Alexander R.
Wilcox Cheek

ألكسندر ر. ولكوكس تشيك

Assistant Teaching Professor in Information Systems, Carnegie Mellon University

Co-Founder & Chief Design Officer, Macromicro LLC

Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue SMC 1070
Pittsburgh, PA 15289-1070

alexcheek [at]

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I'm an assistant professor in information systems at Carnegie Mellon University with a prior appointment at the School of Design. Since 2009 I have been based in Doha, Qatar and spent 2013–14 in Cambridge, MA with Macromicro, a data visualization company which I co-founded in 2011.

As a transdisciplinary designer and researcher I study the broad reach of design and how it influences communication, interactions, organizations, and human ecologies. I believe that design innovation comes from a rhetorical foundation and the unique disposition and perspective that designers bring to situations, making them particularly great agents of change and shapers of the human experience.

Current and past clients and projects include Nokia, Microsoft, Motorola, UPMC, Highmark BCBS, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Aspen Institute, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah, Fitwits, and more. I was also the co-founder of Classroom Salon, an interactive media platform supported by grants from the Gates Foundation, National Science Foundation, Heinz Endowments, and Innovation Works.

Undergraduate study in information and graphic design at the RIT School of Design; Masters of Design from Carnegie Mellon University Department of English and School of Design. CV and portfolio with teaching, research, and professional practice available upon request.

(Attempted) Layperson's Version

I teach design and lead research initiatives towards the betterment of society (or at least I try). Designers shape many things: the built world of information, objects, architecture, cities, and environments, as well as intangible things like experiences people have with digital platforms, patient experiences in a hospital, or how people make their way through an airport.

Good designers make the things that directly affect people's lives while being mindful of their impact on broader global systems. Sometimes, designers even try to shape these systems directly. The best forms of design are holistic and in balance with their time and place. “What happens to this product after it's used?” “How can we strengthen the social fabric of this neighborhood through design?” “What's the value of this technology and how can we make it more human? More useful? More contextually aware?”

Designers can work inside disciplines, but the most effective ones work across boundaries, harnessing the best ideas from the humanities, sciences, business, policy and government. The designer of the 21st century is emerging as a facilitator for advancement, working to bring about positive change in some of the most wickedly complex circumstances. Designers are great at making connections, challenging conventions, and leading collective action. Designers are advocates for people and the planet.

Four orders of design, based on the work of Richard Buchanan:


everything connects.

— Charles Eames

Areas of Practice

Third and fourth order design, primarily focusing on the research and design of interactions and experiences in the present, and holistic, sustainable systems for the future.

Scholarly Interests

Design and Architectural Theory; Relationship between Rhetoric and Design; the Disposition of the Designer; Wicked/Ill-Structured Problems; Systems-Level Design; Ethics, Human Rights, and Design for Social Justice; Design for Interaction, Service, and Experience; Urban Design and Urban Planning; Historical Lineage of Design.

Extracurricular Interests

Travel; Photography; International Development and Foreign Service; Middle East and Arab Affairs; Progressive Politics; Journalism and News Media; Buddhism; New York; life, people, i'm interested in pretty much everything.

Recent Talks / Panels / Workshops

• The Designed World in Four Parts
• Design for Interaction + Systemic Change
• Boston Service Jam: Healthcare Service Design
• Information Revolution and Development in the Arabian Gulf
• “Eventually, Everything Connects”
• Product & Service Design in Business
• Design Research for Digital Experiences
• Maps, Narrative, and Design

Curricular Work

Between 2009 and 2013 at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, a campus that supports about 300 students, I developed an integrated design studies curriculum to support the major in information systems, and other programs in computer science, business, and biological sciences. The design courses were founded on rhetorical and dialectic approaches while applying the design arts to real-world issues. The curriculum was scaffolded up through the four orders of design, culminating in self-defined, wicked problem projects. Current design courses are embedded in the information systems program with specific study in technology and the built environment.

Current Courses

51-261 Design Fundamentals I: Shaping Interactions and Experiences
51-126 Design and the Human Experience
67-3xx Design Fundamentals II: Shaping Information
67-4xx Human-Centered Design Studio Doha
67-2xx Service Design + Technology

Past Courses

Design for Organizational Change
Design for People & Planet
Industrial Design Fundamentals
Designing for Service / Research Methods
Communication Design for HCI, MAPW
Information Design
Interaction Design + Technology

© Copyright 2014 Alexander R. Wilcox Cheek.