Posts Tagged ‘James Laslavic’

Student Spotlight: James Laslavic of Design Studies Spends Semester at NASA Ames Research Center

By Jennifer Soong

James Laslavic is a second-year student in the MA Design Studies program. He is currently working on his thesis, Conditions of Design: Outer Space and Future Technologies, at the NASA Human Systems Integration Division, where he will be for the next four months thanks to funding from the San Jose State University Research Foundation. Laslavic began his collegiate career as a Web Design major at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco before transferring to Carnegie Mellon and earning a B.A. in Communication Design with a minor in Ethics. He has been working as a freelance communication designer since 2007, and has worked on projects such as a campaign for Pittsburgh Action Against Rape and an At-Home Pesticide Check. Laslavic was a User Experience Design Intern at Fuzzy Math, a Chicago interaction design consultancy, last summer, where he did research and designed for clients such as the Chicago Architecture Foundation and Datamyx.

Recently, Laslavic corresponded with Insights and offered to share a series of photographs documenting his first month and a half at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. He has given us permission to reproduce the following images.

NASA Ames has all kinds of impressive architecture, especially past the high security gate. The buildings purport to be “pure engineering” but in reality exhibit stylistic choices that express the construction era’s influence and the values of the NASA Ames community. Seen here is one of several enormous wind tunnels used for aerodynamics tests.

NASA Wind Tunnel

NASA Wind Tunnel

Laslavic notes that this even larger wind tunnel continues for approximately an entire regular North American street block in both directions.

Laslavic points out the wind tunnel’s enormity relative to the depicted vehicles.

Laslavic points out the wind tunnel’s enormity relative to the depicted vehicles.

On site at NASA, Laslavic visits one of the institution’s housed precision cranes.

Precision Crane

Precision Crane

NASA Ames is located at Moffett Field in Mountain View, which was and still is an airbase also used by the Navy and, to a lesser extent, the Air Force. Pictured here is a T-38 Talon on display at the Moffett Airfield Museum located on base. It was one of the jets used as a regular part of the training for all NASA astronauts. The structure behind it was once a hangar for Air Force zeppelins.

Laslavic spoke with Commander Reid Wiseman, an active duty NASA astronaut recently returned from the International Space Station (ISS), after Wiseman’s presentation on his experience and observations during his last mission. Commander Wiseman may well be using James’ design during his next mission.

Laslavic and Wiseman

Laslavic and Wiseman

Student Spotlight: James Laslavic


MA Design Studies Candidate James Laslavic

Second-year MA Design Studies student James Laslavic recently finished an invaluable summer internship at Fuzzy Math, a respected interaction design consultancy in Chicago. Before he left, they interviewed him about how he applies what he’s learned so far in Design Studies to his practice of interaction design, and what he hopes to bring back to Parsons from his time at Fuzzy Math. The full interview can be read on the Fuzzy Math blog.


Photo Courtesy of Fuzzy Math


Photo Courtesy of Fuzzy Math

Fuzzy Math: I know you’re currently in grad school – What is the degree you’re seeking?

James Laslavic: I’m halfway into earning my Master of Arts in Design Studies at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. To give a brutally short summary, the term “design studies” embodies a discipline that researches and critically examines the methods, theories, history, and potential futures of design. It also looks at how design affects and is affected by other fields and the world at large.

FM: How will your internship at Fuzzy Math apply to your studies?

JL: The field of design studies is currently composed mostly of non-designers, so I think that taking things from design practice (Fuzzy Math) back to designs studies is especially important. My own practice is interaction design, so that’s the particular branch that I focus on in design studies. I want to connect high-level design theory and ground-level design decisions for the benefit of academics and practitioners alike.

FM: Now the reverse: How will you apply what you’re studying to what you’re working on at Fuzzy Math?

JL: For a long time, I mistakenly thought that “human-centered design” just meant advocating for the wants and needs of users, and that “goal-directed design” just meant making sure design decisions were based on how well they’d meet objectives. I used techniques like wireframes, personas, and design principle lists to explore and explain solutions. About a year ago, I realized that the big thing I was missing was how these methods could (and should!) be used to methodically determine and filter the goals themselves. Human-centered design and goal-directed design are as much about setting aside the wrong goals as they are about pursuing the right ones. While at Fuzzy Math this summer, I’ve had a chance to see how my interaction design chops benefit from what I’ve been exposed to during the first half of my masters program. What I’ve found so far is that design studies is providing me with an especially rigorous approach to identifying the factors that actually matter when determining goals, making design decisions based on the resulting goals, and assessing how well my methods serve those decisions.


Program Contact

Caroline Dionne, Program Director

Program Update

Parsons is not currently admitting new students to this master’s degree program. Parsons is now offering a Graduate Minor in Design Studies that is designed to complement the MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies and other graduate programs across the university in design, liberal arts, and social research.