UX Design Marks Its Spot as Growing Career Path for ATEC Students

Cassini Nazir, clinical associate professor in the arts and technology program and director of design and research for the ArtSciLab, trains students in user experience design. “If businesses exist in a digital space — be it a website, app, digital kiosk — they need to invest in good design,” he said.

From Dell Technologies to Capital One, companies that rely on the use of intuitive customer experiences are finding a wealth of talented designers among students and alumni from theSchool of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas.

The ArtSciLab — the school’s transdisciplinary research lab focused on the intersection of art and science — is immersing students into the field of user experience, or UX, design.

Cassini Nazir, clinical associate professor in the arts and technology (ATEC) program and director of design and research for the lab, said UT Dallas is emerging as a leader in UX education in North Texas.

“There’s a growing trend in more courses focused on user experience (UX) design and interaction design at colleges across the nation,” he said. “Many of these concepts have come out of human computer interaction concepts, but design research and UX have really emerged as disciplines in their own right. Industry has helped by investing in design researchers and user experience designers in their spaces.”

Nazir said more companies, both established and startup, are employing a design-centric ethos, cognizant of the role UX plays in customer relations.

The Design Value Index — an evolving metric that tracks the value of companies that meet specific design-related criteria — showed in 2014 that 15 design-driven companies had outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index by 228 percent over 10 years.

Several enterprise-level companies such as Intuit and Sabre want to work with the ATEC program to recruit talent, he said.

“UTD has really benefited from it because there’s a boom of businesses setting up offices in Dallas,” said Nazir, who is part of the Dallas Design Council. “Many of those companies have been hiring teams of designers, and we’ve been successful in filling those needs.”

Emerging media and communication senior Lina Moon was selected to be a part of Capital One’s inaugural Design Development Program, where she will spend two years learning about different fields such as interaction design and coding.

Clear Line to Job Opportunities

The lab has had students move into design positions at companies such as Sabre, Cisco Systems, AT&T, Siemens, General Motors, Fossil and J.C. Penney.

Debi Terry Ndindjock BA’13, a digital experience designer at Dell, first gained an interest in UX design while taking the interaction design course as a sophomore.

Ndindjock considered herself as purely a graphic designer, but she said she was intrigued by the psychological aspects of design, realizing UX design merges the two concepts.

“The turning point was when (design consultant) Stephen Anderson visited our class and spoke about his work,” she said. “I knew that was what I wanted to do. Since it is a relatively new field, we get a part in defining the industry as a whole.

“UX design requires such varied skills and education: visual design, writing, research and technology. You get to get in where you fit in.”

Cathryn Ploehn BA’14 said the same course — taught by Nazir — also propelled her into the field. Ploehn also served as designer for the ArtSciLab.

“Cassini’s enthusiasm was a gateway to taking further related courses, and finally a capstone in UX,” she said. “The application of the concept of empathy to design and development captivated me.”

Ploehn, who manages UX design problems and data visualization for Visionist Inc., said that developing a sense of empathy is fundamental to what makes user experiences successful.

“Really listen to what a person says to you both inside and outside of a user research setting,” she said. “Try to feel what it is like to be somebody else. Practice by exposing yourself to points of view beyond your comfort zone.”

For senior and UX Club president Lina Moon, there wasn’t an aha moment that led to an interest in UX design.

“I think being part of the UX Club as an officer and working in the ArtSciLab really gave me the confidence to pursue the field further, as it gave me a good support network and provided me access to more collective knowledge,” Moon said.

In July, Moon started a full-time position with Capital One’s inaugural Design Development Program.

The two-year program pairs students and recent graduates with a mentor who guides new associates through different fields such as interaction design and coding.

The growing demand for UX designers can be attributed, at least in part, to the growing demands of consumers of digital products. Nazir said designers often play the role of customer lobbyist, researching and voicing the needs of consumers to their business.

“Audience expectations of what constitutes a good experience are now much higher than they were in the past,” he said. “If businesses exist in a digital space — be it a website, app, digital kiosk — they need to invest in good design.”

