Foundations of Design Research

After months of hard work, we are very excited to announce the publication of Foundations of Design Research on The course content was written and developed by Andy and his friend and colleague Peni Acayo. We are thrilled with the experience and results and excited to share our expertise with the world.

The course description:

With design research, designs are more meaningful and effective because they are grounded in a real-world context. The goal of this course is to introduce the process of design research and to help designers understand how critical it is to being able to develop great designs. Authors Peni Acayo and Andy Schwanbeck walk you through the various types of research (primary vs. secondary, quantitative vs. qualitative, etc.) so that you get a sense of which are appropriate for the job at hand. They also introduce research tools, planning considerations, and frameworks for presenting your results, such as personas and infographics. Plus, find out how research can directly inform your designs, using generative research, user testing, and rapid prototyping.

Topics include:

  • Using research to add value and credibility to design work
  • Understanding the different types of research
  • Choosing research tools
  • Creating a research plan
  • Presenting research
  • Using research to begin the design process

“Behind the Platen” Letterpress Exhibition

Our letterpress studio, Big Press Little Press, organized and co-sponsored an exhibition celebrating the legacy of letterpress printing. The exhibit demonstrates how the medium is being explored and utilized in our contemporary design culture.

The exhibition showcases the range of letterpress work done by shops and individuals in the Western Pennsylvania/Eastern Ohio area. Along with the exhibited work, it also educates on the history of the medium through development of current day trends. This body of work shares the passion of those continuing the legacy of letterpress printing.

The exhibit opened on Wednesday, September 10 with a lecture by Bob Kelemen, an accomplished printer and educator whose letterpress work has been recognized in regional and national competitions. He spoke on the use of letterpress as a tactile learning tool for design and put into context how letterpress is being explored in our art and design culture. The exhibit was open from September 10 – 28, at the Cantellops Art Gallery, La Roche College, Pittsburgh. The lecture and exhibit for this location were sponsored in partnership by AIGA Pittsburgh and the La Roche College Design Division.

The second location for the exhibition was hosted by the University of Akron Myers School of Art, and opened on Friday, October 3rd with a lecture by Andy and Miranda of Big Press Little Press, who spoke on the feasibility of starting a letterpress studio and on how letterpress connects to and enhances design skills. The exhibit was open from October 3 – 9 in the  Myers School of Art Atrium Gallery. The lecture and exhibit for this location were sponsored in partnership by AAF-Akron and the Student Design Society.

We are currently seeking additional venues to host the exhibit in the Pittsburgh and Cleveland areas. Please get in touch with us if you have suggestions for schools or galleries who might be interested in working together.


NSU Flight Deck Graphics Installed

We just completed these graphics for the ‘Flight Deck,’ a bar/lounge space at Nova Southeastern University. The install  included two large format graphics and fabric-wrapped wall panels. The graphics tell the story of the development of the campus being built over what was once an airfield, including the maps, aerial views and historical images of Forman Field. We were pleased with the end result!

Our Letterpress Studio

Starting a letterpress studio came from our love to work with our hands and create things. Letterpress printing allows us the ability to use our skills as visual communicators, as well as to practice a hand craft, in creating pieces of handmade art and design. It also encourages our creativity and play through art and design.

Within the timeframe of a little over a year, we have acquired four different presses and four cabinets of lead and wood type along with all of the equipment we need to function fully as a small letterpress studio. Thus far, we have focused primarily on creating art prints and novelty items with a few specialty design projects. We look forward to the future of our studio and deciding upon where we will go from here.

We are happy to share our passions for creativity and play through our letterpress work. We want to share our knowledge and experiences in our letterpress endeavors with others so they might find the same satisfaction and joy. We share this lost art with our students, and are planning several workshops specifically for graphic designs students. Our hope is to one day open our letterpress studio to become a sort of co-op where other designers and artist can find joy and explore their creativity with this form of art and design.

Learn more about our studio and letterpress work at

Recognition in Metropolis

A group project that Andy was involved in as a graduate student at Kent State was named as a runner-up in Metropolis magazine’s Next Generation competition.

Project Summary:
Located on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, Kibera is the largest urban slum in Africa, with close to one million inhabitants. Families of eight or more crowd into dwellings of 12 square feet. Much of the ground is covered in trash. An utter lack of drainage leaves pools of standing water everywhere that quickly become infested, providing fertile breeding grounds for mosquitos. Malaria is epidemic. There is also widespread distrust of international aid organizations and clinics.

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SEGD Academic Summit 2013

Andy and Miranda both had the opportunity to present research topics at the 2013 SEGD Academic Summit in San Francisco. Andy’s research focused on the impact of environmental graphics on struggling neighborhoods within and urban context. Miranda’s research presented the outcome of a cross-disciplinary course, which was a collaboration between the graphic and interior design departments of La Roche College. The full projects can be seen here, with the other presentations in the SEGD Academic Summit document.

East Liberty Interpretive Study

Study Abstract:

This project explores the value that environmental graphic design elements can create to help promote and improve the perceptions of a neighborhood within a segregated urban landscape.

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. Research has shown that the success of a neighborhood relies in its ability to connect with other neighborhoods and economies throughout a city. It also demonstrates that cross-participation enhances the overall capacity of a community to operate both socially and economically. In a segregated city, there is an opportunity to use environmental graphic design elements to help improve the perceptions of a divided neighborhood and reconnect it back to the greater city population.

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