ASU industrial design students partner with Cox Collaboratory on interactive artwork

ASU students Meng Jye Lin and Abbie Cheng wearing graduation regalia.

ASU industrial design seniors Meng Jye Lin and Abbie Cheng.


Interactive, Instagram-worthy, anything but boring — these are words to describe the art installations that Arizona State University industrial design seniors Meng Jye Lin and Abbie Cheng are working on as part of the Cox Student Design Contest.

Fellow design students and friends, Cheng and Lin have been taking classes together in ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts for four years now and jumped at the chance to team up on this unique student opportunity with the Cox Connected Environments Collaboratory. Their final designs will be installed in the collaboratory space to tell the history of ASU and the Cox Collaboratory and how they’re working together to create human-centered smart solutions for the community.

We connected with them to hear about the progress of the design project, and what it has been like to work together and with the collaboratory on creating this community-focused design.

Following direction while making it their own

The goal of the design project is to showcase the use of smart technology that is being used to improve how we learn, work and live at ASU and beyond. 

With that in mind, Cheng and Lin individually brainstormed ideas before collaborating with each other and presenting their ideas to Cox. Light bulbs that showcase innovation and puzzle pieces symbolizing Cox and ASU coming together to create something greater were concepts they wanted to explore in their design sketches. 

Knowing that Cox wanted to incorporate a timeline into the design also gave them direction to follow while making it their own by suggesting interactive, three-dimensional design elements and iconography that will engage visitors to the collaboratory and bring the project to life. 

Another consideration for their design was that they wanted to create something that was Instagrammable — that visitors can pose with and want to share on social media.

“During this process, I’ve learned more about the marketing aspect of design because our partner (Cox) wanted the design to be more interactive and engaging with the people that are coming into the collaboratory,” Cheng said. 

Creating this “photo booth”-style design in which visitors want to pose and post their photos makes that possible.

The student designers presented four sketches to the Cox Collaboratory team to get feedback and gain better understanding of their needs and wants. They’ve also spent time at the collaboratory, gathering measurements and envisioning their design in the space and how they want visitors to interact with it.

“Abbie and Meng are very talented, smart and excellent to collaborate with,” said Lauren Douglas, Cox2M’s UI/UX lead based in Atlanta. “It’s been a pleasure working with them and having their perspective on how the visitors’ experiences are enhanced through this design project.”

Prior to this project, Cheng and Lin have been collaborating mostly with their classmates and professors, so it was insightful to gain perspective from the Cox team, especially Douglas.

“It’s really interesting because we have to follow specific guidelines (for the partner), but outside of those guidelines, how can we be creative,” Lin said. “We want people to know this is a welcoming space.” 

And the fact that these designs will be printed and displayed on ASU’s SkySong campus makes the project all the more exciting for the students.

Prepared to excel

When asked about how their classroom experience prepared them for this design project, both industrial design students felt ready for the challenge. From making 3D models to giving them brand and color, they’re very familiar with using design principles to bring their projects to life. 

They also compared their meetings with Cox to those with their professors, in which they prepare their ideas, take notes on their feedback, revise it and present their updated designs again. Through this process, Lin shared that she has appreciated the different points of view that the Cox team has shared and how she has valued receiving that feedback and incorporating that into the design.

Cheng and Lin are finalizing their designs with the Cox team now before they are printed and displayed in the collaboratory. The Cox team has also enjoyed collaborating with more students at the university.

“We’re grateful to the Herberger Institute and Professor and head of industrial design faculty Dosun Shin for connecting us with Abbie and Meng to create these larger-than-life design concepts,” said Angela Saurini, who has been working with the students on the project. “Their beautiful designs are sure to engage, educate and inspire all who visit the collaboratory.”

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