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TABLE OF CONTENTS BACKGROUND Writing to Design 1. DEFINING THE LANDSCAPE Spaces as Sponsors 2. IDENITFYING CONNECTIONS Explorations in Locative Media 3. OBSERVING WRITING IN USE Sketchbook Ethnography 4. TESTING WRITING METHODS Material Palette Haikus 5. DESIGNING WITH OTHERS Codesign Community in Restrooms

BACKGROUND WRITING TO DESIGN In early 2014 I submitted a research proposal through Miami University to explore ways in which writing could be used to strengthen and influence the design process. This idea of using writing for to design largely came out of my own love of writing and drawing and the parallels I saw between the stages of creating a verbal or graphic piece. My proposal was accepted and I spent the next year researching and investigating this topic before sharing my findings at local presentations and at the DAKAM ARCHTHEO Conference in Istanbul, Turkey. Through this project I identified and investigated several writing methods to be used for the design process: PROJECTION: recording of goals and predictions before each project to set expectations and initiatives of the project WORD utilizing a single word to derive spatial qualities LITERATURE relying on interpretation of written works to inform a graphic representation NARRATIVE creating stories around real or imagined spaces to inform design decisions REFLECTION recording of outcomes and lessons learned after each project to reflect and analyze findings The following pages present designs developed from the Word, Literature, and Narrative methods with accompanying Projection and Reflection components.

Note: I am currently expanding upon this topic for my graduate studies at The Ohio University. This research will involve participants from design education and design practice to provide a fuller picture of writing’s capabilities for the field of design and to inform the making of a toolkit for each of these groups to utilize in order to improve their writing.

WORD WRITING TO DESIGN PROJECTION This method will utilize the words sterile, languid, and threshold to determine word connotations and document the affects of word choice on designs. I predict that some words will have a strong connotation with a particular event or place and influence objects an materials in addition to the space itself.



REFLECTION Using words as a design tool proved to convey strong connotations. The word “languid” brought about strong images of a beachy, vacation-like scene in addition to curving, looping forms. Its meaning was strongly tied to a certain type of place. On the other hand, the word “threshold” was used as a jumping point to imagine the significant transition between two spontaneously chosen space, relying very much on the contrast between these two places. Overall, I believe the Word method to be useful in identifying the good, bad or neutral connotations words may have when used to describe a design. This method could be investigated further with many more words or a variety of participants.


Described images of a grey-tone, gloomy landscape and tattered interior evoked memories of scenes from my childhood. Images from the de Ville mansion from the 101 Dalmatians movie and PC game.


Similes and personification of the building are used to support the underlying allegory of the story, which links the Usher family to that of the building itself.


The punctuation and fonts Poe uses also have an effect on the tone of this piece. Dashes quickly separating suspenseful thoughts encourage the notion of a racing mind, and the use of italics promote uncertainty. These written concepts produced the familiar “creepy” sound found in many horror movies, recreating these associated images while reading the piece.

1. 3.




3. 2.



PROJECTION This method involved analyzing word choice, structure, context, and other literary techniques in the short story by Edgar Allen Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” to develop its visual representation. By investigating the language of a short story, I wanted to understand how verbal descriptors translate to the visual form and how personal connotations and ideas overlap with what the author is presenting.

Interior sketch of the House of Usher

Exterior sketch of the House of Usher

“the windows were long, narrow, and pointed, and at so vast a distance from the “glowing in the unnatural light of a faintly luminous and distinctly visible gaseous black oaken floor as to be altogether inaccessible from within. Feeble gleams of exhalation which hung about and enshrouded the mansion” encrimsoned light...served to render sufficiently distinct the more prominent objects around...Dark draperies hung upon the walls. Many books, and musical instruments lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality to the scene...” REFLECTION The descriptive nature of “The Fall of the House of Usher” and the numerous literary techniques used (similes, metaphors, allegory, personification, etc.) all contribute to ease in which the setting, people, and events are relatively easy to picture. However, I was surprised as to how much I relied personal real and fictional mental images (and sounds!) to support the Poe’s imagery. Using literature for the design process could also play an important role in creating a shared understanding of what a space will look and feel like. Future research could be centered around how others may interpret the text visually and how much they depend on personal memories.

