The Design Lab

We are a newly established organization located on the University of California, San Diego campus.

We propose a novel mix of practice and theory, of Thinking, Observing, and Making: TOM. We want to produce major works that advance the state of knowledge and leave a lasting heritage. Let TOM define our approach. Thinking and Making, but always for the benefit of people, hence the importance of Observing. The goal of design is to produce products, services, and systems. It is the science and practice of making.

The Design Lab is located within the California Institute of Telecommunication and Information Technology, which gives us freedom to move seamlessly across all the departments, schools, and divisions of the university. Our advisory board includes people from Management, Engineering, Visual Arts, Theater, and the Social Sciences.

Sign up here to receive news about the Lab and our events.

To contact the Design Lab directly, please email, or call 858-822-1343.

The Design Lab is currently searching for a Teaching Assistant Professor!

Think. Observe. Make

This is an exciting time for the field of design. The technologies that the research communities have worked on for the past 25 years have leapt off the pages of academic journals and into the daily lives of billions. What used to be our imagination is now our reality. These have enabled an extremely wide range of innovation in multiple arenas: healthcare and medicine, business, social interaction, entertainment.

But technology only enables: a practical application requires more than the underlying technology. If we build things for people, then knowledge of both people and technology is required. If we are to make them pleasurable, then the creativity and craft skills of artists and traditionally trained industrial and graphic designers are required. If they are to be understandable, then social scientists are required, including experts in writing and exposition. If they are to thrive in the world of business, then schools of management are required. Design aspires to combine these very different vertical threads of knowledge. Design is an all encompassing field that integrates together business and engineering, the social sciences and the arts.

Our goal is to create an exciting, vibrant design community that pervades the campus, cutting across disciplines, developing cross-campus projects, combining practice with theory, and making UC San Diego a world leader in design theory and integrative programs.

We propose a novel mix of practice and theory, of Thinking, Observing, and Making: TOM. We want to produce major works that advance the state of knowledge and leave a lasting heritage. Let TOM define our approach. Thinking and Making, but always for the benefit of people, hence the importance of Observing. The goal of design is to produce products, services, and systems. It is the science and practice of making.

Want to know what’s going on at the Design Lab?
Check this page for our announcements and other public events!

We love to interact with people, so all of our public events we’re hosting or attending will be listed here.
We hope to see you at one of them!

Upcoming Events

ECE Design Competition
Design a device or platform that improve the quality-of-life for seniors

The Design Lab is co-sponsoring the ECE Design Competition this year!

The current timeline for this event is:
Dec 15 – Letter of Intent Due
Jan 16 – Final Proposal Due
Jun 10 – Prototype Demo & Design Competition Showcase

The prizes are:
1st Place – $4,000
2nd Place – $2,000
3rd Place – $1,000

For more information about this competition click here!

Recent Events & News

April 9, 2017

UCSD Cognitive Science Conference
Keynote Speaker: Don Norman


The Cognitive Science Student Association at UC San Diego is hosted its 11th Annual Conference. This year’s theme “Cognition at Work” highlighted the inner mechanisms of the brain that impact practical applications of cognition in the real world.

March 22, 2017 

Design Forward: Speaking Their Language


Stop talking design for design’s sake and start talking design for business’ sake.

Designers love design. We live and breathe it. Often it feels not so much a way of working but a way of being. Get designers together and we’ll talk discovery research, experience maps, interactions, prototypes, and on and on. But business, product, and civic leaders don’t necessarily speak the language of design. They speak the language of ROI, engagement, and satisfaction. And they are the people who make decisions about investing in design, staffing it, and acting on it.

Don Norman, renowned author, innovator, and educator, recently moderated an accomplished panel of San Diego business, civic, and design leaders on the topic of demonstrating the value of design.