ATEC Professor Roger Malina Receives Honorary Degree

Roger Malina
Roger Malina

Arts and technology professor Roger Malina has been awarded an honorary degree from the Technical University of Valencia in Spain for his work promoting and advancing research at the intersection of art, science and technology.

The Spanish university cited his role as director of the ArtSciLab as a contributing factor. As a transdisciplinary research lab, the ArtSciLab focuses on innovative projects such as the podcast platform Creative Disturbance.

For 25 years, Malina has been involved with the Leonardo organizations, which his father founded in San Francisco and Paris. The organizations strive to promote work that explores the interactions between the arts and sciences, as well as between the arts and new technologies. Malina currently serves as the executive editor of the Leonardo journal, published by MIT Press.

Malina earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his doctorate in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley.

Study Finds That Industry Norms Influence Journalists’ Ethical Behavior

Dr. Angela Lee
Dr. Angela Lee

Tasked with feeding the 24-hour news cycle, journalists must constantly consider the ethical nature of their reporting. A new study from UT Dallas suggests that their behavior is heavily influenced by industry peers.

The study, published in the Journal of Media Ethics, found that if journalists believed that others would approve of unethical behavior, they would be more likely to act unethically. Conversely, if they believed others were acting ethically, they were more likely to act ethically.

Dr. Angela Lee, assistant professor of emerging media and communication and the study’s author, divided her behavioral analysis into two types of social influence: descriptive norms and injunctive norms. Lee said that descriptive norms refer to what we think others do, whereas injunctive norms refer to what we think others want us to do.

“We applied these concepts from social psychology to journalism ethics and found that individual journalists may be more prone to act more ethically if they perceive ethical behavior is the norm in the field,” she said. “They are also more prone to act unethically if they perceive that unethical behavior is ‘approved of’ in the field.”

Lee found that descriptive norms account for almost half of the variance in ethical journalistic behaviors, while injunctive norms account for a little less than one-third of the variance in unethical journalistic behaviors.

She used the Reasoned Action Model (RAM), a classic persuasion model used in psychology, to explore the gap between journalists’ moral intentions and their actual behavior.

“The RAM theorizes that behavioral intention is the best predictor of behavior,” Lee said. “In other words, whether one is going to do ‘x’ is best predicted by whether one is ready and willing to engage in ‘x.’”

The study focused on a random sample of 374 journalists from 33 leading news outlets across all mediums, including The New York Times, NBC, USA Today and The Huffington Post.

Lee formulated six scenarios common among journalists to examine the ways injunctive and descriptive norms influenced their behavior:


  • Doing a story on an organization or club that you or someone in your family belongs to.
  • Using press releases or video releases without any editing or rewriting.
  • Editing elements of a photograph or video postproduction.
  • Adjusting image quality in a photograph.
  • Separating analysis and commentary from news reporting.
  • Reporting diverse perspectives in a story.

When asked about their most recent experiences, 20.6 percent of respondents had done a story on an organization or club that they or someone in their family belongs to; 49.3 percent had used a press or video release without any editing; 3.3 percent had edited elements of a photograph or video postproduction; 42.3 percent had adjusted the image quality of a photograph or video; 87 percent had separated analysis and commentary from news reporting; and 95.2 percent had reported diverse perspectives in a story.

Because of their special role in democratic societies, journalists have a professional obligation to deliver news information to the public responsibly and ethically.

Dr. Angela Lee,
assistant professor of emerging media and communication

Lee said it’s hard to say why the study shows descriptive norms have a stronger impact on ethical behavior, but research shows that journalists, compared with other professionals, are among the most capable of making good moral judgments. She said this weakens the impact of injunctive norms on unethical behavior.

Newsroom leaders can reinforce descriptive norms and curtail unethical behavior by regularly recognizing staff members who act ethically. On the other hand, news organizations also must make clear what is against the rules to reinforce injunctive norms, Lee said.

