Recap on Design via Dialogue & Innovation: Talking with Engineers about Usability

Michigan UXPA was part of a great event on April 18th! We partnered with Ford Labs & Ford IT Design Enablement to discuss rhetorical flexibility and organizational change with folks from Michigan State University.

MSU’s Dawn Opel kicked things off with a talk about how to deal with “Engineers are from Mars, Designers are from Venus” situations. Being able to shift the way you talk about user experience based on different contexts is the key. Understanding why to make those language shifts and being able to recognize when to make them can be difficult, but exercises that span disciplines (such as art and science) are good practice.

Presenter Dawn Opel speaking to the audience

Jeff Grabill described how MSU is using design to reinvent itself as a learning institution. He challenged us all to think about how people experience transitions as a part of the experience design process.

In the panel discussion that followed, Judy Foster from Ford Labs and Fred Estabrook from Pillar Technology added commentary about language gaps, building trust, agile software development, change management best practices, speaking the language of “business”, and more.

Presenter panel with Fred Estabrook speaking

We had about 50 attendees, most of which were Ford employees. The non-Ford attendees were treated to a tour of Ford Labs afterwards.

Thanks to our colleagues at Ford IT Design Enablement for starting the conversation about this event, at Ford Labs for hosting, and at MSU for sparking the discussion!

Michigan UXPA is always looking to parter with other groups to run successful events like this, so if you’re interested please reach out to us at

Panel – “Design via Dialogue & Innovation: Talking with Engineers about Usability”

Join Michigan UXPA for “Design via Dialogue & Innovation” a panel and discussion on how to talk to engineers about usability. This event is hosted by Ford IT Design Enablement and Ford Labs and features guest speakers from Michigan State University.

Register for the event at Eventbrite!

Date & Time: April 18, 2019 12:30pm-3pm

Location: Ford Labs – 201 S. Division St. #210, Ann Arbor, MI 48104


  • Dawn Opel, Ph.D. – Assistant Professor of Digital Media and User Experience in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University.
  • Jeff Grabill, Ph.D. – Associate Provost for Teaching, Learning, and Technology and Director of the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology at Michigan State University (MSU).
  • Judy Foster – Product Designer at FordLabs.
  • Fred Estabrook – Regional Software Artisan at Pillar.

Summary: Designing artifacts for humans inherently means encountering communication challenges. As we play a central role in how technology impacts people’s lives — designers serve on the front lines, frequently finding ourselves in the role of end-user advocate. Dr. Dawn Opel & Dr. Jeff Grabill, from Michigan State University, along with Judy Foster & Fred Estabrook will help us explore ways that designers can talk to engineers about usability & lessons learned in their experience incorporating design into engineering.


  • 12:30pm Doors open
  • 1pm Talks Begin
  • 1:45 Group Q&A

Introducing the 2012 Board

The Michigan UPA is proud to introduce its 2012 officers. We will run a leaner organization in 2012, with only 3 officers. However, we are confident that these committed individuals will lead us to another successful year for this chapter!

This year, we were unable to gather enough candidates to hold an election. Although we have found members for our 2012 board, it’s not too late to get involved! The Michigan UPA’s event planning and communications rely on help from our local usability community. Please consider contacting us to discuss ways to help.

The 2012 officers are:

Mike Elledge

Mike Elledge is Associate Director of Usability/Accessibility Research and Consulting (UARC) at Michigan State University. Mike performs a variety of activities at UARC, including client development, project management, user testing, focus group facilitation, and training. His interests include accessibility in web design and course management systems, and he has been active in the Sakai ( and Fluid ( community source projects. Earlier in his career, Mike worked in consumer marketing and advertising for well-known companies such as Quaker Oats, Borden, Wells Rich Greene and Campbell-Ewald. Mike has an MSI from the University of Michigan, an MBA from Columbia University in New York, and an AB from Vassar College. He has been active on a number of boards including the CIC IT (Big Ten + One) Accessibility & Usability group and the Vestry at Christ Church Cranbrook.

Mike says: “The MIUPA has done a great job bringing together usability professionals in Michigan for interesting and informative sessions. I’d like to help.”

Timothy Keirnan

Timothy KeirnanTim observes people trying to get something done and then helps create tools for them to do it even better. Having worked for many years as a UX consultant after obtaining his master’s in Scientific Communication, he currently works inside an IT organization where he assists the design & development process from beginning to end.

Tim is a member of the Human Factors & Ergonomics Society as well as the Usability Professionals Association. He co-founded the Michigan UPA chapter, has been its Secretary as well as President, and has given numerous presentations on UX research and design over the past 15 years at various local and international events.

In 2005, Tim created the podcast Design Critique: Products for People, which encourages usable designs for a better customer experience. Now in its sixth year, Design Critique episodes feature product reviews, method discussions, and author interviews in a wide-ranging format that can only be called eclectic. Check out Design Critique at

Dave Mulder

Dave Mulder is a user experience designer for Libraries, Computing and Technology (LCT) at Michigan State University. Dave participates in the design, development, and evaluation of major institutional webpages, including the university’s homepage ( and the university’s mobile website ( His interests include usability research, mobile UX, and mobile web accessibility. In his free time, Dave works as a product designer for SoapBox, the company he co-founded in 2011, and volunteers time time to non-profits seeking an improved web presence. Dave graduated with a BS from Michigan State University in 2006, and is completing an MA in 2011. He is an active member of Lansing IxDA, Hackers & Hustlers, and regional GiveCamp events.

