About DFP

The DFP Challenge

Our society’s dependency on computationally intensive systems, in our lives and work, has become absolute. Today’s 20 billion connected “devices” (computational elements that permeate the systems, tools and media that we interact with on a daily basis) will reach 30 billion by 2020. In the 2010-2020 decade, the world’s data will grow by 50X and spending on IOT technologies will reach $6Tr.

These systems have potential for enormous net benefit for humanity: we gain power and connectedness from access to smart buildings, medical and assistive robots, connected vehicles, health informatics and behavioral support, and education tools. However, they also involve complexity, nuances, and intractable constraints, that can lead to deep inequity, alienation, and harm. Their developers are rarely prepared for the messy human-facing side of system design. Furthermore, academic research that supports society’s most vulnerable often becomes isolated within the academic community, lacking viable commercial pathways.


UBC's Designing for People Research Cluster aims to address complex human-facing design problems by accelerating creativity at the nexus of social and technical problem-solving. We promote intensely interdisciplinary teamwork and methods, strive to understand the diverse abilities, needs, and values of users, create high-value resources for DFP researchers, and find new paths to societal impact by working closely with partners - users, domain experts, communities and companies.


DFP began in 2003 as a peer network (HCI at UBC) primarily in Computer Science and Engineering. With higher critical mass, researchers from a broader cross-section of UBC (including our new Information School, Architecture, Nursing and Psychology) renewed the concept in 2013 as a seminar series to foster connections for research in interactive technologies.

In 2016, 10 core DFP faculty identified common needs around knowledge translation practices, consolidating our fragmented graduate training programs, and external visibility; and began to organize and grow. We applied and received a CREATE training grant, and launched our new DFP grad training program in September 2017.

DFP was recognized in 2017 as one of the first UBC VPRI-funded research clusters and given support to expand its activities. We organized into several complementary pillars of activity (below), and set out to develop them. We identified three research themes aligning research and societal urgency, to achieve common cause through joint aspirations, collaboration, shared resources, and methodological cross-fertilization. Our initial themes were designing for diverse and marginalized communities, for patients and healthcare practitioners, and for students and educators.

In 2018, DFP has 21 core faculty members and more "on deck", as well as a large, active and highly entangled student community. Our disciplines range from Computer Science to Nursing, Mechanical Engineering, Psychology, Information Studies, and Occupational Therapy.

Meet Our Multidisciplinary Team

Organization and Initiatives

DFP is organized into five mutually reinforcing pillars of focus: CommunityGrad Training, Research, Translation and Partnerships - illustrated in the regions of this website. These are supported by events that include our DFP@UBC seminar series, our CREATE grad training program, research and translation stimulus initiatives, and ongoing outreach to our partners. We are always experimenting - just ask to learn more about any of these pillars or with your ideas. 

DFP's organization and initiatives

Roles  (2018/2019)

Cluster Leadership and Oversight 

 Cluster Director  Advisory Board  Ad Hoc Advisors
 Karon MacLean
 (Computer Science)
TBA November 2018  Prof. James Landay
 (Computer Science, Stanford University)
 Dr. Barry Po
 (VP: AI Solutions, Universal mCloud, UBC CS Alumni)




DFP@UBC Seminar

Seminar Steering Committee
 Chair  Liisa Holsti (Occupation Science & Occupational Therapy)
 Member  Dongwook Yoon (Computer Science)
 Member  Julia Bullard (Information School)
 Member  Mike Van der Loos (Mechanical Engineering)
 Coordinator  Kerry Neil

DFP CREATE Graduate Training Program

CREATE Management
 Chair  Karon MacLean (Computer Science)
 Member  Luanne Freund (Information School) 
 Member   Kosta Beznosov (Electrical & Computer Engineering)
 Member   Sabrina Hauser (DFP Postdoc)
 Coordinator  Kerry Neil
CREATE Curriculum
 Chair & DFP Fundamentals   Representative  Joanna McGrenere (Computer Science)
 CREATE Management   Representative  Karon MacLean (Computer Science)
 DFP Project Instructor   Representative  Mike Van der Loos (Mechanical Engineering)
 Member   Sabrina Hauser (DFP Postdoc)
 Coordinator  Kerry Neil

DFP Core Course Instructors (2017-2019)

2019 W2
 CPSC 544: DFP Fundamentals  Joanna McGrenere (Computer Science)
 Leila Aflatoony (DFP Postdoc)
 CPSC 554K: DFP Project  Mike Van der Loos (Mechanical Engineering)
 Dongwook Yoon (Computer Science)
 Sabrina Hauser (DFP Postdoc)
 DFP Project Mentors:  TBA
2018 W2
 CPSC 544: DFP Fundamentals  Joanna McGrenere (Computer Science)
 Leila Aflatoony (DFP Postdoc)
 CPSC 554K: DFP Project

 Mike Van der Loos (Mechanical Engineering)
 Dongwook Yoon (Computer Science)
 Eric Meyers (Information School)
 Leila Aflatoony (DFP Postdoc)

 DFP Project Mentors:  Tamara Munzner 
 Joanna McGrenere
 Karon MacLean