Are you passionate about how design can address global challenges and social issues by creating better connections between people? 

If so, the ORBIT Labs are looking for you! 

We are a multidisciplinary and multigenerational team working on several different projects. The common threads between these projects are designing for human connection and social change. The ORBIT Labs are divided into smaller teams working on specific parts of each project. We meet together regularly as a larger group to give each other feedback, help one another, and check in on progress. The faculty lead for the ORBIT Labs is Stamps Associate Professor Kelly M. Murdoch-Kitt. Her research partner, Dr. Denielle Emans, teaches at Roger Williams University.

Here are the members of the 2020-21 ORBIT Labs.

As part of the ORBIT team, students learn about user experience and design, digital product development, qualitative design research, visual design, social media marketing, and academic writing. Because our projects are centered around promoting collaborations between individuals, particularly those from different cultures, students on our teams also often learn about intercultural communication and collaboration skills and gain some insight into various global issues. Students may have the opportunity to communicate with people in multiple locations across the globe as part of ORBIT Labs’ projects.

Global Studio students from Dr. Denielle Emans and Basma W. Hamdy’s class based in Doha, Qatar, who collaborated with Kelly Murdoch-Kitt’s students at U-M and two institutions in India in Winter 2021 and Winter 2022.

Our Labs’ interrelated projects have various related roles and needs. One ongoing project is the ORBIT online platform. The current beta version enables educators across the globe to create a profile and find teaching or research partners. We are working to improve the UI/UX and expand and promote the resource to grow our user base. We are also working on new directions for the platform, including how to best design for the needs of faculty in the humanities to create even more robust interdisciplinary collaborations. 

An exciting new direction for the ORBIT platform is an adaptation for student use. Our test group for this future new version of the platform is middle school students, and we will partner with a middle school in California to help us research, test, and pilot this version of the platform. COVID has magnified the need to improve remote and hybrid learning to support collaborative work. Bringing your skills to this project will help us accelerate the timeline and help make peer-to-peer learning more accessible and resilient. 

Part of an affinity diagram developed from middle school students’ responses to online learning

We are also developing hands-on design-based methods to improve collaboration in physical classrooms and hybrid spaces; you can check out some of our prior foundational work in this area in our first book, Intercultural Collaboration by Design (the complete ebook is available through the U-M library HERE). As a next step, we are interested in making these methods accessible through interactive online experiences (on the ORBIT platforms and beyond). 

Mockup of the Creative Resilience Book Cover

Faculty leads Kelly Murdoch-Kitt (U-M), and Dr. Denielle Emans (Roger Williams University) are working on an exciting new book project called Creative Resilience. The lead authors/editors take readers through various projects, practices, and activities, some catalyzed by lockdown living. During these chaotic and uncertain times, the book will show readers how to utilize creative people’s methods to work positively with uncertainty. Readers will tap into their own curiosity, resourcefulness, and sense of community as the authors reveal how to initiate creative practices such as rituals, reflective writing, and seeking radical joy in the face of adversity. The editors highlight key points about making (creative practice) and shifting (resilience) as each contributor discusses what and how they make—and shift. 

We are working on other written pieces related to the above projects, including journal articles and grant proposals. We always have room on the team for dedicated publications assistants to help us with literature reviews, logistics, and other aspects of the writing process. There may be opportunities for you to be listed as a co-author on a publication if you are interested. 

An essential aspect of this work is making it visible to the public. We are seeking assistants who are interested in helping us disseminate our research by creating a new project hub website (using WordPress) and sharing our work through social media and other channels. 

Learn more at and

Meeting Details
TBD (likely Fridays)
Modality: Hybrid

Students apply to a specific role on team as follows:

Marketing & Social Media (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: This public-facing role involves creativity in online marketing and print or other media. Social media experience, graphic design skills, Adobe Illustrator / InDesign experience, Photography skills, Google Slides, Typography skills, and audience identification are all a plus!

