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Urban problem-solving laboratory assists North Texas organizations

Keith Owens, Design Research CenterThe Design Research Center, or DRC, has opened in downtown Dallas to serve as an urban laboratory where graduate students and faculty members can spark and sustain design-driven solutions to contemporary problems.

At the DRC, interdisciplinary teams of faculty and students will work with nonprofit organizations, government agencies and corporations to address social, environmental, economic and public policy concerns. Classes began Jan. 18.

“This urban laboratory is helping the College of Visual Arts and Design answer the challenge for UNT to become a Tier One research university,” said Keith Owens, above right, director and associate professor of design. “The DRC is just a few blocks from the Dallas Arts District and near several major museums and galleries, the World Trade Center and businesses, so our students will gain rich experience in the hub of Dallas. Likewise, Dallas-based businesses and cultural institutions will have access to a wealth of academic resources offered by the center, which is the first of its kind in the region.”

Several research projects have already started. They include:

  • Working with KERA-TV to create a best in class “Kids and Family” entertainment, learning and parenting portal and community website. UNT researchers and KERA staff will develop online experiences that build and enhance PBS children’s programming and related KERA educational content.
  • Collaborating with the nonprofit organization Downtown Dallas Inc. to help invent innovative solutions to unique challenges faced by distinct districts in downtown Dallas - starting with the Historic West End. Faculty led student researchers are investigating ideas for improving the economic vitality and quality of life in the West End and will seek to generalize these ideas for use by other Dallas districts, such as Deep Ellum and the Farmers Market. 
  • Helping employees of the World Factory global import corporation, to become more innovative idea generators to develop new products.

The Design Research Center will support graduate students pursuing master of fine arts and master of arts degrees in innovation studies, along with faculty members from the College of Visual Arts and Design, College of Business, College of Public Affairs and Community Service, School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management and College of Arts and Sciences.

The 3,000-square-foot space - a former police substation – is adjacent to the UNT System Building, 1908 Elm St. The renovated space includes a conference room, student work stations and classrooms.

Below, Owens and students. (Photos by Jonathan Reynolds)

Keith Owens, Design Research Center

Posted on: Mon 07 February 2011

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