Designing the future

UC students create innovative designs for upcoming Digital Futures Complex in the CID

Students from across the University of Cincinnati put their creative talents to work during a design sprint at UC’s Innovation Hub. 

The challenge — a week-long think tank to generate ideas and concepts — will help enhance the interior design of the upcoming Digital Futures Complex building in the Cincinnati Innovation District®.

After a kickoff meeting where architects from GBBN Architects gave an overview of the project, teams of students were tasked with developing an inspiring design for a series of wood panels that will wrap around the interior core of the Digital Futures Complex. 

Students took advantage of the Makerspace at the 1819 Innovation Hub to design and create the panels — each one expressing a unique digital language — that will ultimately live on the walls inside the Digital Futures building where researchers from multiple disciplines will gather over shared resources and communal space.

Digital designs take new direction

Engraved digital designs on a large wooden panel.

One of the engraved digital designs entered in the Design Sprint competition.

Triangle engraved designs on a large wooden panel.

The winning wooden panel digital design will live on the walls inside the Digital Futures Complex.

Like the future inhabitants of Digital Futures, who will include interdisciplinary research teams from across the university, students who collaborated in the process hailed from diverse backgrounds and majors such as communication design, fine arts, industrial design, architecture and aerospace and mechanical engineering.

A student points to a design book in the Makerspace inside UC's 1819 Innovation Hub.

Students took advantage of UC's Makerspace inside the 1819 Innovation Hub to complete their wooden panel designs.

Four teams of students had a week to generate ideas, develop their design and fabricate a prototype to test its feasibility and visual impact before presenting their designs to a panel of judges. 

The panel, including representatives from UC’s Department of Planning + Design + Construction, UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP), UC’s School of Architecture & Interior Design (SAID), GBBN Architects, Terrex Development and DAAP Lab, judged designs based on overall aesthetics, technical feasibility and consistency with the design and program of the Digital Futures Complex.

Architectural mock up of a hallway with wooden panel designs with plastic people walking along side the panels.

Architectural mock up of how the wooden panels will appear when permanently installed along the halls in the Digital Futures Complex research building.

While top honors were awarded to a team of architecture and design students: Josh Maddux, Jodokus Sieverding and Ethan Wahl, second place and the “Audience Choice” award went to a team of UC aerospace engineering majors: Bharadwaj Dogga, Arshad Mohammad and Tri Nguyen.

Far from over, the Digital Futures design team plans to continue working throughout the fall 2021 semester with the winning team and staff of the Makerspace tasked with refining the design and preparing the panels for installation within Digital Futures.

“In my 20-plus years of working in higher education architecture,” says Zachary Zettler, GBBN principal and project lead, “I’ve never been able to engage students at this level. I’m really excited to see how it gets integrated into the final design of the building.”


Featured image at top: Large wooden panels with digital designs will hang along the interior walls of the Digital Futures Complex building. photo/Greg Glevicky/UC Office of Innovation

About UC's 1819 Innovation Hub

The nerve center of the Cincinnati Innovation District®. Home to startups and midsized and Fortune 500 companies, the 1819 Innovation Hub is an ecosystem that serves as a catalyst for collaboration for industry and talent. The 1819 Innovation Hub is the home to UC’s Office of Innovation, UC’s Venture Lab (a startup accelerator program), UC’s Makerspace, UC’s Office of Technology Transfer and 14 corporate partners who are seeking access to talent and proximity for cross-collaboration. Partners that are currently embedded include: Procter & Gamble, Kroger, FIS, Kingsgate Logistics, Cincinnati Bell, Kao Brands, Hillman Accelerator, CincyTech, Village Life Outreach Project, Fifth Third Bank, Cincinnati Insurance Company, Live Well Collaborative and Simpson Center for Urban Futures.

About the Cincinnati Innovation District®

The Cincinnati Innovation District® is a unique and thriving ecosystem that attracts, produces, retains and develops talent by co-locating and collaborating with organizations. Unveiled in 2020 by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted, the district envelops myriad innovation assets and access to some of the world’s leading academic and research centers, organizations and talent pools. Powered by the University of Cincinnati, the CID includes the world-renowned Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and other national research centers. The district’s mission is to become a globally recognized talent hub and lead a transformational movement. The combination of industry engagement, unique experiential platforms and accessible research expertise — working at the pace of change — will become a model nationwide. For more information on the Cincinnati Innovation District, visit

Innovation Lives Here

The University of Cincinnati is classified as a Research 1 institution by the Carnegie Commission, is ranked in the National Science Foundation's Top-35 public research universities and secured a spot on Reuter’s World’s Most Innovative Universities list. UC's students and faculty investigate problems and create innovative solutions with real-world impact. Next Lives Here.