing and production concerns.

Case Study 3: Guy Simplant

Created for the outreach efforts of UWEB (University of Washington Engineered Biomaterials group) a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center, the Guy Simplant website is an educational resource designed to introduce middle school students to the field of biomaterial science. UWEB develops new biomaterials which aid healing when used in human body implants. In the web site, students meet Guy Simplant, a secret agent working for the Scientific Bureau of Investigation. Guy gets hurt in a variety of situations, and the student must play through games and interactive illustrations in order to help and heal Guy.

The Guy Simplant web site will eventually comprise several episodes. In the first episode (completed in 2001) Guy hurts his hand while parachuting. The player must create a new, artificial hand “implant” for Guy using ordinary household materials for bones, nerves, arteries, muscles, etc.

The second episode of Guy Simplant (sponsored jointly by UWEB and the Hope Heart Institute) will be completed in fall of 2002. Guy will visit his physician, Dr. Z, and learn that he is at risk for heart disease. The player must help Guy improve his overall lifestyle choices (diet, exercise and stress management). If the player fails to make heart-healthy choices, Guy experiences a heart attack. The player then needs to build a “patch” which can replace the damaged part of the heart.

The first Guy Simplant episode was developed by Assistant Professor Karen Cheng and two Visual Communication Design graduate students, Karen Gutowsky-Zimmerman and Wing Fong. An early, animated model of this episode eventually became a key case study in Wing Fong’s MFA thesis.


Submitting Design Research Proposals

To propose a design project, please submit a brief description via e-mail to Associate Professor Annabelle Gould, Chair of the Division of Design at

The faculty will review your proposal and suggest appropriate next steps based on its unique characteristics and requirements.

To be eligible, your proposal must:

  • Clearly describe the design-related problem to be solved. We are most interested in design projects which have a seriousness of purpose. The project should contribute to the larger goals of society and business.
  • Guarantee significant involvement from the proposing organization. There must be one person assigned as the decision maker and primary client contact. This person should be available to interact with the program in person and/or by e-mail an average of 1-3 hours per week. This time will likely be disproportionately weighted towards the beginning and end of the project.
  • Include project timeframe and budget. All projects must include a realistic budget to cover project supplies as well as student and departmental compensation. Please note that we do not support speculative design proposals.