Thesis Projects

M.A. and M.F.A. graduates develop innovative future practices, broaden scholarly research in visual design and make a meaningful contribution to society – all through the process of writing practical and scholarly thesis.

Graduates dive into design’s impact on issues in business, wayfinding and 3D design, finance, education, letterpress, healthcare and information management. Numerous graduates have jumpstarted their careers in graphic design from thesis projects.

Past thesis projects have answered questions such as how mobile technology can increase a child’s exposure to outdoor play; how explaining a student’s educational loan debt visually might influence borrowing decisions; and how companies as large as Microsoft could improve recruitment technology for mobile job-seekers.

View an archive of thesis projects that are unavailable digitally here.

Recently Completed Thesis Projects 


Recognition and Denotation of Photographic Manipulation

By: Kathryn Lynn Voith

The media is often blamed for poor body image and low self-esteem due to its use of Photoshop and other editing programs to create a beauty ideal that many consider unrealistic and unattainable. Previous research has shown that an understanding of manipulation used in these images tempers the negative effects, but no research has been done to determine the average level of media literacy when viewing manipulated photographs. This study surveys a college-aged audience to determine their ability to identify photographic manipulation and their acceptance of different levels of editing, and determine whether or not a photographic denotation system indicating manipulation is needed in the industry...Read more. 

Beyond the Screen: Embedded Interfaces as Retail Wayfinding Tools

By: Kathleen Barnes Evans

This paper aims to widen the discourse on experience as an economic entity, which exists within retail settings that are deliberately designed and carefully controlled by service providers to elicit desired consumer behaviors. This body of research aims to underscore the importance of in-store wayfinding within the specific context of grocery shopping in large supermarkets by investigating the current state of affairs in the art of consumer experience design and the differentiation of consumer experience through wayfinding in retail spaces...Read more.

Success Metrics and Sustainable Business Models in Social Innovation Design Firms

By: Jordan Kauffman

This thesis is an investigation into sustainable business models and the different evaluation methods utilized in social innovation design. Over the last twenty years, there has been an increase in awareness and desire within the design industry to utilize design as a way to help solve some of the large, systemic social problems facing people all over the world. To make this work financially and sustainably, designers are utilizing a variety of for-profit and nonprofit business models. However, these business models are potentially hindering social innovation designers’ access to the resources needed to measure the impact of their work...Read more.

Chasing Vertical: Diversity & Recognition in the field of Graphic Design

By: Omari Souza

Despite the growing number of minority students entering college, those numbers are not reflected in design-related fields. A recent Georgetown study suggests that African Americans are far better represented in the social serving fields than in any other majors. Chasing Vertical- Diversity and Recognition in the field of Graphic Design utilizes design research methods to investigate what African American students prioritize when choosing a college major. The intention of this investigation is to gain a better understanding of why the design field has failed to attract African American students, and what practitioners and recruiters in the field can learn from the successes of other fields in developing diverse populations of learners...Read more.

Symmetrical Speech: Qualitative Textual Analysis In Humanist Digital Design

By: Alan Walker

There is a widely held colloquialism that iPhones have more computing power than NASA's Apollo mission control systems. How a person sorts out the technicalities of this assertion is beyond the point; most people can agree that modern computers provide dynamic opportunities for a range of applications. One such application is research and inquiry in the field of the Humanities including history, literature, and culture. Specifically, academics studying textually based, artifacts past and present. People may now input a body of text such as a speech or poem into a digital tool that will output a reading of minuscule detail. During the interaction the researcher can easily discover: the frequency of certain words, recurring parts of speech, and even emotional sentimentality...Read more.

Breath in Motion: Breath Awareness Design Research Study

By: Cassandra Reese

The rising crescendo of the digital lifestyle has profoundly affected the human capacity for sustained focus. Since 2000, the human attention span has dropped from 12 to 8 seconds, with decreased long-term focus as users increase digital consumption. With users not getting off their devices anytime soon, and technostress on the rise, the question arises how designers might better meet users where they are by designing more mindful interactions. Research in the field of mindfulness shows its potential to reduce stress, increase productivity, and improve overall wellbeing...Read more.

Video games help to prepare girls for a competitive future in STEM: An analysis of how video games help to build visual-spatial skills and the positive influence early childhood gaming can have on girls

By: Leigh Hughes

Play is beneficial for children in every aspect of their lives. Play gives kids the freedom to explore and problem solve while freely using their imagination in a safe environment. Looking forward, it is imperative to allow girls this freedom to explore digital games and all of their possibilities. Video games help to build visual-spatial capabilities, which is the ability to mentally construct and organize 3-dimensional objects in an imaginary space (Paul, 2013), a skill that promotes advanced mathematical and engineering skills...Read more.