March 17, 2017 

HCI Finals: The Future of Mobile Interaction 


250 UC San Diego students showed us how they see the future of mobile interaction!

March 14, 2017 

Paola Antonelli – UC San Diego Helen Edison Lecture Series


Design has branched out in new directions, galvanizing young practitioners, sparking novel business models, and attracting worldwide attention. A designer today can choose to focus on interaction, interfaces, fashion, visualization, socially minded infrastructures, immersive digital spaces, biodesign, sustainability, video games, critical scenarios, and, yes, even products and furniture. Paola Antonelli, the senior curator of the Department of Architecture & Design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, delved deep into design’s many directions and into its future.

Paola Antonelli is an Italian author, editor, and curator. She is currently the senior curator of the Department of Architecture & Design as well as the director of R&D at The Museum of Modern Art, New York City.

February 25, 2017 

Chinese Computing and the Future of I.T.


Are the 75,000 characters in the Chinese language impediments to the fast-moving nature of modern technology, or are Chinese typists ushering in the future of computing? Tom Mullaney, associate professor of Chinese history at Stanford University, explored these questions through his captivating research of Chinese telegraphs, typewriters and computers.

Mullaney was joined by the Design Lab’s very own Scott Klemmer, associate professor and co-director of the Design Lab, and discussed what the story of these objects tells us about the relationships between language, coding and the richer ways we communicate and solve problems in the 21st century.

February 7, 2017

Design Lab Studio Session: Helena Mantis
Crafting the Image in Surgery


Helena Mentis, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Information Systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Her research contributes to the areas of human-computer interaction (HCI), computer supported cooperative work (CSCW), and health informatics. She investigates how new interactive sensors can be integrated into the operating room to support medical collaboration and care.

Recent years have seen a growth in the possibilities of new imaging and interaction technologies in surgery. With these new technologies, a new practice is instantiated in creating a view of the body for the surgeons to work with. In this talk, Helena discusses the productive and cross-referential nature of surgical practice and image use.

Check out the full talk below!

January 25, 2017

Game Changers Series: Collective Innovation for Business and Civics


The Collaboratory for Downtown Innovation recently hosted a talk with the Design Lab’s very own Steven Dow and Narges Mahyar who discussed the theories of design thinking and collective intelligence.

While technology has made it easy to connect people, we need to advance fundamental research on “collective innovation,” where groups collectively explore and refine solutions for complex, multifaceted problems in business and civics.

Check out the video below to watch the complete talk!

January 12, 2017

In the Design Lab’s open space, David Karger from MIT had his talk on Higher Fidelity Systems for End-User Information Management.

People’s ability to manage and share information is often constrained, not by their own knowledge or imagination, but by the limits today’s tools put on what and how information can be represented.

Karger presented several tools developed that give end users more power to express what they know in useful ways. He described their study of mailing lists and how it is informing the design of their new mailing list system, Murmur.

December 7, 2016

NewSchool of Architecture & Design Presents: Don Norman

In the NewSchool Auditorium, Don Norman spoke about “The Future of Design (or, Design isn’t what you think it is).”

This event was free and open to the public.

For more information click here.

November 4, 2016


In his lecture, Paperny investigated architecture as a form of diplomacy in the context of the Second World War at major European international and national expositions that took place between 1937 and 1959.

Vladimir Paperny is currently an Adjunct Professor in the Slavic department at UCLA.

October 22, 2016


We were very excited to announce that The Design Lab at UC San Diego’s Co-Director, Scott Klemmer spoke at TEDxSanDiego!

TEDxSanDiego 2016 was held at Copley Symphony Hall. This year’s theme was ‘The Age of Magic.’


October 19, 2016 

NewSchool Lecture Series: Billie Tsien

Our friends at the NewSchool of Architecture & Design held their first lecture of the season featuring world-renowned architect, Billie Tsien, at Spreckels Theatre.


Billie Tsien discussed how user experience effects how we design.

September 21, 2016

Axure RP: The Making Of 

Many of you have used it. But how many of you know it’s maker is right here in San Diego? This month members of the Axure RP team gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how one of the preeminent UX prototyping tools is made!

Axure’s product team put on a presentation of the ins and outs of Axure RP’s software development life cycle from Axure RP 7 through to the current release—Axure RP 8—and into the future as we plan our Axure RP 8.X major update.

