By Jillian Festa
Interactive media designer, educator and musician Frank Migliorelli gave a rapid-fire Brown Bag presentation on Friday, Oct. 3. He began with a comprehensive description of the College’s Interactive Multimedia (IMM) Department, highlighting its mission to use interactive media in order to empower, entertain, collaborate and educate. He then expressed his enthusiasm for the undergraduate program, stating how rare and useful it is to delve into video game design, mobile application design, web design and animation right from the beginning of higher education.
Migliorelli earned a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Michigan State University and followed up with a Master of Professional Studies in the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University.
Originally, Migliorelli was interested in advertising and writing jingles. His job in a youth center sparked his interest for working with children and technology. He conducted research for a project on child interaction with computers and, thereafter, became fascinated by the idea that kids could learn problem-solving skills through games, especially after hearing of a 15-year-old boy who learned to write using technology.
Migliorelli credits two books as his inspiration for mitigating the digital divide: the 1986 publication of “The Neuter Computer: Computers for Girls and Boys” by Jo Shuchat Sanders and Antonia Stone, and the 1996 publication “Information Inequality: The Deepening Social Crisis in America” by Herbert I. Schiller.
He worked for 10 years setting up programs that would make technology accessible for students and cities. Five of those years were spent at Sunburst Communications as director of Multimedia Production, making games and educational software and music. Examples of the company’s work include popular children’s games “Type to Learn” and “Hot Dog Stand.” Migliorelli’s musical work at Sunburst was very creative, “much like School House Rock … creating educational music videos for kids.”
Migliorelli was also senior vice president of design for 11 years at ESI Design, an experimental design team based in New York City. Under his creative direction, ESI produced state-of-the-art museum exhibits, non-profit agencies and Fortune 500 clients. The firm created an interactive touch table for real estate and an award-winning interactive website for the JFK Presidential Library (jfk50.org).
One of his proudest contributions was with ImaginOn, half library, half children’s theater. Opened in 2005 in Charlotte, N.C., the project aimed to combine storytelling with performing. He helped to create a stimulating, whimsical environment in which kids compose stories.The story then goes to a website, and through connected computers, kids work together to create an interactive digital puppet show.
After sharing the most high-tech and low-tech of his ESI projects, Migliorelli discussed what he learned from his time at ESI Design.
“(There are) two guiding frameworks for good interaction design: seeing, doing, learning, making, taking and sharing, and that great interaction design is great storytelling,” Migliorelli said. He also noted that setup and immersion are crucial to “telling a good story.”
He then wanted to shift his attention and focus on addressing the STEM field.
“Culture is afraid of science,” he said. “Only 11 percent of adults could name a living scientist … I want to change that.”
His goal was to change the abbreviation of STEM from Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to Stop Testing Encourage Minds. He started the company Mig Idea to develop a STEM learning center, create projects in the educational, cultural and entertainment fields and much more.
Migliorelli now works as the director of digital experience at the New York Public Library, digitizing educational programs and exhibits in physical and virtual spaces. He has big plans to spread technology to those who do not have it.
When asked where he gets the confidence and energy to work so much, Migliorelli stated that he is “never completely confident,” at first.
“You’re going to make mistakes, you just have to learn what the risks are, and learn how to prototype,” he said. “You learn how to succeed from failing.”
He then told the audience to read the book “The Phantom Tollbooth,” as it was a huge inspiration to him. He ended his lecture with advice to the IMM students in the crowd: “You’ve got the power … go use it. Go make something great.”