Organic Web Design: Exploring Nature as Metaphor in Responsive Web Design

By: Alex Catanese

The rise of responsive design as an approach to web design in the last decade has shaped the ways that designers consider the web as a medium. As this approach has developed, its practitioners have begun forming patterns and templates which might limit alternative modes of thinking in the field. Criticism of this approach is still in its early stages, leaving open an opportunity for reflection, expansion, and the exploration of alternative modes of thinking and making for considering the medium. The web browser has properties which are inherently flexible, fluid, and adaptive—begging for a parallel exploration of flexible, fluid, adaptive systems as external inspiration for web design...Read more.

Audio & Visual Design Designing Holistic Sensory Experiences within Environments

By: Quintin Jon Steele

What are the sensory limits of design? Will emerging technologies continue to push design into new realms of practice? How can multimodal environments adapt to users providing more holistic sensory experiences? What is the role of a graphic designer, in the growing world of multimodal design? My thesis research investigates the ways audio and visual cues combine to create more dynamic and immersive environments... Read more.

Using typography and iconography to express emotion (or meaning) in motion graphics as a learning tool for ESL (English as a second language) in a multi-device platform

By: Anthony John Ezzo

Using typography and iconography to express emotion (or meaning) in motion graphics as a learning tool for ESL (English as a second language) in a multi-device platform. Expressive typography in motion graphics were used to explore vocabulary learning for ESL students. The three widely used teaching methods include: behaviorism, phonics, and grammar translation... Read more.

Application of the Deconstructive Discourse as a Generative Thinking Framework 

By: Daniel Ricardo Echeverri 

Strategies, systems, experiences and services are part of the new challenges faced today by design students and designers. These challenges include shifting audiences with specific needs due to the broad offer of services and products that often create new needs. These needs include limited resources, sustainable solutions with low environmental impact, and production costs... Read more.

Usability of WordPress for Visual Communication Designers

By: Victoria J Pickett 

WordPress is currently the most popular content management system. The popularity of content management systems is that they allow websites to be built and maintained by nontechnical users without requiring a programmer. This thesis looks at the usability of the WordPress Dashboard interface for visual communication designers... Read more

Private Labels and Personal Care: A Focus on Store Brand Package Design, Branding Design and Consumer Attitudes Towards Private Label Personal Care Products

By: Larrie Leon King 

National manufacturer brands generally outsell private label brands in most product areas. For instance, Hoyer and Brown found that when inexperienced buyers were asked to decide between two brands, they were more likely to choose the brand name with which they were most familiar. However, during periods of economic distress, consumers tend to purchase store brand products, as they are generally less expensive than those branded nationally... Read more.

Strategies for Graphic Design aimed at the Multiple Sclerosis Community: The Development of the Inclusion Framework to Assist in Design Thinking and Visual Communication Artifacts

By: Andrew Brian Fogle

This thesis will address the challenges of living with MS by researching visual communication in a printed context to ensure that current best practices are creating accessible and comprehensible communications for this audience. The primary and secondary research will focus on three specific symptoms common in the community. Visual impairment, cognitive changes and fatigue are key manifestations of the MS community and the symptoms that could be most affected by inaccessible design choices... Read more

Designer as Cultivator: An Exploration in Critical Making for the Care of Interdisciplinary Culture

By: Ryan M Hammond 

Alongside design's growth as an interdisciplinary field of study and practice throughout the last century, debate has arisen as to its role in the cultivation of society. At a fundamental level, it can be considered a method of action that determines successful communication of an idea, whether that idea is forthright or implicit. As a multifaceted field that encompasses several concentrations of specialized study, it has historically played the role of mediator between the arts and sciences—an interdisciplinary approach to communication that shares notable similarities with classical rhetoric... Read more

Designing for Museum Relevancy: Improving Innovation and Adaptability in Museum Management with Design Thinking

By: Rachel K. Hellgren

As many art museums continue to struggle with funding and maintaining relevancy, they also remain internally divided. Museum professionals hired for their expertise tend toward an internally dominant mindset that can drive interdepartmental segregation. They also do not look to the visitor as a deep source of innovation. Recent changes in philanthropic patterns are intensifying the never-ending challenges of funding and budget cuts... Read more

Biometrics in Interaction and Interface Design

By: Joshua A Kruszynski 

This research investigates the creation of human-computer interfaces which adapt to the cognitive strain of individual users. Research is already underway to employ biometrics for purposes other than medical diagnosis, such as identification and control of prosthetics. This research considers biometric systems—specifically EEG—in the context of interface design, for the purposes of common human-computer interaction... Read more

