Interaction Design Program
“The graduate program in interaction design rounded me out as an artist and designer,”
Creating interactive, physical spaces (art installations) became a passion of Steven Stavropoulos as he was pursuing media arts at the University of Michigan. To continue working on these types of projects, he took the next step and applied to CCS’s graduate program in interaction design. The program was different than he expected, but it introduced him to new outlets for his talent, especially with regard to his thesis project, and helped him land his current position as a UI designer at Lear in Southfield/Detroit.
“The graduate program in interaction design rounded me out as an artist and designer,” said Stavropoulos. “I quickly discovered a passion for creating practical interfaces and interaction models—end products that could be used to help people do great things. This culminated in my thesis project, calla, which is something I'm still pursuing to this day.”
calla is an app designed to bring people together and help communities solve problems (crime, suspicious activity, poor city services, hazardous property…). Users drop pins on a map to inform others about problems and begin dialogue about how to address them. The system encourages residents to collaborate with larger groups in the neighborhood to make change on their own terms. Then, users from other communities can use calla to explore the solutions to similar problems they may be facing. To create the tool, Stavropoulos researched neighborhoods in Detroit and conducted in-depth interviews with residents of Osborn, a neighborhood in the city. calla was awarded top thesis of Stavropoulos’s graduating class.
“I’m currently refining my thesis with the hopes of getting enough funding to build the app and get it launched,” he said. “I’m planning to apply for several grants and looking for ways to get it in front of investors this year.”
As he was finishing up his thesis, Stavropoulos came across an opportunity through one of his professors, Maria Luisa Rossi. He had asked her about career opportunities, and she sent him a job description for an internship at Lear. Although he was looking for more permanent work, he decided to apply. He received a reply from HR, who informed him that they were interested in him for a full-time position in a different group. In July (2017), he joined Lear as a UI designer.
“A UI designer is responsible for making design decisions relating to interfaces,” he explained. “Interfaces come in many shapes and forms. They can be fully physical utilizing buttons, knobs, and sliders (like an audio mixer, for example), or they can be fully screen-based (smart phone) or somewhere in between (most vehicle center consoles use a touch-screen surface as well as a set of knobs and buttons).
“The title UI designer has different meanings depending on the company, but at Lear I'm responsible for making decisions as to how information is presented on screens, how the user is communicating with the machine, which is usually a vehicle seat, and how the screens actually look when polished. Most of the work I'm involved in is confidential, but the goal of my team is to design concepts and prototypes for ‘smart’ vehicle seating.”
In addition to his job at Lear, Stavropoulos has a diverse background that includes interaction design, experience design, interface design, graphic/motion design, sound design and music composition/performance. He has over five years of experience working in professional teams (and independently) to produce a wide range of projects showcased in the Detroit Institute of Arts, The North American International Auto Show, Consumer Electronics Show and the Toyota National Dealers Meetings.
In the future, Stavropoulos is exploring a teaching opportunity at CCS for a studio class with Paul Pangaro—something he’s “very excited about.”