Food and soft drinks courtesy of Axure and The Creative Group.

September 9, 2016

Future Domestic Robots: Design Fiction and the Home of the Future 

Bruce Sterling (cyberpunk visionary, futurist, and design theorist) and Jasmina Tesanovic (writer, activist, and filmmaker) came and discussed two recent projects of speculative design.

This event was put on by our friends at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

Jasmina Tesanovic talked about Casa Jasmina, a mix of lab, gallery space, and B&B in Turin, Italy, that aims to integrate traditional Italian skills in furniture and interior design with emergent skills in Italian open-source electronics as applied to “the internet of Things in the Home.”

Bruce Sterling discussed about the upcoming installation for the Vitra Design Museum in Germany, which he and Jasmina have been in residence at the Clarke Center to incubate.

August 25, 2016

Expose UX

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Expose UX was an event will hosted by The Design Lab and Expose UX at The Sanford Consortium.

Expose UX is the web TV show where startups compete for prizes while getting feedback from user experience (UX) experts. It’s Shark Tank for UX design. Here we learned from experts’ advice and how to improve on one’s own product!

August 1, 2016


Design Disruptors is a full-length documentary featuring design leaders and product designers from 15+ industry-toppling companies — valued at more than $1 trillion dollars combined.

This event was presented to you by rethinkCAFÉ, InVision, AIGA San Diego, and yours truly, The Design Lab at UC San Diego in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp District.

July 27, 2016

Summer Teacher Workshop: Design Thinking 


This event, hosted by STEAM Insight, helped explore ways to blend the Common Core standards with the Deeper Learning Skills kids need today. The Design Thinking Process allows students to practice content skills while growing their collaboration, critical thinking, communication and creativity skills.

July 26, 2016


Cog Sci Professor, Steven Dow, recently gave a talk at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab!

July 21, 2016

Wie sag ich’s ihm: Selbstfahrende Autos wollen verstanden werden

During the Automated Vehicles Symposium, The Design Lab at UC San Diego’s Automation research has been featured on the popular German tech news site, heise online!

Check out the article here (the site is in German but can be translate via Google Translate; the video is in English!).

June 28, 2016

‘Collaboratory’ brings UCSD downtown


The Design Lab joins the Downtown partnership, UC San Diego Extension, and local innovators for the new Collaboratory for Downtown Innovation!

Check out the article in The San Diego Union-Tribune here to learn more about it!

June 24, 2016

The 12 Most Important People in Design Right Now


We are pleased to share that San Diego Magazine’s HATCH has featured Don Norman and some of our amazing collaborators/partners as part of “The 12 Most Important People in Design Right Now”!

Click here to check out the article and read about what they’re working on in San Diego now!

June 20, 2016

UC San Diego Aims To Become A Leader In Using Design To Solve Problems

Check out this 9 minute audio clip from KPBS Midday Edition featuring Don Norman and his thoughts on turning San Diego into a hub for “design thinking.”

June 16, 2016


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Design Forward was a design summit in which civic leaders, industry innovators and designers came together to explore the potential and power of human-centered design in driving San Diego’s economic growth and global identity. The day-long event demonstrated design as a critical component of San Diego’s innovation strategy.

June 15, 2016

Summit unites designers, industry


The Design Lab and collaborators are working to make San Diego a hub of design innovation, starting with Design Forward, a summit for designers held at the Broadway Pier in San Diego.

Check out the article on this event by The San Diego Union-Tribune here!

Also, feel free to go through the official Design Forward website to learn more about the event!

Check out our archive of past events here


Sign up here to receive announcements for our Design@Large talks and other public events at the Design Lab.

Feel free to click on the title of the speaker’s talk to watch the full Design@Large!

