design for _




human ecologies

I'm Alex, the designer behind Macromicro, Skale, Classroom Salon, and The Interactive News. I teach design and lead research initiatives at Carnegie Mellon University where I am a faculty member in Design & Information Systems. Full Bio →

Employing a design perspective when addressing some of the world’s most complex problems can have profound impact. The products of design — both tangible and intangible — can bring meaning to people’s lives and shape their experiences in significant ways. I blend design, technology, and research insight to create new ways of living and working.


Design Process
Design is a process-oriented field which places just as much emphasis on the pathway as the solution. The thought process, research methods, and creative techniques collectively lead to more relevant and comprehensive ideas.

Design with Others
Designing across disciplinary boundaries reflects a democratization of design. It embraces inventors and discoverers and helps them work together, bringing more strength and validity to final solutions.

Design for Everyone
Greater impact is found by engaging people and communities in participatory design activities. It gets to design's human-centered foundation, uncovering latent needs and values and designing products that respond.


Macromicro creates data visualizations and interactive tools for human resources management and organizational analysis. The platform blends big data and d3.js to provide a new perspective on large workforces.

Winner of a 2016 SAP Sapphire Award and nominated as HR Tech's 2013 Most Innovative Startup in Europe. →


A new online community and platform for people who care about food and wish to connect with like-minded foodies, farmers, and food providers.

Freshly grown in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. →

Classroom Salon

An interactive, online environment that fosters new forms of STEM and humanities classroom participation, blending information visualization and social learning.

Supported by grants from Google, National Science Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Heinz Endowments, and Innovation Works. →

The Interactive News

A curated catalog of the best examples of digital journalism today, serving educators, journalists, and designers. The Interactive News captures interactive media that has relevance in design and journalism history.

Launches Fall 2016. Grant funding provided by Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar and Qatar Foundation. →

Future Library

Applying design research methods to shape the physical space and services of the Carnegie Mellon University Qatar library. The traditional library model will be supplanted by maker-spaces, collaborative workspaces, independent study spaces, and digital resources.


A new way to travel to the world.
Stay tuned.

IxDA Doha

Co-founder and local leader for the Interaction Design Association's first chapter in the Middle East & North Africa.

twitter →
ixda global →

“Eventually, Everything Connects.” — Charles Eames


These courses were developed and taught by me between 2009 and 2017 in the School of Design and Department of Information Systems at Carnegie Mellon University. They are founded on the idea that design is a mediator between people, products, information, and environments. From this foundation in interactions and human experience, students addressed wicked problems from early on, employing research methods to inform outcomes and manage complexity.

Each course broke out of traditional design disciplines which allowed the work to take a wide range of forms, from architectural spaces to social impact programs, digital products to service experiences.

Course Materials →
Teaching Philosophy →

Design Studio 1: Interaction

Introductory course in interaction design, user experience, and the process of designing for people and technologies. Introduces students to basic human-centered design research and concept development in the development of digital, service, and user experiences. Students also develop component skills in simple user interface design. Coursework promotes design thinking and practice for application in tech fields.

Design Studio 2: Information

Introductory course in communication design, visual hierarchy and organization, the development of messaging and production. Students develop skills in the organization and visualization of qualitative and quantitative data, and the structure of information for strategic purposes. Projects hone component skills in production and presentation for screen using grid systems, color, mapping, data graphics, and typography.

Design and the Human Experience

A seminar course that examines the nature of the designed world, how it’s built, how to analyze it, and the values that shape it. Surveying design across its many forms, this reading- and writing-intensive course develops critical thinking on how we design information, products, technology, physical space, services, public policy, as well as inquiry into emergent human ecologies and whole earth systems. This course begins 1.76 million years in the past with the Acheulean hand axe and ends 10,000 years in the future with the Sandia WIPP Report.

Design for Service

Service Design introduces design research methods, the creation of services with a human-centered focus, and how a designer can scaffold meaningful and efficient experiences within broader systems. This course brings an added emphasis to the role of technology products in services including ambient devices, mobile applications, wearables, embedded technologies, or connected devices along user pathways. Design teams work directly with clients who have included mathaf: arab museum of modern art, the Embassy of India in Qatar, and the Embassy of Japan in Qatar.

Design for Behavioral Change

Our behaviors are influenced in large part by the built world around us. Information, devices, physical environments and architectures all contribute to our decisions from what we consume to how we participate as citizens. Designers and technologists have a more direct hand in how our world takes shape and subsequently on people's actions. In this studio, students employ a variety of human-centered design methods to shape to information, products, interactions, and environments, then test and iterate those ideas in a variety of contexts. Students practice a few of the ways designers act as agents of positive change for individuals, communities, and the environment.

Design for Organizational Change

Developed for organizational leaders who deal with intractable problems and with authority to drive change, this eight hour course helps participants frame and define organizational challenges, then advance solutions through practical frameworks. Participants are trained in thinking tools and visualization methods that can be used to shape innovative organizational strategy. From framing organizations as a complex, interconnected systems, participants then transfer this new knowledge to a vision of the future, clarifying high-level organizational values and designing an actionable plan for change. Co-taught with Ludmila Hyman, Ph.D.

Past Courses

Alexander R. Wilcox Cheek
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue SMC 1070
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213

alexcheek [at]