DSGN7002 Visual Studies: Multiple + Kinetic Systems
Professor: Matthew Wizinsky
Tuesdays 8.00–10.50a
Location: Aronoff 6221
Office Hours: By appointment

“Social life structures territory… and territory shapes social life.”—Michael Dear and Jennifer Wolch

According to the United Nations 2014 World Urbanization Prospects report, the global population became predominantly urban in 2007. Looking forward, both the world’s population and number of city dwellers globally are expected to soar.

In the United States, as in many other places, this increase in urbanization can actually be seen as Re-Urbanization: a renewed interest in working and living in dense city centers, many of which have been all but abandoned by affluent populations for several generations. One dominant Urban Future imaginary is that of the “smart city”—an urban environment fully integrated with information technologies. Such proposals tend to be ahistorical and apolitical, dominated by communication technologies and their product or service offerings. However, the Re-Urbanization movement is discovering that most cities are not blank slates. What and who are already there—and exactly how they are there or got to be there—create tensions with the influx of new residents, employees, families, cultural differences, and shifting needs related to housing, jobs, health care, education, transportation, resources, &c. Meanwhile, decades of neglect have left many city infrastructures in dire shape. How cities prioritize infrastructural needs can create additional tensions. These tensions tend to unfold across fairly predictable social divisions such as wealth and race, producing new but familiar power struggles. History rhymes! So, how will these new and existing systems, materials, and humans re-mix? What becomes of communities displaced by “gentrification”? How does the health of the economy reflect (or inversely represent) the health of the population? How is infrastructure maintained or re-purposed and for whose benefit? RE-store, RE-move, RE-mix? How might design research and practice make new proposals, addressing these complexities at human scale?

In this graduate design studio, we will research, analyze, synthesize, visualize, and otherwise articulate intersectional urban challenges as a means to “Re-MIX” the city of the future by: 1) merging new and existing materials, information, technologies, human needs & desires, and social challenges 2) within a complex network of interconnected systems that 3) produce new interfaces with a diverse population of humans—in all their wonderful and treacherous complexities.

We will combine design research and design practice methods. Our objective will be to imagine Urban Futures that are historically and politically situated, make critical speculations to stimulate or provoke discourse today, and reconfigure existing social and material structures—rather than imagine them away. We will merge individual secondary and primary research methodologies with investigations into new/emerging technologies and cultural/social trends. We will employ mapping techniques that are formative and creative, staging the conditions for provocative—yet possible and maybe even plausible—new realities. Our work is not explicitly intended to solve the problems of today nor predict the future to come. Rather: Let’s make our fears and dreams manifest in artifacts, images, maps, and experiences to provoke debate and inspire discourse. Let’s use design to redefine our understanding of what is possible—expanding the realities of contemporary urban life, now and into the near future.

Learning Objectives

+ Demonstrate an ability to conduct relevant secondary research within a defined framework, topic, and thematic structure

+ Demonstrate an ability to conduct primary design research methodologies, resulting in actionable insights

+ Demonstrate a general understanding of critical design approaches—from historical precedents to contemporary practice

+ Demonstrate an ability to synthesize diverse research insights into specific design criteria

+ Demonstrate an ability to translate research insights and design criteria into a creative and well-reasoned design project

+ Demonstrate an ability to produce exhibit-quality visualization, artifact, or experience


Your final grade is a result of the quality and craft of projects, rigorous effort given to the exercises, participation in class discussion, participation in team-based projects, attendance, and a consistent demonstration of effort and understanding regarding the course concepts.

Readings, Discussion, Class Participation: 20%

Research Presentations, Documentation, and contribution to group Research Document: 30%

Final Project, including Reflection Statement: 50%

An A will be given for work of consistently exceptional quality and craft, along with the demonstrated quality of research and investigation which produced those results, as evidenced through the final work book, class participation, and attendance.

A B will be given for work of overall good quality and craft, along with the final work book, class participation, and attendance demonstrative of a consistent understanding and application of the concepts being presented.

A C will be given for work of average quality and craft, and the minimum amount of research done to complete the projects and/or an inconsistent demonstration of understanding the concepts being presented and/or poor attendance.

A D will be given for work that is of poor quality and craft and/or consistently poor attendance or lack of class participation.

An F (failure) will be given for work of little quality, missing or incomplete projects, missing critiques and/or consistently poor attendance or lack of class participation.

Please refer to the University grading scale for more information.

Attendance is mandatory and required to gain the required skills for successful completion of the course. Two unexcused absences may result in a reduction of the final grade by ½ letter grade, three unexcused absences by 1 letter grade. Four or more unexcused absences will be grounds for failing the course. It is generally recommended to drop the course with more than four absences.

Late arrivals are very disruptive for other participants. Being late to class two times will count as one unexcused absence. There will be a sign-up sheet for each class meeting. It is the student’s responsibility sign in for each class; this is the basis for your attendance record.

Students will need to use their own laptop computers and required design software in class and for completion of course assignments. If you don’t already, make sure to get a USB drive or external hard-drive. ALL hard drives (internal and external) eventually fail, so file safety cannot be guaranteed on ANY computer. Always back up your files. Loss or damage of data or files is NOT an acceptable explanation for late or missing assignments. Files saved on the desktop of any UIC lab computers will not be available after logging out; you must copy to your own storage device.

Your files are your responsibility!

Time spent in the classroom will be dedicated to presentation, discussion and collaborative and self-directed studio work. Any other activities or behavior not conducive to our coursework will not be tolerated. Prohibited activities during class time include use of cell phones for talking or texting, surfing the web or social media for unrelated purposes (no facebook, no tweeting!), private conversations amongst students, rude or insulting language or behavior, and any other form of distraction from the tasks at hand. Eating in the class room is prohibited. Drinks are allowed in covered containers only.

We have a lot of exciting work to do, and our time together is valuable. Let’s make the most of it.

Additional Info
Student Code of Conduct
Special Needs Policy
Academic Conduct & Plagiarism
Title IX / anti-harassment & anti-discrimination
Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS)