WKU Art & Design student combines graphic design with virtual reality
- Madison Whittle
- Wednesday, September 1st, 2021
Madison Whittle is a junior pursuing a BFA with a concentration in Graphic Design and a Certificate in User Experience. When a new extended reality (XR) lab opened on campus, WKU faculty encouraged Whittle to join.
"WKU Art & Design Department Head Kristina Arnold approached me to ask if I would be interested in virtual reality (VR) research," Whittle said. "I didn't have any experience with extended reality, but I was eager to learn."
In high school, Whittle gained valuable skills through coding and web design classes, which kickstarted her interest in technology.
"Before I enrolled at WKU, I was interested in web design as a potential career path. However, I wasn't the best at writing code, so I decided to take on the front end or visual side of things."
It wasn't until her freshman year of college that Whittle learned about the field of user experience (UX) design. As defined by the Interaction Design Foundation, "User experience design is the process design teams use to create products that provide meaningful and relevant experiences to users. This involves the design of the entire process of acquiring and integrating the product, including aspects of branding, design, usability and function."
Utilizing her prior knowledge and gaining new skills in the WKU XR Research Lab has rekindled Whittle's interest in technology, which had faded in favor of her visual arts pathway.
"Being able to develop components that will be used in VR and applying my UX background has been a really amazing experience. I am passionate about graphic design and I'm happy to see how it can be merged into technology, especially within a medium that is still being developed."
This summer, Whittle has contributed to the lab with both design and UX assets. "So far, I've created our logo, established branding, and have created 3D models for our programs."
With a focus on interdisciplinary learning, the WKU XR Lab utilizes a combination of virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality tools to create immersive experiences. For example, one of the team's current projects revolves around creating a more accessible approach to manufacturing engineering education.
"Since early May, our team has been developing a virtual reality program intended to teach manufacturing engineering technology (MET) students how to use the university's new FANUC robot arm. Because it is a large, complex machine, any repairs it might need would be costly and time-consuming. Therefore, by having a VR program to educate students, these risks are de-escalated."
Research team members are also pursuing additional individual projects. Currently, Whittle is exploring ways in which the fine arts can be merged with technology via augmented reality (AR).
"I've been working in a program called Adobe Aero that allows users to upload 2D and 3D objects and view them in AR on their smartphone. I start by creating the illustrations on iPad. Then, I upload the separate layers into Aero, where I can animate them and test them on my phone. I'd be really interested to see how this software could be used in our graphic design and fine art classes to create an augmented gallery experience."