Tag Archives: Brian Boyl

Student designers incorporate quantified self metrics into mind-bogglingly innovative devices for people with disabilities

Panoramic shot of students in the Exploring the Quantified Self class

Panoramic shot of students in the Envisioning the Quantified Self class

Graphic Design student Leah Demeter found herself in the unique position of acting as both designer and potential consumer in one of her recent product design classes at Art Center. That’s because her team had chosen a challenge particularly relevant to her: develop a better captioning device for the hearing impaired.

“As someone with profound hearing loss,” Demeter says, “I face communications challenges on a daily basis. Captioning is one of the tools I use to help me follow conversations I would otherwise miss, but there are problems with the current design.”

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Take two and check your tricorder in the morning: XPRIZE students design the future of medical diagnosis


The Rytm student project tackles the “silent killer” of hypertension.

If you’ve ever watched Star Trek, even casually, chances are you’ve seen Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock or Dr. McCoy use a tricorder, a hand-held device capable of detecting everything from an object’s chemical composition to an individual’s vital signs (“He’s dead, Jim.”).

Thanks to the tricorder, the concept of a hand-held non-invasive device that can diagnose whether somebody is pregnant, experiencing abnormal neural activity, or countless other medical scenarios, has persisted as a dream gadget for decades.

But the powerful processing capabilities and the myriad of sensors found in today’s smartphones make a tricorder seem less the stuff of science fiction and more a very tangible, and inevitable, outcome of our current technology.

Or, at least that’s what the XPRIZE Foundation thinks.

Last year the foundation launched the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition to challenge teams from across the globe to design a device (or suite of devices) that can both accurately diagnose a set of 15 diseases independent of a healthcare professional or facility and also provide an appealing and engaging consumer user experience.

Thousands of individuals are participating in this challenge, including 14 students in an XPRIZE sponsored project at Art Center–an activity not part of the Tricorder XPRIZE but that paralleled the main competition–co-taught this past Summer term by Brian Boyl and Jeff Higashi.

In the class, students were encouraged to design a device concept that conforms to the guidelines of the XPRIZE competition. But they were also allowed to take their creations in a different direction altogether, with the understanding that their projects could serve as design inspiration for the final teams–which XPRIZE plans to name later this month–who will be in the running to create the actual medical device. Another possible outcome is that students from this class could join a like-minded team in the competition.

Continue past the break to see some of the projects the students created.

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Asking ‘Imagine If?’: Interaction Design at Art Center

Alumnus Ian Sands PROD 95 in Microsoft's prototyping lab, testing a TouchWall.

This Fall term, Art Center took another step in its evolution and launched an Interaction Design (IxD) degree program headed up by user experience pioneer Maggie Hendrie.

Now, wait a minute, you might be thinking, hasn’t the College been teaching interaction design for years? After all, Art Center has alumni working at Google, Microsoft, Samsung and virtually every company exploring the boundaries of interactivity.

The answer to that, of course, is yes, Art Center has indeed been preparing its graduates to enter the field of interaction design for the better part of two decades.

“Art Center has a long history of maintaining the dynamic between the development of a craft and the application of it, and interaction design is an applied craft,” Hendrie recently told The Dotted Line. “Also, Art Center is already outstanding in the very fields in which interaction is applied: environments, interfaces, products, automotives, social projects and systems.”

Take for example alumnus Ian Sands, the co-founder of vision and strategy firm Intentional Futures, who graduated from the College in 1995 with a degree in Product Design.

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Designing Experiences, Systems and Solutions: Art Center’s New Interaction Design Program

Nikolai Cornell MDP 04 with his Infiniti Interactive Mirrors. Faculty member Phil van Allen consulted on this project.

With recent forecasts predicting that Apple will sell as many as 66 million units of their latest iteration of the iPad this year, its safe to say that what the Cupertino company dubbed as the “post-PC era” is quickly becoming a reality. But the shift from personal computers to tablets is just one aspect of a digital interactive future still being written.

This coming Fall Term, as part of the College’s Create Change initiative, Art Center will launch a new undergraduate Interaction Design degree program, in which students—whether designing a mobile app or a gestural interface for an exhibition—will learn to think deeply about the user’s experience, apply technology creatively and invent new approaches to interaction and design.

We recently sat down with Interaction Design founding faculty members Brian Boyl (Graphic Design, Integrated Studies, Product Design), Philip van Allen (Graduate Media Design) and Jeffrey Higashi (Product Design), who have been busy establishing the framework for the Department’s curriculum in anticipation of the arrival of the new department’s chair. An international search is now underway and an announcement is expected in June.