Information Acquisition and Sequential Narratives

By: Chad Allen Lewis 

This thesis explores the comic’s role in reading comprehension and information acquisition. The comic medium offers a potentially high level of effectiveness due to the visual narrative’s many modalities of learning within it’s constitution, both design and aesthetic. Specifically, this thesis explores the comic’s inherent design elements to determine the effectiveness of the sequential visual narrative as a vehicle to tell substantive stories through the intersection of visual and textual storytelling... Read more


Developing an Arabic Typography Course for Visual Communication Design Students in the Middle East and North African Region

By: Basma Almusallam

Typography is one of the main elements of visual communication design. Acquiring good typographical skills is crucial for designers to effectively convey information and meaning. These skills should be taught in schools by applying a proper typographic foundation and improving skills through experience. Arabic typography has been recently introduced in Visual Communication Design programs in the Middle East and North African region with an emphasis on typeface design... Read more

Experiential Graphic Design: Generating Urban Renewal by Improving Safety and Connectivity in Bicycle Pathways

By: Molly Lawrence 

Post-industrial cities today are experiencing an influx of new generations moving into local urban communities. Street culture and walkable downtowns and districts are progressively developing in these urban areas, and the need is present for safer and interconnected bicycle infrastructure. Research has proven that the success of a walkable and bikeable environment plays a significant role in the comprehensive sustainability of a city... Read more

User-Centered Approach for Takeout Packaging Design

By: Tipsaran Choknitivet

Competition of grocery store prepared meals has become more intense in the market today. According to The NPD Group’s ongoing foodservice market research, over 40 percent of the U.S. population purchases prepared foods from grocery stores, and consumers rate visits to grocery stores higher than traditional quick service restaurants on variety and healthy options. However, Packaging Matters, the signature consumer research study in 2015, collects data about the role of packaging in product satisfaction... Read more

Fluid identity: History & Practice of Dynamic Visual Identity Design

By: Jason E. Murdock 

The main aim of this thesis is twofold. Firstly, this investigation seeks to broaden the scope of graphic design history as it pertains to visual identity design by documenting the existence of an alternative paradigm—dynamic visual identity design—which has developed alongside the prevailing visual identity design paradigm—static visual identity design—but which is not currently well documented or understood... Read more

Designing for Hedonic Shopping Motives: Creating a Framework for E-commerce Imagery

By: Shelby Elizabeth Muter 

The ways in which people research, shop and purchase items has evolved in tandem with the evolution and expansion of e-commerce consumer purchasing. However, the reasons that people shop have essentially stayed the same. It is widely accepted that consumers are motivated by either utilitarian or hedonic goals. Utilitarian consumers are primarily concerned with purchasing products in an efficient and timely manner; whereas, hedonic consumers are primarily focused on the potential entertainment and enjoyment that arises from the shopping experience (Childers, Carr, Peck & Carson, 2001)... Read more

Small Businesses and Their Perceived Value of Design

By: Ian McCullough 

This study is a study of small business owners and their perceptions on graphic design. The basis for this study was to gain an understanding of whether or not small businesses view professional graphic design as a beneficial service worth pursuing, and why or why not they are employing the services of professional designers... Read more

Design Interjection for Business Incubators

By: Todd Louis Wendorff 

No matter how an entrepreneur defines failure, statistics on the success rate of start-up businesses is disheartening. Around 30 to 40 percent of start-up businesses liquidate all assets, losing all investor funding, while 70 to 80 percent fail to produce the projected return on investment. There is a strong need for effective incubation facilities which compress the learning curves of the start-ups and provide them with necessary initial support in order to improve their sustainability... Read more.

Design Education for Ugandan Secondary Schools

By: Penina Acayo

Uganda has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this predicament, young adults have the ability and the capacity to drive positive social change and economic growth, if given the appropriate resources and opportunities” (International Youth Foundation, 2011)... Read more.

Designing for Education Debt Management: Improving Student Financial Experiences Through Design

By: Jason Bacher

For a growing number of students, education debt is becoming a familiar and common reality. Borrowing money for a college education is unlike any financial experience that exists today. Unlike taking out a loan for a car or a mortgage for a home, students enroll in a cycle of continuous investing-potentially carrying on for a lifetime... Read more.

Decentralized Design Management: Managing People and the Design Process for a Geographically Dispersed Creative Team

By: Brian Buirge

Collaboration is a key factor to fostering innovation, and in the creative economy innovation is indispensable to success. Advances in technology are evolving the ways in which designers, as well as people in every profession, collaborate. The growth of social networking, instant messaging, web conferencing, online project management, and even distance learning are clear indicators of this evolution... Read more.

From the Wall to the Web: A Microformat for Visual Art

By: Emir Bukva

When I was an undergraduate student at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, I worked for the Art History department. My job was to digitize as many 35 mm analog slides as I could from a library of thousands... Read more.