LITERATURE WRITING TO DESIGN III Spring is like a perhaps hand (which comes carefully out of Nowhere)arranging a window, into which people look(while people stare arranging and changing placing carefully there a strange thing and a known thing here)and changing everything carefully spring is like a perhaps Hand in a window (carefully to and fro moving New and Old things,while people stare carefully moving a perhaps fraction of flower here placing an inch of air there)and without breaking anything.


Initial sketches demonstrate the overall visual structure the poem embodies, as well as the concepts of framing and dynamic change. After several conceptual sketches, I noticed that I began applying these ideas to Olson Kundig’s buildings (shown at right). Changes were made to diversify the design one this similarity was identified

This method utilized the poem ee cummings’“Spring is Like a Perhaps Hand” to develop a design by drawing from the piece’s word choice, structure, context, and other literary techniques. Its goal was to understand how verbal descriptors translate to the visual form and how personal connotations and ideas overlap with what the author is presenting. From this, I expect personal bias, memories, and connotations to not play a role in the mental images conjured, possibly more so than that of Poe’s short story due to the more interpretive, open language used in poetry

“arranging a window, into which people look”

“while people stare carefully moving a perhaps fraction of flower here placing an inch of air there”

REFLECTION The poem’s physical layout, punctuation, and word choice all played a role in shaping mental images. However, language was often used in an unfamiliar ways, such as using “perhaps” abnormally and likening spring to the that of a hand. This open-ended way of using language opened up opportunities to think more deeply about what the author was trying to convey in so few words. This method would be useful as a source of inspiration for a design, as it is not as direct as connotative words and short stories depending on the poem. Future research could utilize more than one poem and across several designers to see how interpretations of the text may differ.

NARRATIVE WRITING TO DESIGN I continue down the long length of the enclosed marketplace, past vegetable stands and the shops on the opposing side. I turn left down an opening in the pathway; a man plays the saxophone at this intersection, which opens up to a jumble of red-painted chairs and tables. Past the array of seating, where people are enjoying their morning meals, are the Saturday vendors. Here, farmers put out their weekend vegetables, cheesemongers their local cheeses, and at the end of this open-airway market exploding with flowers from local gardeners. This open-air market is a near replica of the enclosed market with it’s pitched, rafter-roof, painted in celery green, mustard-yellows, and Jazz-apple red. The end of this market, enclosed and dead-ended with petunias, marigolds, and other bouquets and hanging baskets is the only place at Findlay where you are stopped, where you must turn around. Otherwise you are constantly roaming around the edges of the long indoor market, through its center, stopped by the streets at its short ends and pushed again around its corner to the long passages bordered by the old, brick buildings with their windows overflowing with flowers. At times the market can be overwhelming; I feel lost and even forget where I parked—my street location forgotten with the new information of market prices, tomato types, and the smells and sounds of the market. In all this confusion all I want is a place to sit, to gather myself and to remember where I am, where I should be going. Yet on a Saturday morning, the seats are filling up quickly, the others doused in the morning rain not yet dried.

PROJECTION This method utilizes storytelling to inform a design based on a real, observed space. The space used for this method was Findlay Market in Cincinnati Ohio. Its goal is to obtain a better understanding on the effects storytelling has on the design of a related space and create strong mental images that reflect the real surroundings of a space and aide in create a new, imagined, designed place. I believe that this approach will be the the most creative and accessible outlet for designing, but may pose some challenges to those uncomfortable with writing.