Likely Majors/Minors: ARTDES, BBA, COMM, ENTR, SI

Visual Communication (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: This creative role involves helping to design and execute print and digital items related to research deliverables, such as games, card decks, worksheets, posters, etc. This may include interface design or working closely with UI and marketing assistants to ensure a cohesive look and feel across the Labs’ related deliverables.

Likely Majors/Minors: ARTDES, SI

Publications (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: This critical research assistantship role involves finding and reviewing relevant resources and helping with the current book project, Creative Resilience, possibly also related journal articles and grant proposals.

Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, HISTART, SOC, SW

Pedagogy Research (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: This primary and secondary research role requires experience OR interest in learning how to facilitate various learning experiences at different educational levels using online and offline tools. This may include how to collaborate in different classroom scenarios and assisting in developing versions of collaborative learning activities.

Likely Majors/Minors: CASC, CS, EDUC, SI, SW

Software Development (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: This development role involves programming languages, experience with WordPress and responsive web development; front-end web development; Strapi, SASS, DigitalOcean, Github, data visualization, databases, debugging, and/or prior experience or interest in learning to develop a matchmaking algorithm.

Likely Majors/Minors: ARTDES, CE, CS, SI, STATS

UX/UI Design (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: In this specialized design role, assistants will collaborate on information architecture, creating style guides, prior experience, or interest in learning to develop interactive interfaces based on user-centered research. The assistant will also prepare, maintain, and update materials needed for the online platform. 

Likely Majors/Minors: ARCH, ARTDES, CS, SI

User-Centered Design Research (2 Students)

Preferred Skills: The qualitative role requires experience working with a variety of approaches such as questionnaires and surveys, semi-structured interviews, mind mapping, design charrettes, data analysis, conceptual models, card sorting, collaborative prototyping, and usability testing. The UX research assistant will also conduct analyses and usability testing of online and analog tools and resources.

Likely Majors/Minors: BBA, ENVIRON, PSYCH, SI, SOC

Faculty Project Lead

Kelly Murdoch-Kitt, an Associate Professor in the Stamps School of Art & Design, is a user experience designer and educator focused on people, systems, and interpersonal interactions. In her work and teaching, human connection drives the creation of effective and socially responsible concepts.

She integrates visual communication, user experience, and service design with behavior change and social engagement, drawing on her professional experience as a user experience strategist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Murdoch-Kitt is the co-author of Intercultural Collaboration by Design: Drawing from Differences, Distances, and Disciplines through Visual Thinking (Routledge 2020). Based on her research with Dr. Denielle J. Emans at Roger Williams University, their book offers more than thirty visual thinking activities to support effective collaboration among diverse teams. Murdoch-Kitt and Emans are currently working together on a new book about how people in the creative disciplines demonstrate and utilize resilience. 

Before joining the Stamps School of Art & Design faculty, Murdoch-Kitt served as an Assistant Professor in the School of Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology. She also created and taught a variety of courses in the Graphic Design Programs at the University of San Francisco and California College of the Arts. She has served on the National Steering Committee for the AIGA Design Educators Community, an organization that aims to support and foster professional development for design educators. Her excellence in teaching and contributions to service within the discipline have been recognized by the Design Incubation Communication Design Educator Awards: Intercultural Design Collaborations in Sustainability; and the Decipher 2018 Design Educators Research Conference. Murdoch-Kitt is a 2022 Recipient of the Carol Hollenshead Inspire Award for Excellence in Promoting Equity and Social Change.

Students: 14


Meeting Details: Fridays

Application: Consider including a link to your portfolio or other websites in the personal statement portion of your application to share work you would like considered as part of your submission.

Summer Opportunity: Summer research fellowships may be available for qualifying students.

Citizenship Requirements: This project is open to all students on campus.

IP/NDA: Students who successfully match to this project team will be required to sign an Intellectual Property (IP) Agreement prior to participation.

Course Substitutions: CoE Honors