Live Social Networking 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2010, 6:00pm to 9:00pm

Corner Brewery and Dublin Square

The Michigan UPA invites you to another evening of networking and fun on Thursday, December 8th at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti and/or Dublin Square in East Lansing. Enjoy the networking aspect of our meetings? Feel like the speaker or panel gets in the way of the good stuff? This is your chance to skip the speaker and enjoy the company of fellow usability professionals. Missing people who are at the other location? Share the conversation via twitter #miupa11. This will be the fifth year we have done this event, and it has been a great experience each time.

The Corner Brewery is located in Ypsilanti, near historic Depot Town. There is abundant parking, great drinks, and great atmosphere.

Dublin Square is an Irish pub located in East Lansing near MSU. There are multiple parking structures nearby and parking next to the restaurant for a fee. Also has tasty food and drink with a festive atmosphere.

This is a free event and a great opportunity to catch up with other people in the field and meet new people. We hope to see you there! In order to give an approximate head count to the restaurants host/hostess, please rsvp via Guestlist

Which city will have the larger crowd? Do you want to have a gather in your area as well? Contact the Director of Events to have your city added.


Thursday, December 8, 6:00PM to 9:00PM – come and go as you wish

2 Locations

Corner Brewery

720 Norris St
Ypsilanti, MI 48198

Dublin Square

327 Abbot Rd.
East Lansing, MI 48823


Free admission! (except for any drinks or additional food that you choose to order)
Please rsvp via Guestlist

Michigan UPA 2011 Board Elections Call for Nominations

How would you like the opportunity to steer the direction of the Michigan chapter of the Usability Professionals’ Association? We have just the opportunity for you: run for one of our board positions or volunteer for one of our committees! We have five leadership opportunities:

  • President
  • Vice-President
  • Treasurer
  • Events Director
  • Secretary

and two volunteer committees:

  • Events
  • Outreach

Election Details

  • Chapter elections will be held in November.
  • Terms are 13 months and run from December 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012.
  • You must be a Usability Professionals Association member prior to running for election (note: Michigan UPA sponsors the membership of its board members).
  • As an officer, you will commit to an average of five to fifteen hours each month.
  • If you’re interested in running for a board position, submit a brief biography, photo, and statement (500 word maximum) and tell us why you are the best candidate for the position. Submit your nomination to by October 31, 2011.
  • Have questions about running for the board? Contact Michael Beasley or any Michigan UPA officer.

Volunteer Committees

Volunteers are critical to the success of our outreach and events. As a volunteer, you’ll:

  • Work with board members
  • Gain valuable experience while maintaining a lower level of commitment
  • Commit one to five hours each month

Ready to volunteer? Contact Michael Beasley or any Michigan UPA officer. Note: you don’t have to be a Usability Professionals Association member to become a Michigan UPA committee volunteer.

After elections, we’ll get our committees organized and ready to go for 2012.

Officer Role Descriptions

Below are the duties of specific board positions. Board members are expected to have a position on one or more of the committees, such as Events. In addition to the specific activities listed below, officers attend a board meeting once a month.


  • Ensure smooth operation of chapter by delegating tasks (including any of the following) and following up
  • Be the primary point of communication with UPA and other professional organizations
  • Complete annual chapter report
  • Call officer meetings

Vice President

  • Fill the president’s role when the president is unavailable or incapacitated
  • Prepare to fill the presidency in a future term


  • Oversee chapter funds
  • Complete annual chapter financial report
  • Develop chapter budget
  • Report financial status of chapter to board

Events Director

  • Coordinate the Events for MI UPA with the assistance of the Events Committee
  • Coordinate and run the Events Committee and post minutes on the wiki
  • Communication for events
  • Post events to the Google UX calendar
  • For each event, the Director and Committee members:
    • Find a Speaker
    • Find a Host
    • Find a Sponsor (hopefully the Host) for food
    • Prepare description of the event with assistance from the Speaker
    • Promote the event by posting on MI UPA website, sending out announcements, posting of public forums, coordinating mailings with the secretary
    • Create online registration for the event (currently using Guestlist)
    • Prepare for the event by printing nametags and attendance lists
    • Attend event and assist with setup and take down, which can include room arrangement, speaker setup of computer/projector, food, and sign in.
    • Send out follow up thank you messages to host(s) and speaker(s), update website posting


  • Ensure chapter’s compliance with chapter and UPA bylaws
  • Propose changes to bylaws to reflect changing chapter needs
  • Take and post notes for monthly board meetings
  • Manage email newsletter. Design, write, test and publish three newsletters each month
  • Maintain social media presence on Twitter and LinkedIn with regular postings and engagement on usability related news, activities and MI UPA events
  • Manage MI UPA website (oversee Outreach committee members). Upgrade as needed, review posts, update and maintain information.

Immediate Past President

  • Provide advice to board members
  • Ensure continuity of organizational memory


Each committee consists of a chair either from the ranks of the board or a chapter member appointed by the board, and one or more committee members from the board and the chapter membership.


  • Plan and coordinate events (more details described in Event Director responsibilities)


  • Update and maintain website
  • Public relations
  • Manage email newsletters, write content, create newsletter, publish newsletter