I wander through the crowds back towards my car parked on the street—I want to stay but the market demands movement, placement, and purpose. Along my path I notice an opening in the thick walls of the brick buildings parallel to the marketplace. Getting closer, I see it is a dark passageway, but there’s light at the end of it. I follow the passageway to the lights, running my hand along the brick walls, which are painted in bright colors, making the tunnel seem more inviting. My eyes widen despite the sudden light at the end of the passageway and I feel my mouth open in awe. The tunnel opens up to a large courtyard, dotted with uniform trees providing shade over metal and wood benches, brightly painted. Ivy crawls up the brick walls, meeting the windows of the residents above. The windows I had just seen before entering the courtyard, overflowing with flowers, weren’t just for show. Tenants used the extra space on their balconies to grow more freely—taller ferns with longer, fingering leaves, even several potted tomato plants and peppers. On one wall there’s a mural—it seems to be a bunch of bright rectangles and lines, but upon further scrutiny I see that it’s a map of the market, with people and vegetable stands included. Lugging my bags, I make my way to other shops, picking up some breads, dry grains, and a coffee before heading back to the restaurant. I walk across the street to the restaurant—I haven’t changed the exterior much since purchasing the property a year ago. The large, storefront windows and green and gold windows and façade. I unlock the door—only discernible from the windows by being set back from the sidewalk—and step in to the restaurant. We just refinished and polished. Black iron and wooden tables are arranged over it, with white linen napkins folded in small squares at each seat. Exposed beams stretch over the space, recalling the rafters of both the outdoor and indoor markets at Findlay. A few lights hang down from the ceiling over the tables, unlit. The bar in the back, however, shines brightly—over 500 wine and liquor bottles are backlit by a soft yellow wall, illuminating the entire space in a soft glow. I go the kitchen, which looks in on one of the dining spaces—you can see all the action.

REFLECTION Using narrative as an observational tool and a way to inform a new design proved to be an easy outlet for meaning-making. While the other previous methods used required some understanding fof literary analysis or had limitations, narrative if the simple act of story-telling. I found the addition of observation to be even more helpful in creating spaces that were authentic, appropriate and “real” while providing a creative response. While I think those not used to the idea of story-telling may find this method more difficult, there is an opportunity to create narratives in a more visual way such as video clips or as comic strips for those who do not feel as comfortable using the written word.


SPACES AS SPONSORS As part of the course Introduction to Literacy Studies I looked at the link between writing and design through several keys texts in the field, class discussions, and a final project. The final project included a narrative about how we see ourselves in the places and spaces in our lives using Deborah Brandt’s concept of literacy sponsorship as well as other interpretations of this concept. Included was a visual mapping of my own writing spaces, which investigated the way in which buildings, streets, rooms, furniture, tools, and other items become part of our literacy narratives.

SPACES AS SPONSORS Rather than focusing on a formulaic approach to determine which qualities equated to the best conditions for writing, I instead took cues from scholars that wrote about the diversity of writing spaces to instead present a question about spaces as sponsors of literacy: what do writing spaces mean they mean to us? I see this question as important in informing the ideas about how we choose places to write in and how writing spaces are designed, but also in bringing to light concerns about the mobility of writing and work with technological capabilities. This project aims to reflect upon these ideas and put the study of several spaces into the conversations of both current scholars and the foundational ideas of literacy sponsorship. Utilizing supporting texts to provide further commentary and analysis of these studied spaces, I investigated the themes of memory, mobility, and spatial instructions to center a conversation around this relationship between space and writing. See more at

The approach to this project was essentially twofold: 1) determine writing spaces to situate this conversation about the relationship between writing and spaces, and then 2) evaluate these observations through the lenses of other scholars to present the common threads that could shed light on the questions presented concerning how we select these spaces, and what they mean to us. Within each of these I aimed to describe the space as well as how the space felt to write in based on my own experience on that particular time and day. All writing and observations were completed within one hour between 8:30 am and 10 am using Google Docs (rather than physical pen and paper) on my personal MacBook Pro. I aimed to consider similar senses such as sound, smell, touch, and sight, but also more specific elements such as furniture, quality of light, and overall defining spatial qualities of the space through a rather informal narrative approach. Through these reflections, I hoped to provide a vivid vignette of each space with accompanying images that would help to ground the analysis of the connotations and meanings they supported.

While the results of this project do not include with any spatial recommendations for writing spaces, they do call for further consideration and reflection of the roles different environments has for writing. As we have seen, spaces not only rely on personal memories and connotations, but also physical and functional abilities related to movement, as well as over-arching institutional characteristics that provide behavioral instruction. These elements speak to and sometimes contradict one another, forming a continuous conversation within the spaces we work.


EXPLORATIONS IN LOCATIVE MEDIA The first semester of my graduate studies at The Ohio State University focused around a studio course theme of Locative Media as an avenue of exploring my thesis topic of writing for the design process. Locative media offered the opportunity to explore storytelling and communication within place-based settings accessed through geographic information systems (GIS). Presented in the following pages are the various elements of this multi-part inquiry of locative media, including: VISUALIZATION Graphic communication of the intersections of locative media in relation to writing and the chosen social issue of homelessness. COMPREHENSION Understanding the capabilities and technicalities of using locative media and coding in sharing dissenting narratives. APPLICATION Development of a mobile application interface that utilizes locative media as a vehicle for writing as an individual and social practice.

