Welcome to the online portal of

Denielle Emans

Bringing participatory and critical mechanisms
together to fuel creative action

Our History

Denielle Emans specializes in the area of visual communication with an emphasis on bringing social innovation and intercultural communication together to fuel creative action. Denielle has taught at the University-level for over eleven years and encourages students to think of themselves as influential craftsmen and storytellers with the ability to lead change.

Denielle is currently an Associate Professor in the Graphic Design department at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar and a Ph.D. Candidate within the Centre for Communication and Social Change at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. She holds a Master’s degree in Graphic Design from North Carolina State University’s School of Design and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

I am made up of equal parts:

Denielle Hello

Explorations in Design


Mentor & Share


Make & Discuss


Think & Publish


Create & Innovate


Illustrate & Photograph


Form & Meaning

Form Meets Communication

As an active designer, Denielle’s principal area of concentration is participatory and collaborative design, with attention to the inclusion of diverse design approaches and outcomes. Her aim is to introduce the notion of empathy as an essential trait of design, rather than a methodology focused on calculating profit and sales. She describes her design practice as a universal language that works across disciplines, industries, and borders to move beyond consumer products to consider environments, interactive tools, and engaging experiences. Her work experience is as diverse as her clients, with projects conceived for global organizations such as the World Bank and small start-up companies such as Tilt Inc.

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What We Do

From the Blog

Design Blog and Journal

A space for reflection on teaching, learning, and design
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Collaborative Practice
Design CoLab
Sustainable Futures
Impact Matters

Research Threads

Scholarship Reconsidered

Collaborative Practice
As sustainability gains traction within visual communication research and professional practice, world leaders and global organizations continue to target sustainable development as among the most important issues of the future. The ability to create engaging experiences, build interfaces for communication, and persuade audiences to take action would indicate designers have a significant role to play in the United Nations’ 2030 sustainable development goals. At the same time, teamwork and collaborative practice have become increasingly important in the field of design and an integral component of my research.
Design CoLab
Design CoLab is the shared design laboratory of Denielle Emans and Basma Hamdy. Design CoLab explores creative activities in social and cultural sustainability in the Gulf Region by connecting visual communication with community engagement in higher education. Projects are fuelled by teaching, research, writing, and extensive discussions on the political, social and cultural implications of design.
Sustainable Futures
I believe there is an obligation to harness and utilize design as a tool for positive social and environmental change. As such, my research with Kelly Murdoch–Kitt explores the benefit of introducing sustainability practices into the design classroom, while tackling the complexity of intercultural collaboration. The goal is to enhance awareness of the chosen topic by comparing and contrasting local and global needs through the exchange of ideas and discussion.
Impact Matters
By advancing social science methodologies for the discipline of design, my research with urban planner and architect, Adina Hempel, takes an interdisciplinary approach to understanding how impact assessment strategies can improve social design practice. In particular, our study argues for a critical engagement with evaluation principles to enhance the overall effectiveness, and quality, of design interventions.