Design@Large Spring 2017 – Atoms, Bits, and Culture 


April 5
Design Projects on Kickstarter
Clarissa Redwine

April 12
Reframing the Decision-Makers’ Dilemma: Towards a Social Context Model of Creative Idea Recognition
Jennifer Mueller
University of San Diego

April 19
Using Touchscreens to Teach Freehand Sketching & Spatial Visualization
Nate Delson
UC San Diego

April 26
Studying How We Make Sense of Algorithms in News Feeds (and the Challenges Faced when Conducting such Studies)
Karrie Karahalios

May 3
Five Design Roles to Awaken Collective Creativity
Kristian Simsarian
California College of the Arts

May 10
Design Better Spaces
Scott Witthoft

May 17
Interactive Design Tools for the Maker Movement
Björn Hartmann
UC Berkeley

May 24
Disrupting Education? Experimental Evidence on Technology Aided Instruction in India
Karthik Muralidharan
UC San Diego|

May 31
Do People Make Decisions via an Error-prone Bag of Tricks?
Ed Vul
UC San Diego

June 7
Eric von Hippel

Design@Large Winter 2017

Previous Speakers:

January 11
Modeling the Workplace Experience Through Precision – Tracking of Behavior
Gloria Mark
UC Irvine

January 18
Improbable by Design – Creating a Culture of Bold Risk-Taking for Good
Dan Makoski

January 25
Visualization Design Methods
Tamara Munzner
University of British Columbia

February 1
The Life and Times of a Fledging Nonprofit: Growing Pains and Growing Hope
Jamie Alexandre

February 8
ULTRACONCENTRATED: Image, Media, Software
Casey Reas

February 15
Living Computation and Postdeterministic Digital Design
Dave Ackley
University of New Mexico

March 1
See and Be Seen: Communication in the Age of Social Transparency
Paul Leonardi 
UC Santa Barbara

March 8
How Intellectual Property Law Conceptualizes Designs
Pam Samuelson 
Berkeley Center for Law & Technology

March 15
Designing Ecologies of Change: The Change Triangle 3.0
John Seely Brown and Ann Pendleton-Jullian
USC and Deloitte Center for the Edge; Ohio State

Design@Large Fall 2016 – Crowdsourcing 

Previous Speakers:

September 28
Cognitive Systems: Designing Interactions that Think With Us
Haakon Faste

October 5
The Design Space of Tools for Learning Programming at Scale
Philip Guo

October 12
Microproductivity: Getting Big Things Done with Little Microtasks 
Jaime Teevan
Microsoft Research

October 19
Digital Civics and New Forms of Data-Based Participation
Chris Le Dantec
Georgia Tech

October 26
Understanding the Visual Dynamics of Opinions and Purchases
Julian McAuley

November 2
The Nature of Things
Mickey McManus

November 9
The Future of Intelligent Cities 
Greg Horowitt

November 16
The dynamics of collective intelligence in teams 
Anita Woolley
Carnegie Mellon

November 22
Unpacking the Self-Correcting Crowd: Understanding Online Rumoring and Rumor-Correcting Practices 
Kate Starbird
University of Washington

November 30
Is Science Just a Game?
Adrien Treuille
Google Research

Design@Large Spring 2016 – Ubicomp

Previous Speakers:

March 30th
Printing Flexible Electronics
Tina Ng
UC San Diego

April 6th
Monumental Activations
Justin Manor

April 13th
The Future Is Dead. Long Live the Future: A Mad Art Journey Through Some Unmovieish Movie-Making Machines
Amy Alexander
UC San Diego

April 20th
Understanding and Reducing the User Burdens in Applications for Health and Families
Julie Kientz
University of Washington

April 27th
Program and Be Programmed
Leah Buechley

May 4th
Rethinking Software Design
Daniel Jackson

May 13th
TRANSFORM: Beyond Pixels, Towards Radical Atoms
Hiroshi Ishii

May 18th
Engineers for Exploration
Ryan Kastner
UC San Diego

May 25th
Project PREMONITION: A Cyber-Physical System for Disease Surveillance
Ethan Jackson

June 1st
Socially Acceptable AI-based City Driving
Maarten Sierhuis

To check out our archive of speakers from previous years, click the photo below! 



