Alexander R. Wilcox Cheek

Alexander R.
Wilcox Cheek

ألكسندر ر. ولكوكس تشيك


Assistant Teaching Professor in Information Systems, Carnegie Mellon University

Co-Founder & Chief Design Officer, Macromicro LLC

Founder & Local Leader, Interaction Design Association (IxDA) Doha


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

alexcheek [at] cmu.edu


               

I am a faculty member in information systems at Carnegie Mellon University, Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, based, since 2009, in Doha, Qatar. I work in the overlapping space of design, technology, and the humanities, previously holding an appointment at the School of Design. I spent 2013–14 in Cambridge, MA with Macromicro, a data visualization company which I co-founded in 2011. In 2013, Macromicro was nominated by HR Tech Europe as one of Europe's most innovative tech startups.

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 Microsoft, Motorola, UPMC, Highmark BCBS, Nokia, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Aspen Institute, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Fitwits, and more. With David Kaufer and Ananda Gunawardena, I co-founded Classroom Salon, an interactive media platform supported by grants from Google, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, National Science Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, and Innovation Works.

Undergraduate study in design (BFA) at the RIT School of Design; Graduate study (M.Des.) at Carnegie Mellon University Department of English and School of Design. My thesis involved a study of the New York Times in their transition to digital journalism.


(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 ways in which organizations are structured. All together, design, to a large extent, manifests itself as culture and reflects the values of a society through designed forms.

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 by visualizing multivariate data?” “What's the value of this technology and how can we make it more human? More useful? More contextually aware?” “Should we even be doing this at all?”

Designers can work inside traditional 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 intractable 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:

FIRST ORDER:
2D WORLD
INFORMATION +
COMMUNICATION
SECOND ORDER:
3D WORLD
OBJECTS +
ARCHITECTURE
THIRD ORDER:
4D WORLD
INTERACTIONS +
EXPERIENCES
FOURTH ORDER:
CONNECTED WORLD
SYSTEMS +
ENVIRONMENTS

Eventually,
everything connects.

— Charles Eames


Areas of Practice

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


Scholarly Interests

Design and Architectural Theory; Rhetorical Foundations of Design; the Disposition of the Designer; Design for Interaction and Services in Technology, Healthcare, Public Sector; Wicked / Ill-Structured / Intractable Problems; Design at a Systems Level; Historical Lineage of Design Practice and Inquiry; Human-Centered Design Pedagogy & Curriculum Design.


Extracurricular Interests

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


Talks, Panels, Workshops

• Tepper Executive Education | Design for Management & Organizational Change
• ITU Telecom World | Ideation and Design Thinking Workshop
• PechaKucha | Diversity in Design: Placemaking, Discipline, Holistic Systems
• Ibtikar Qatar | Human-Centered Design for a Complex World
• CMU-Q Undergraduate Forum | Design Research Introduction
• Cambridge Center for Adult Education | The Designed World in Four Parts
• RIT School of Design | Design for Interaction + Systemic Change
• Boston Service Jam | Healthcare Service Design
• CMU Research Forum | Information Revolution and Development in the Arabian Gulf
• Washington University St. Louis | “Eventually, Everything Connects”
• Tepper School of Business | Product & Service Design in Business
• mathaf arab museum of modern art | Maps, Narrative, and Design


Design Curriculum

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 design in practical ways. The curriculum was scaffolded up through the four orders of design, culminating in self-defined, intractable problem projects. In 2014, the courses became embedded in the information systems program with specific study in the relationships between human ecology, technology, and global systems.




67-265 Design Fundamentals I
Shaping Interactions + Experiences

Offered Fall Semester

Introductory course in interaction design, user experience, and the process of designing for people and technologies. Introduces students to basic human-centered design research and concept development in the development of digital, service, and user experiences. Students also develop component skills in simple user interface design. Coursework promotes design thinking and practice for application in tech fields. [Formerly CDF]




67-359 Design Fundamentals II
Shaping Data + Information

Offered Spring Semester

Introductory course in communication design, visual hierarchy and organization, the development of messaging and production. Students develop skills in the organization and visualization of qualitative and quantitative data, and the structure of information for strategic purposes. Projects hone component skills in production and presentation for screen using grid systems, color, mapping, data graphics, and typography.




67-381
The Designed World

Offered Fall Semester

A seminar course based on rhetorical inquiry into the nature of the designed world, how to analyze it, how it’s built, and the values that shape it. Surveying design across its many forms, this reading- and writing-intensive course develops critical thinking on how we design information, products, technology, physical space, services, public policy, as well as inquiry into emergent human ecologies and whole earth systems. Supporting texts include John Dewey, Richard Buchanan, Alice Rawsthorn, Warren Weaver, George Nelson, Don Norman, Bill Moggridge, Fritjof Capra, Horst Rittel, Spiro Kostof, Buckminster Fuller, Aristotle, and others. [Formerly Design and the Human Experience]




67-358
Technologies in Service Design

Offered Spring Semester

A studio course that introduces design research methods, the creation of services with a human-centered focus, and how a designer can scaffold meaningful experiences within broader systems. This course brings an added emphasis to the role of technology products in services including ambient devices, mobile applications, wearables, embedded technologies, or connected devices along user pathways. Design teams work directly with clients who have included mathaf: arab museum of modern art, the Embassy of India in Qatar, and the Embassy of Japan in Qatar.




67-3xx
Design for Behavioral Change

Spring 2016




Past
Courses

Industrial Design Fundamentals
Communication Design for MHCI, MAPW
Design for People & Planet
Design Thinking for Business
Information Design (Studio IV)


Executive Education
Design for Management & Organizational Change

Developed for organizational leaders who deal with intractable problems and with authority to drive change, this eight hour course helps participants frame and define organizational challenges, then advance solutions through practical frameworks. Participants are trained in thinking tools and visualization methods that can be used to shape innovative organizational strategy. From framing organizations as a complex, interconnected systems, participants then transfer this new knowledge to a vision of the future, clarifying high-level organizational values and designing actionable frameworks for change. This two day workshop is co-taught with Professor Ludmila Hyman, Ph.D.