Contemporary Critical Design



As part of my undergraduate degree for the Polymathic Scholars Program and the Plan II Honors Program at the University of Texas at Austin, I wrote a 60-page, multi-disciplinary thesis about the relationship between adolescents and smartphones, with Professor Kate Catterall as my supervisor. This thesis surveyed the historical, sociological, developmental, and familial contexts surrounding the relationship between adolescents and smartphones, and provided an analysis of the role that design plays in each of these contexts.

Below are some of the artifacts generated during the ideating and writing process. If you would like a copy of the full thesis, you can email me at sufang (at) utexas (dot) edu.


This thesis analyzes the smartphone in the context of adolescence, drawing from the sciences, the humanities, and design. By providing a design analysis of the smartphone using Allan Shearer’s (2015) framework for design thinking, this thesis contextualizes the history of the smartphone and existing social sciences literature within a design framework. Through presenting a synthesis of these perspectives, this thesis argues that as mobile technologies become increasingly embedded in our everyday behaviors and relationships, an awareness of the values and social dynamics that these designs embody is crucial to further technological development and to maintaining a sustainable power dynamic between parents, adults, and major industry corporations.