APPLICATION WRITING TO DESIGN The known city grid of Columbus, shown in plywood, was utilized as a stable element for other narratives to be imposed. White acrylic, which can slide in and out of the plywood frame, symbolizes the imposed ideals of places and landmarks that define this area of the map. The clear acrylic allows those holding the piece to add their own narratives with dry erase markers. Altogether, the three layers visually represent the conflicts around the questions of: who gets to tell their story, how is this shared, and how are individual narratives mediated with those of a group?

This project also examined objects as evocative personal items that could be imposed within the public sphere to create a similar discussion to that of the city grid framework. For this visualization, recognizable personal items were placed out of context on city street corners and the sides of public buildings.

This preliminary project focused on graphic communication of the intersections of locative media in relation to writing and the chosen social issue of homelessness. Using the city as a background and the spaces in which we exist, this project aimed to explore the idea of imposing images to visually demonstrate the ability of spaces to embody more than one story.


Possible Project Paths Beacons RaspberryPi - DIY

Passbook/ Wallet

Estimote Without app Android

iOS iBeacons


Swift coding with Estimote SDK

Eddystone-UID Eddystone-EID With iOS app Physical Web Google Proximity API

App that changes Background Color Coding from scratch using Swift libraries

Possible Project Paths

App that pulls dierent View Controllers




This project employed the practical use of locative media by breaking down how it works. With the primary goal of understanding the capabilities and technicalities of using locative media and coding in sharing dissenting narratives, the process of learning a new technology was documented and shared with others through videos, and interactive test app, graphics, diagrams, and a glossary of terms.


final installment in this series of projects worked to develop a mobile application interface that utilized locative ia as a vehicle for writing as an individual and social practice. Three models were established, including: VIDUAL - single-user, location-based writing prompts HANGE - multi-user, location-based writing exchanges which allow for users to add on to each other’s stories LIC - wiki-sourced stories bound to a specific location



SKETCHBOOK ETHNOGRAPHY I disseminated a short survey amongst the class to understand current feelings about writing within this group. This served to inform an ethnography of the participants’ sketchbooks and documentation of the design process to understand how writing is already being used. Writing styles were coded, catalogued, and typogrified, as relayed on the following pages.

SKETCHBOOK ETHNOGRAPHY Sketchbook Typologies Content included: - Class notes - Questions - Ideas/concepts - written - Ideas/concepts - sketches - Lists - Diagrams

The “Mapper” The “Mapper” -

Heavy on diagramming (note that “class notes” were all Liz’s diagrams) Ideas expressed as space on the page

The “QuestionThe Master” “Question Master” -

Content driven by questions Did not seem to have direct class notes, but rather follow-up thoughts

The “Jot”

The “Jot” -

The “List-Maker”

Brief bits of information organized by “-” Well-versed in all content areas Utilizes sketchbook to make sense of something

The “List-Maker” -

Mostly organized notes as lists separated by horizontal lines Sees ideas as tasks

The above typologies represent a range of personified writing styles based on the types of writing content utilized as well as the general organization and direction of the books. Along with the survey each student answered, this study positions writing as an important step in designing visual works. While most designers demonstrate more confidence with drawing, the untamed nature of the sketchbook may be a good place to start when encouraging writing practies for those who consider themselves to be more adept in visual communication


MATERIAL PALETTE HAIKUS With my advisor Rebekah Matheny, we planned writing activities for the students to utilize to translate a selected haiku into materials palettes. Drawing from the students’ retail studio,concept mapping was introduced as a step in encouraging the students to think more deeply about the meaning behind the words of their haikus, and how these conjure up different words and images to utilize in a spatial sense. These tools were received positively by students, affirming the empowering ability of using writing for the design process and contributing to my research.