Capturing the Present, Engaging the Future: Designing a Social History Network in a Digital Age

By: Aimee Crane

For thousands of years, stories have been the ultimate source and basic instruction for human emotion and understanding. Stories operate on many levels and communicate on multiple ways that we as humans understand and appreciate... Read more.

An Informed Emergency: Improving Patient Comfort and Comprehension in and After the Emergency Department

By: Ben Dansby

Several months before beginning this thesis project, I was struck one day with a pain in my abdomen that had me literally writhing on the ground. I called a friend, and through gritted teeth, I asked if he could take me to the emergency room... Read more

SYNC IN PROGRESS: Connecting the Technology Gap Between Gen Y Students and Their Professors

By: Jason Goupil

The Millennials are a group, born from 1977-1994, that have experienced great technological advancements during their formative years as children. Cell phones, computers, the internet, social networks, video games, iPods, digital tablets, and GPS have impacted their lives in big ways... Read more

Painting heroes: Using illustration to improve the standing of baseball in the inner city

By: Steven E Hughes

This thesis explores the development of a series of illustrated portraits of current African American baseball players. It documents the artistic process and research necessary to make a narrative painting... Read more

Teaching Design Concepts through Letterpress

By: Robert Keleman

Teaching Design Concepts through Letterpress Are tactile and visual demonstrations using letterpress equipment useful in teaching basic design concepts to undergraduate graphic design students? College freshmen have grown up with the computer as a learning tool... Read more

Note-taking and Information Retention and Recall

By: Gary Meacher

Information retention is paramount to the education process. There is not a single act in academia that does not require extensive information recall. Beginning with the middle school grades, teachers increasingly rely on the lecture method of instruction. Incidentally, the middle grades are a critical period in the instruction of study skills as the students in that age range are developmentally ready to become strategic learners... Read more

The American Craftsman: A Contemporary Revival

By: Nathanael Mucha

Beginning with the Arts and Crafts period in the 1800s, craft has established itself as a vital cultural and socio-economic force in Western society. As the original movement cooled at the beginning of the 20th century, it evolved under the pressures generated by World War I and II taking on different forms as it influenced various art movements... Read more

Combining Digital Media and Unstructured, Outdoor Play in Order to Foster Healthy Child Development

By: Amy Dwyer Peck

More and more, children are spending time indoors in front of a television, computer or electronic gaming device. They are not spending time outside playing and interacting with other children and the natural world around them. Another aspect limiting children's opportunities for unstructured, outdoor play is their parent’s fear of the outside world, and a need to over-schedule, creating perfectly controlled environments for their children... Read more

Online Learning as a Tool for Enhancing Design Education

By: Jason Richburg

Universities are under great pressure to lower costs and operate more efficiently. This fact has lead to the widespread adoption of distance learning as a means of delivering curriculum. Due to the fiscal demands of their universities, and in response to changes occurring in the professional realm, many design departments find themselves needing to adapt... Read more

Business Environmental Design, Consumer Visual Literacy and Self-Concept

By: Sarah Rutherford

This research explores the hypothesis that the identity and environmental design of a business, whether created intentionally or not, attracts customers because it affirms some aspect of the customer’s self-concept... Read more

Environmental Graphic Design Changing the Perceptions of Divided Communities through Cultural and Social Connectivity

By: Andrew Schwanbeck

Urban segregation occurs when a city’s diversities create perceived barriers around concentrated clusters of social groups. When these divisions are extreme enough, communities become shut off from the rest of the city and often fall into a perpetual cycle struggle and degradation... Read more

The Dynamic Electronic Textbook: Enhancing the Student's Learning Experience

By: Kayne Toukonen

This thesis examines how contemporary education theory could support and justify certain advanced e-textbook design features, enhancing the student’s learning experience and fostering educational growth... Read more

Diamond in the Rough: Telling the Story of Hough's League Park with Temporary Environmental Graphic Design

By: Jennifer Vokoun

In Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood at the corner of East 66th and Lexington Avenue sits an abandoned brick building in front of a large open field. This is the only physical remnant of League Park, the ballpark where Cleveland’s professional baseball teams played from 1891 to 1950. For many this space is hallowed ground, rich in baseball history and Cleveland history... Read more

Social Media as a Meas of Promoting Peer-Based Learning in Design Education

By: Adina (Feigenbaum) Warshawsky

Critique is an integral part of design education whereby students review and evaluate projects in order to learn design principles and develop skills such as self-evaluation and giving constructive feedback to others... Read more.

Using Design Strategy to add Value to a Political Campaign

By: Lee Zelenak

At the onset of a project, the first question designers like to ask is: why? It seems like such a simple question and yet far too often it goes unanswered, or the answer is, 'Because we have always done it like this.' What has always attracted me to the concept of design strategy is that it provides a platform to help design better understood goals, objectives, and possibilities, while also providing tangible results showing better outcomes... Read more