CSC Visual System Design

Developing a visual design system to address one of the most abiding issues in the STEM field – exclusivity embedded in its historic communication.

Duration

5 weeks

Project Type

Program Design, Concept Ideation, Research, Prototyping, Visual Identity Design

Role

Visual Designer, Content Designer, Service Designer

Client

Carnegie Science Center STEM Center

My Contribution

I led research, concept ideation, visual system development for the project. I created and designed the STEMwe Collaborative Mentorship Program.I also helped design the Progress Report and Additional Resources pages for the interactive website.

Team

Iris Cai
Andrew Sim

Project Overview

Use design to change exclusivity embedded in the STEM field

For the final project for MA Studio I, we were tasked by the Carnegie Science Center STEM center to develop a visual design system to address one of the most abiding issues in the STEM field – its exclusivity embedded in its historic communication.

The constituents of STEM education and career have been predominantly white, male, and upper-middle class. How do we use design to change that and utilize STEM for active, engaged citizenry, building agency for people, and contributing to a greater good?

Research & Planning

Understand the historical context, current state, myths, & truths of STEM

Engaged citizenry, building agency for communities and their people, and contributing to a greater good were the keywords we noticed and gave priority to instantly after reading the project brief.

In order to further understand the truths and misconceptions about STEM, we decided to delve into secondary research, including conducting literature reviews and reading the CMP Educator Survey Report created by the Carnegie Museums in May 2021.

Educators Survey Analysis

Through reading the CMP Educator Survey report, we were able to get a more comprehensive picture of the academic support students need from educators’ perspective. Some notable quotes are:

When asked about the kinds of activities outside of the typical curriculum seemed being most engaging and beneficial for students, and

We learned that students will continue learning remotely post-pandemic. Even though most schools have gone back to in-person since August, students’ learning after school time continues to be virtual. We believe that digital and in-person learning need to go hand in hand, so having both forms of support is key.

Literature Review

We primarily focused on the book STEM Education 2.0. The topics discussed range from factors affecting students’ choice of STEM majors, to how to provide rigorous STEM education.

Since our target audience for this project is underrepresented students in STEM aged 7-12, reviewing this book mainly helped us understand the underlying causes of lack of diversity in the STEM field and compare best practices of changing that.

Insights

Findings that informed our project direction in supporting underrepresented groups in STEM

The core insights through our research were:

Research Insights
01

Having both digital and in-person support is key

02

Role models are extremely important for underrepresented groups to develop interest and confidence in STEM

03

STEM is ideal for Social-Emotional Learning

Concept & Visual System Development

Developing a system for quality STEM and social-emotional learning support

After synthesizing our key findings, the design question that embodied all three insights we asked ourselves was:

“How might we design something to support underrepresented students aged 7-12 in STEM both in-person as well as virtually, and make it fun for them?”

We felt that STEM in this day and age should be non-intimidating and fun through collaboration and under guidance, especially for underrepresented groups. They can utilize STEM knowledge not just to get a lucrative job, but to build agency for their communities and their people, and contribute to the greater good.

Our Approach

Designing a system that provides quality STEM education and social-emotional learning opportunities through a collaborative mentorship program and an interactive website.

The two pieces of deliverables are closely connected and will serve students in person and virtually at the same time.

Program Details

STEMwe Collaborative Mentorship Program

Rationale

We felt the need to design a mentorship program due to one of the key insights that arose from our research: having a mentor or role model students can identify with and build rapport with is extremely important since they can see themselves in someone else’s position further down the imagined academic and career path.

We know there’s already a STEM Stars program installed at CSC, but STEMwe will be more inclusive as it will expand beyond just girls to include minority boys and children from low-income families.

Change of Direction

We initially proposed a mentorship program to pair a student with a mentor who’s currently studying STEM in college, but after our check-in with the client and receiving feedback, we pivoted and revised our idea to a group mentoring program that is more equitable and engaging for students, since there is usually a hierarchy of power in traditional mentorship models.

How Does It Work?

STEMwe will give underrepresented 7-12-year-olds an opportunity to form a STEM club and do fun field trips as well as other group activities. Students will also acquire social-emotional skills since collaboration is involved. They will also rotate as the club leader each week, so they can practice leadership skills.

We intentionally chose “club” instead of “group” or “crowd” since we believe children in this age range are more attracted to forming a club and making new friends.

Most importantly, students form clubs with a mentor and peers that they can identify, in terms of race, gender, or social identity. The emphasis of STEMwe club activities is to utilize STEM knowledge to solve issues in Pittsburgh communities. For example, a STEMwe club can go to one of the students’ communities to get water samples and then go back to the lab to analyze the composition of Pittsburgh water, what are some factors that might have impacted the water quality, and what scientific methods local water treatment plants are using to solve these issues. We hope to introduce agency and a community mindset to these students through STEM.

Mentorship Program Flow
Program Deliverables

We designed program posters (General Audience, Mentees, & Mentors version) as well as a matching survey for students to fill out to ensure the STEM Center will pair them with a mentor and peers they can receive the best support from.

Program Details

Interactive Website

Rationale

Since students need academic support in STEM both in-person and virtually, we thought that an interactive website would complement the STEMwe mentorship program well. The initial interactive website had offered STEM-related activities, STEM course videos, progress report, and additional STEM resources. After check-in with the client, we revised our website structure and design along with our focus on collaborative learning for students as well as an emphasis on community-based activities.

Making the STEM learnings fun and interactive, the STEM Center’s new website is a platform that features collaborative activities, progress reports, and additional STEM-related resources.

The website is simple and intuitive enough for both students and caregivers to access all necessary information.

Visual System Design

Building a coherent yet flexible visual system

We first started brainstorming for the potential look and feel of our visual identity through looking at other STEM centers’ or science museums’ visual systems. MIT Media Lab’s visual evolution also brought us much inspiration.

Before diving into making all the visual assets, we knew that we wanted a consistent element to connect all of our materials together. The angled slash is the centerpiece of our visual system and is consistent throughout all our deliverables. The sharpness and strength of the slash indicate the power of STEM knowledge and confidence in learning STEM we hoped to instill into 7-12-year-olds that are currently underrepresented in the field.


The slash does not change its angle but can be changed to any primary or secondary colors based on the STEM Center’s needs.

Style Guide

The main colors on the color palette are taken directly from CSC’s logo and modified with lighter color variants. We chose Nunito and Nunito Sans as our main font for a modern and playful style, specifying the hierarchy of each text.

The look and feel of our system is intended to be fun, playful, and approachable for children, but also sophisticated enough to resonate with adults. We created a visual style that is simple, engaging, and intentional. Our style is aimed at keeping it light-hearted while aligning with Carnegie Science Center’s current visual identity.

Redesigned STEM Center Logo

Since the Carnegie Science Center is an institution as a part of the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, we didn’t want to change the visual identity entirely because of its long history. Rather, we designed a logo that’s an extension to the current CSC logo but also incorporates the angled slash element that is consistent with all our other deliverables.

Reflection

What did we learn, and what we could do better?

Working on this client-based visual communication design project has taught us how to carefully research the client’s current problem space, responses already taken to address certain issues, and constituents’ needs. We learned how to connect all of our deliverables visually through consistent elements to create a unified visual system. Additionally, we also challenged ourselves to design a new logo for the client – it was not an easy task, but we are glad that we took on the task to polish our design skills.

Most importantly, we received valuable feedback from our client and School of Design professors that will enable us to improve upon our current deliverables. We aim to continue developing more content and key pages for the interactive website as well as keep refining visual pieces for the STEMwe collaborative mentorship program.

More Case Studies