“Because of their special role in democratic societies, journalists have a professional obligation to deliver news information to the public responsibly and ethically,” Lee states in her paper. “Despite their notable moral compass, journalists do not always act on their abilities. Ways to encourage them to do so should be discovered and put into practice in newsrooms.”

ATEC helps brings experimental films to Nasher

Ultra-seeing image 

A unique series of films exploring the phenomenon of synesthesia and visual music will be screening at the Nasher Sculpture Center starting Sept. 11.

In a collaboration between ATEC and Light Cone, a French film organization that diffuses and preserves experimental cinema, the Ultra-seeing Film Series will feature monthly, hour-long sessions of major works selected from the archives of Light Cone’s collection. The exposition is spearheaded by Dr. Frank Dufour, professor in ATEC, and Emmanuel Lefrant, director of Light Cone with the support of the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Houston.

The first screening will explore avant-garde cinema of the 1920s and ’30s, exploring movements from Dadism to Surrealism. The series will run until May, 2017.

Admission is free with RSVP. Register for the entire series or individual screenings at www.nashersculpturecenter.org/ultra-seeing.


Ultra-Seeing Film Fall Schedule:

Sunday, September 11 / 2 pm: Avant-Garde from the 1920s and 30s

RHYTHMUS 21 by Hans RICHTER (Germany) 1921-1923 / 16 mm / b&w/ silent / 3′ 19

SYMPHONIE DIAGONALE by Viking EGGELING (Germany) 1923-1924 / 16 mm / b&w/ silent / 6′ 40

LICHTSPIEL OPUS I by Walther RUTTMANN (Germany) 1921 / 16mm / color / sound / 11′

ANÉMIC CINÉMA by Marcel DUCHAMP (France) 1925-1926 / 16 mm / b&w/ sound / 7′ 05

DISQUE 957 by Germaine DULAC (France) 1928 / 16 mm or DVD / b&w/ silent / 6′ 00

KREISE by Oskar FISCHINGER (Germany) 1933-1934 / 16 mm / color / sound / 2′ 00

RHYTHM IN LIGHT by Mary Ellen BUTE (USA) 1934 / video / b&w/ sound / 5′ 00

KOMPOSITION IN BLAU by Oskar FISCHINGER (Germany) 1935 / 16 mm / color / sound / 4′ 00

COLOUR BOX by Len LYE (UK) 1935 / 16mm / color / sound / 4′

ALLEGRETTO by Oskar FISCHINGER (Germany) 1936-1943 / 16 mm / color / sound / 2′ 30

TARANTELLA by BUTE Mary Ellen & NEMETH Ted (USA) 1940 / video / color / sound / 4′ 51


Sunday, October 9 / 2 pm: Michèle and Patrick Bokanowski

L’ANGE (RESTORED VERSION) by Patrick BOKANOWSKI (France) 1982 / DCP or 35 mm / color / sound / 70′

With filmmaker Patrick Bokanoswki and Michele Bokanowski in attendance.


Sunday, November 13 / 2 pm: Structural Film

AXIOMATIC GRANULARITY by Paul SHARITS (USA) 1973 / 16 mm / color / sound / 20′

DRESDEN DYNAMO by Lis RHODES (UK) 1974 / 16 mm / color / sound / 5′

In confrontation with films by local artists.


Sunday, December 11 / 2 pm: Musical Paradigm

CONTRATHEMIS : COMPOSITION II by Dwinnell GRANT (USA) 1941 / 16 mm / color / silent / 3′ 00

COLOR SEQUENCE by Dwinnell GRANT (USA) 1943 / 16 mm / color / silent / 2′ 30

RYTHMES 76 by Jean-Michel BOUHOURS (France) 1977 / 16 mm / color / silent / 18′ 00

R by Yann BEAUVAIS (France) 1975-1991 / 16 mm / b&w/ silent / 3′ 00

BERLIN HORSE by Malcolm LE GRICE (UK) 1970 / 16 mm / color / sound / 9′ 00

In confrontation with films by local artists.