MATERIAL Moving from Verbal to Visual


1. haiku

Example 1 - Poem The room is dying honey and linden Where drawers opened in mourning The house blends with death In a mirror whose lustre is dimming - Jean Bourdeillette, Les etoiles dans la main

2. brand soul

3. visual positioning

brand soul Example 1 - Brand Soul

4. Material palette

Example 1 - Visual Positioning


COMMUNITY IN RESTROOMS A participant-led, research-based approach was utilized for a group project, which involved inviting restroom users to inform us on the concept and qualities of community in shared restrooms. By stating this question rather ambiguously in both a private and shared answer format, we were better able to gauge the “temperature� of this issue and understand several key themes around community, including safety, aesthetics, social behaviors, accessibility, sexuality, etc. Understanding the best ways to let participants contribute to this conversation and how to evaluate these findings served as another consideration in how I will shape my research question as well as the methodologies, tools, and evaluative methods I will use for my thesis.

COMMUNITY IN RESTROOMS Anonymous submssions were collected in private poling boxes placed in men’s and women’s restrooms in Hayes Hall (Design Department).

Hayes Hall Boxes - results

After gathering responses, our team attempted to categorize the responses. The themes that emerged provided anunderstanding the population’s approach to answering the question, if community exists (positively or negatively), and other aspects of bathroom culture we were interested in learning about, including safety, aesthetics, and sexuality. The key categories presented to the right largely tended to be those related to “not community” and “explicit content.” In addition to the polling boxes, public “graffiti walls” were hung near men’s and women’s bathrooms in Paterson Hall (undergraduate dorm) to provide a comparative mode and location of gathering responses. The themes that emerged from this postulation tended to be more community oriented in the way that they were driven by the shared space of a group of users who lived relatively close to one another

Paterson Hall Graffiti Wall - results Cleanliness


Shower water

Slights off


Keep tighty

Pee on seats Food in sink Shower curtain clean Menstrual Blood Vomit

Turn off shower

Mock the question (Meme drawn) Question expected outcome

Bonding over bathroom functionality

Comments on others

Complain about cleanliness/floodin g/authority




Share knowledge about what is broken/flooded Bond over noise complaint


Focus Group - results ●

Researchers 7 theme categories:

Focus group 7 theme categories:

Environmental Qualities/Comments


Social Behaviors/Norms

No Homo

Community Suggestions


Explicit Content




Not Community



A category between BM & Exchanges

Following the ocus group convened to categorize and provide participants’ interpretation of the comments received in order to follow our participant-led approach. While some of the categories from the focus group differed from the ones our team had originally invented, many were similar and both contained a total of seven typologies.

While the results of this study were inconclusive in regards to the question of “How is community fostered in OSU’s public restrooms?” we were able to uncover and present some important findings on restroom culture in general. While there may not be a sense of “community” in the more accepted sense of the term, the context of the restroom provides a microscopic vision for how we share spaces and the various modes of engaging with others in them. In these more private, shared spaces we apply our implicit beliefs about the community we wish to have.


CODESIGN For this group project, I collaborated with three other classmates and our senior codesigners at Westminster Thurber. While this project focused on technology and the aging population, this course’s emphasis on codesign proved to be an asset in learning what activities people respond to, how to modify, plan, and execute these activities, and how to adapt on the fly when working with participants when things don’t go as planned. This experience served as a precursor to the interactions I hoped to have when testing out my writing methods toolbox among students and designers.


Our team engaged our codesigners in a number of reflective, creative, and discursive activities to start a conversation around the theme of communication. Each of our conversations and creations resulted in a deeper understanding of not only the unique communication challenges at Westminster Thurber, but also issues present for most older adults.


Our team of students and codesigners assembled a list of communication issues existing within the Westminster Thurber campus. In order to visualize and enact change, these issues were prioritized among both independent living residents (those living on their own in apartments) and those living with assistance (residents in assisted living and healthcare with more limited mobility).

Working List of Priorities Independent

Living with Assistance




Campus TV


Campus TV


Smart Tech


Digital Calendar No.3



Smart Tech

Digital Calendar


Auditorium Resident’s Room

Future Chatterbox Calendar

Future TV Channel / Live Streaming

Future Education for Residents

Future Hearing Technology

The ideas that we envisioned with the codesigners serve as guiding principles for future imagining of the Westminster Thurber Community. These ideas were presented as ideals and values to strive for in order to improve communication among all residents and staff. Additionally, it aims to raise awareness about issues older adults face and to start a larger conversation in encouraging new innovations to be resident-led.

Profile for Madison Sabatelli

Design Research Portfolio  

Design Research Portfolio