Topics: College of Communication Information and Media, Emerging Media

October 26, 2007

Researchers from Ball State's Center for Media Design (CMD) will work closely with top partners in the communications industry as a result of a new facility being opened in the heart of New York.

CMD and Schematic, a full-service digital agency, have opened a Media Insight Center (MIC), a research and development facility for eye-tracking and usability, in the company's New York offices. The grand opening is Oct. 30.

The new facility allows Ball State to have a presence in New York, considered to be the nation's hub for a variety of communications and media industries, including television networks and advertising agencies, said Mike Bloxham, director of the CMD's Insight and Research.

"We are responding to demand from industry partners who want our expertise," he said. "Not only will our partners have access to research we are doing in Indianapolis and Muncie, which is commonly referred to as 'Middletown, USA,' but we can add additional data to the mix by accessing people from the New York market."  

Bloxham said the New York research office will also provide students with immersive learning opportunities in the coming years through a variety of research partnerships.

CMD is part of the $20 million Digital Exchange initiative funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. to enhance the university's innovative, immersive and educational experiences for students in digital technology.

At the Schematic-based center, researchers will use continually evolving and innovative eye-tracking and usability research methods for interfaces, devices and content across platforms. The center is among the few facilities in the country equipped to conduct eye-tracking research in the computer, television and mobile settings.

"Much of the research we've done in the past has relied almost completely on qualitative data gleaned from interviews with users," said Dale Herigstad, Schematic's chief creative officer who also is a CMD Industry Fellow. Over the last several years, he has worked with Ball State students and faculty on a variety of immersive learning projects, including the groundbreaking broadcast of interactive television.

"This center allows us to collect quantitative data on how users interact with an interface or product," he said. "We are fortunate to have an in-house testing facility that will allow us to factor this information directly into the design process."

With the accelerating proliferation of media devices, capabilities and content formats, there is a parallel acceleration in the need for cross-platform usability research that takes these new developments into account, Bloxham said.

"Working closely with Schematic allows us to integrate research and design processes more closely, yielding improved products that have benefited from user feedback at different stages of development," he said.

The recently opened facility in New York, which features a family room and home office, is the third in a network of custom-designed naturalistic environments for desktop and television-based eye-tracking and usability research. Ball State's facility is a full-house setting, including family room, dining area,  kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, gym and office. A facility at the Ball State Indianapolis Center includes a family room and home office.

"User testing is an integral part of our process, and we're excited to be able to offer this next-generation testing capability to Schematic's clients," said Schematic chief executive officer Trevor Kaufman. "Our partnership with Ball State brings tremendous credibility and research expertise to this venture, and we're looking forward to cooperating with them on commercializing more research technologies in the future."

About Schematic

Schematic, a WPP Digital company, deploys and develops solutions for the Web, mobile devices, television, digital environments and emerging platforms. Schematic offers complete strategic, creative, marketing and technology services to major corporations, including Disney, Target, Nokia, Coca-Cola, Comcast, Condé Nast and Turner. For more information, please visit