Calls for Faculty

All current positions are filled. Look here for positions that will be advertised during the 2017-18 academic year (around November-December 2017).

Prospective PhD Students

Seeking PhD applicants to work with the Design Lab research faculty

Key faculty in the Design Lab at UC San Diego currently seek PhD students for the Fall 2017 school year. Prospective students with diverse backgrounds in psychology, cognitive science, design, and computing should consider applying to the Cognitive Science Department. Students with computer science or engineering backgrounds should consider applying to the CSE Department. Students with backgrounds in the social sciences and humanities should consider applying to the Communication program.

Make sure to mention potential faculty advisors in your applications.

Key faculty include:
Morana Alac (Comm)
Christine Alvarado (CSE)
Steven Dow (CogSci, CSE)
Bill Griswold (CSE)
Philip Guo (CogSci, CSE)
Jim Hollan (CogSci, CSE)
Lilly Irani (Comm)
David Kirsh (CogSci)
Scott Klemmer (CogSci, CSE)
Don Norman (Design Lab)
Laurel Riek (CSE)
Beth Simon (CSE)
Christo Sims (Comm)

Application for Cognitive Science (due Dec 1)
Application for Computer Science and Engineering (due Dec 15)
Application for Communication (due Jan 13)

Research Assistants

Looking for Juniors, Seniors, and Masters students to conduct research in Design Lab alongside Lab Graduate Researchers and Lab Fellows

Work includes a subset of web, mobile or AR/VR development, software design, designing experiments, running user studies, collecting and  analyzing data and (perhaps) running Machine Learning algorithms to find insights. Being hands-on, learning tools quickly and communicating effectively are non-negotiable skills alongside taking an active interest in the research process. Please make a realistic commitment (keep in mind your class schedule) and plan to stick to your commitment.

Please fill out this Google Form to apply.

Please note, this is not a specific call, but rather a continuous open application, and we will draw from the list of applicants as specific needs arise. We hold interviews only as needed, and you may not be contacted for many months. Once you’ve filled out the google form, please do not contact the lab for information on if/when you might be interviewed. Thank you.

Undergraduate Students

Design at UCSD

Design at UCSD is a student-led group of designers focused on UX design, research, and design thinking, but they’ve also got an appreciation for all design fields and related disciplines.

Check out their website here and their Facebook page here!

Contact Us

How to get a hold of us:

For any questions, please send us an email:

You can also send us a shout out on social media:
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Directions to Atkinson Hall

(Design Lab is in Atkinson 1601)

Via Interstate 5 to Genessee Avenue exit

Take Interstate I-5 and exit at Genessee Ave.
Go West on Genessee (From I-5 North it is a right turn; from I-5 south is a left merge)
Turn Left at North Torrey Pines Rd.
Turn Left at North Point Dr.
Follow North Point Dr. as it curves Right and turns into Hopkins Dr.
Follow Hopkins Dr. to the intersection with Voigt Dr.
Park in the Hopkins Parking Structure:
Continue straight (the entrance is just up the hill on your right)
From the parking structure, walk back down the hill to Atkinson Hall. Once inside, walk past the main elevator lobby, and turn down the hallway on the right. We are the first room on the left (1601).


Via Interstate 5 to La Jolla Village Drive exit

Take Interstate I-5 and exit at  La Jolla Village Drive
Go West on La Jolla Village Drive (From I-5 North it is a left turn; from I-5 south is a right merge)
Turn Right at Villa La Jolla Drive
Turn Right at Gilman Dr.
Follow Gilman Dr. as it curves around campus, turn Left at Voigt Dr.
At next intersection, just after Canyon Vista Pool, turn right (still on Voigt Dr.)
Atkinson Hall will be on your left on the corner of Equality Lane and Voigt Dr.
Park in the Hopkins Parking Structure
Continue straight (the entrance is just up the hill on your right)
From the parking structure, walk back down the hill to Atkinson Hall. Once inside, walk past the main elevator lobby, and turn down the hallway on the right. We are the first room on the left (1601).