Dotted Line: Can you describe the academic interaction design landscape and how Art Center’s new program will stand out?

Art Center faculty Brian Boyl. Photo: Steven A. Heller/Art Center College of Design.

Brian Boyl: There are several graduate programs in interaction design in the United States—Illinois Institute of Technology, New York Univeristy and Carnegie Mellon to name a few—but there aren’t a lot of accredited undergraduate programs. We’d be one of the first undergraduate programs to be launched and absolutely the first to be launched in Southern California. That’s exciting. What we’re doing is looking at the core strengths of Art Center. We think the best move in creating this program is to make sure it strongly integrates with our other departments and channels their strengths.

Phil van Allen: Interaction design is by its very nature collaborative, so the idea is to build a strong program that stands on its own but that also has a kind of permeability. For example, we’ve discussed that students in Interaction Design will take Graphic Design and Product Design courses, because those two disciplines are very central to interaction design. Our students will need to have an exceptional foundation of disciplines to be exceptional interaction designers. And then there’s the core of interaction design itself, which they will have to become experts in.

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February Bulletin Is Here!

The February issue of Bulletin, Art Center’s monthly e-newsletter, has arrived!

This month’s issue features a q&a with faculty members (and spouses!) Krystina Castella and Brian Boyl, who talk about why they teach, how students have changed, and what it’s like working with one’s significant other.

You can read it here, and if you’re not receiving it, be sure to sign up for our mailing list.

Colleagues, Designers, Partners in Life: Brian Boyl and Krystina Castella

Photo by Alan Kupchick

Art Center faculty members Brian Boyl and Krystina Castella have both taken somewhat non-traditional routes in their careers. Boyl, director of interactive design in the Graphic Design Department, has a degree in physics, studied film and animation, has created computer software and produced video games. Castella created her own product development, manufacturing and licensing company; helps people start businesses and license products; and has written five popular cookbooks; the most recent, A World of Cake, named by Publisher’s Weekly as one of the best cookbooks of 2010. And this are just a few of the many noteworthy things these two have accomplished.

Also interesting—Boyl and Castella are spouses, meeting 20 years ago this month. Intrigued and curious about what motivates them to teach, how students have changed over the past two decades, and what it’s like to work with one’s significant other, we sat down with the couple for a chat.

Dotted Line: How did you two meet?
Brian Boyl: We met in 1991 at a Valentine’s Day party that a mutual friend of ours held for people who didn’t have dates. I was in film school then…

Krystina Castella: …and I was working a corporate job at Disney. We met at the party and got along really well. He called me the next day to ask me out, and I was eating a popsicle while we talked. I wrote about this in the introduction to my popsicle book, because I actually ended up saving the popsicle and freezing it.

Boyl: Yes, that popsicle went with us, every time we moved. It lasted for years. But sadly, it didn’t survive our last move.

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Dotted Line: Does it take a while for students to realize you’re married?
: Yes, it’s funny—it’s the same thing every term. Many people at Art Center don’t realize we’re married. People that we’ve known for a long time do, but students are always new and don’t know at first; it’s always a shock. They seem to figure it out around Weeks 5 and 6. A student will come in and say to me, “I saw you with my other teacher,” or, “You were in the parking lot with Brian…”

Boyl: Or, “How do you know each other?” and, “I saw you two leaving campus in the same car….”

Castella: We teach in different departments, but we do have students that cross over. It’s great, we really get to know the student when that happens. We ask each other, “So how are they doing in your class?”

Dotted Line: Why do you teach?
I love giving back to the younger generation. I also find teaching personally inspiring, because it’s always about the next thing. It’s always different, and always new—especially in the area where I teach, which is on the cutting edge of everything. And I find students tend to push me in my own creativity. And, you’re dealing with people, so it’s a lot of fun. I think I have the best job in the world.

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Happy 100 Years, OAS!

Today marks 100 years since the founding of the Organization of American States. The milestone will be celebrated with a series of events in Washington, D.C. Art Center students developed work that will be prominently featured in the celebration over the course of two funded TDS/Designmatters projects led by the Graphic Design Department last year.

Congratulations and thanks to faculty member Simon Johnston, who led the TDS that developed a new identity for the Museum of the Americas of OAS, implemented on their website. Thanks to Gloria Kondrup, Brian Boyl and Jonas Mayabb, who led the centennial rebranding TDS. A new logotype, as well various elements of the student work, have been implemented by OAS on their website. Also, a big thank you to Jonas Mayabb, who worked closely with his team, Elisa Ruffino and our OAS partners after the studio’s conclusion to create the final version of the public service announcement for the centennial. Watch it below:

PSA: Common Values on Common Ground from OAS Video on Vimeo.