Design & Discovery

The Design & Discovery department of the Library Information Technology (LIT) division provides expertise in program and project management, user experience research and design, web development, and digital accessibility. Our projects and initiatives involve staff from across LIT, the Library, the University of Michigan campus, and beyond. Contact the Design & Discovery team at design-discovery@umich.edu.

Our Values

Respect - We value one another’s expertise and contributions, support one another, form and nurture relationships both within the department and across the library, and practice inclusivity in everything we do.

Creativity - We make space for experimentation and the development of innovative practices. We take risks, learn from failure, and are open to any idea that comes our way.

Flexibility - We recognize that we are individuals with different needs for balancing our professional and personal lives and benefit from a work environment that supports many types of work schedules.

Integrity - We operate with the best intentions, are committed to transparency in our work, trust one another, and strive for honest and open communication.

Responsiveness - We empathize with the needs of our users, including them from the beginning, and we make usable and useful interfaces that comply with universal design, test-driven code, and accessibility guidelines. 

Productivity - We aim to put the right people on teams, are motivated to get work done quickly and efficiently, and produce work of the highest quality.

Our Portfolio

Program and Project Management

We develop strategies and manage implementation of individual tools and services to support finding, using, and sharing information and services. We: 

  • Establish long-term planning and prioritization for initiatives
  • Manage technology and web projects of varying size and scale
  • Coordinate among departmental projects
  • Advocate for and support established workflows
  • Promote adoption of policies, standards, and documentation

User Experience Research and Design

We apply user-centered design across the web presence while providing leadership and expertise in UX strategy, user research, interface and interaction design, and web content strategy. We:

  • Design and test user interfaces and interaction for applications
  • Conduct quantitative and qualitative user research and provide analysis of web analytics to create valuable experiences for our users
  • Offer expertise in information architecture and content strategy
  • Create visual designs consistent with our messaging and brand

Web Development

We support the content management, content access, accessibility, and user interface needs of library users and across the library’s web presence. We:

  • Create web applications
  • Architect and maintain underlying infrastructures
  • Use and customize content management systems and supporting applications
  • Create user interface architecture and supporting frameworks for use across library applications

Digital Accessibility

We provide expertise, evaluation and guidance around web accessibility and work to ensure that the products and services we produce are inclusive and valuable for everyone. We:

  • Provide expertise to designers, developers, and other stakeholders to promote a culture of incorporating accessibility
  • Develop team expertise on current relevant digital accessibility standards and accessible design best practices
  • Conduct consistent, understandable, and actionable web accessibility evaluations for library staff
  • Collaborate with campus accessibility partners to ensure University standards around digital accessibility across U-M’s web presence

Our Team

  • Rachel Vacek, Head, Design & Discovery
  • Ken Varnum, Senior Program Manager for Discovery, Delivery, and Library Analytics
  • Heidi Burkhardt, Web Project Manager and Content Strategist
  • Robyn Ness, Senior User Experience Specialist
  • Ben Howell, User Experience and Accessibility Specialist
  • Ellen Schlegelmilch, User Interface / User Experience Designer
  • Albert Bertram, Web Applications Team Leader

  • Bridget Burke, Front-End Developer and Accessibility Specialist

  • Jonathan Earley, Front-End Developer and Accessibility Specialist

  • Eliot Scott, Drupal Developer

  • Web Applications Developer (Search and review is in progress)

  • TBD Senior Developer (Posting coming in April or May)

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Last modified: 04/25/2019