About Me

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Currently the Director of Operations for Design for America (DFA) and a lecturer at the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University, I am a San Francisco native and passionate about the intersection of design education and local/social impact. My studio, students' projects, and DFA have been discussed in publications and blogs such as Fast Company, Chicago Tribune, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Core77 and more. I have been fortunate enough to have spoken and given workshops at TEDx, the NE IDSA Conference, Better Word by Design Conferences, Fulbright Seminar, and given workshops at college campuses across the country. I earned my BFA in industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design where I received RISD’s Community Service Award and the Rachel Carson Award upon graduation. I am currently working on a masters in learning and organizational change at Northwestern University. At the start, I founded and taught the advanced studio, Design for Social Entrepreneurship at RISD, Design Futures at Pratt and worked with nonprofits such as Design that Matters and GreenBlue.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

grain!

Grain Design, a RISD collaborative design company I am a part of on the side from my full-time job, was recently interviewed for an article on Ecolect. Above is a team picture, and below is some of the q & a from the questionnaire.

- How did you decide to form the company? (150 words or less)

Founded in 2007 at the Rhode Island School of Design, a ‘dream team’ of RISD talent emerged collectively actively asking how as designers, we could make our world a better more sustainable place to live.

There are many ways one could go about changing our unsustainable consumer culture. One way is by force through various forms of government regulation. Another is through education over time. At Grain, our first step is always to question what sustainability means within the context of each project. Even if a product is made "sustainable", we still have to question its relevance to society. Is it necessary to create new products, or is it more sustainable to provide a service-based design? There are numerous creative ways of looking at a problem to optimize the economic, social, and environmental value.

Grain believes that by optimizing all three systemically; one can achieve the greatest outcome for the greatest number of people. There is no reason sustainable products and services can't be even more desirable than their inefficient and/or toxic cousins. As designers, we must help both businesses and consumers want what is also good. This is why we've created Grain.

Monday, May 12, 2008

DIY: My New Room

You all may recall my last room which was quite small, but very cheap. I lived there for six months, and everyday dreamed of moving into this room, which is only a little bit more in rent but about 2-3 times the size. Finally my old roommate moved out, and I got to move in! Here are the changes I made.

Paint: $25

Curtains: Hand made-$100 for fabric

Standing lamp: $0 (roommate was getting rid of it)

Red lamp: $0 Another office give away from Grunfos when they moved out.

Bought a bundle of stuff from last roommate including:
shelf, side table, two closets, drawer set, white desk for
$100 (pretty sweet deal I think)

Silk Screen Poster: $300 (Expensive I know. I bought it for my boyfriend while in Charlottesville, Va. It's an original silk screened poster that was used in schools in Germany for biology classes. It was a gift to him and now I'm "borrowing" it.)

Everything else: See previous room.

Click on an image to enlarge.




Total: $525

Core77- Project H call to Action


I had the pleasure of reading Emily Pilloton's (founder of Project H) recent call to action on the ID mega site- Core77. I recommend that everyone read it.

Very much in the same vein as my last post, below is my response to the article:

Emily, I could not agree with you more that we are now approaching a time where the world's most valuable renewable resource, Creativity, ought to be used on the greater good, as oppose to the greater dollar. We have now reached a time where we must shift our focus and look at design in its entirety; as a tool to overcome global problems, not just primarily to promote consumerism and the economy.


I work for Design that Matters. We do indeed have a different type of client. Social entrepreneurs are our clients; entrepreneurs working to have positive social impact on communities in need. We find how products can improve their services, acting as an enabler as Emily describes. I've been with them both as a volunteer and as full-time staff now for over a year, and strongly believe in what they are doing, and urge designers to gear their focus and energy to similar issues.


Additionally I ask: Once these 'developing' nations become 'developed' what type of infrastructure do we need in place to ensure that their resource consumption and pollution rate does not mimic that of the West?


With Globalization on the rise, let's make sure the rest of the world does not follow in our footsteps as we have been walking, but rather, let's set a new path while learning from each other.

--ImassamI

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Privilege Displacement

In January of 2007, while working for the Office of Multicultural Affairs at RISD, I helped to organize an event with a workshop from Dr. Shakti Butler, that discussed the topic of "White Privilege." Tonight, in re-watching Majora Carter's TED talk about the Sustainable South Bronx and issues of Environmental Injustice, and questioning my role within this context as a white female, I was inspired to post a poem I wrote in reaction to Dr. Butler's workshop last year as a reminder of my own responsibility.

Privilege Displacement

What is Racism?... The woman asks.

Prejudice?... Yes.

Judging?... Yes.

Power displacement?... Yes!

The subtle implementations of policy and daily action that come together to create a system of oppression?... Yessss!

It is not only about what has happened in the past,

Our history, America’s history.

It is about what we are going to Do for tomorrow

In REACTION to our history.

What is white privilege? The woman asks.

Being able to walk into a corner store without being followed by security? ... Yes.

Walking down the street and people giving you smiles instead of crossing to the other side? … Yes.

Knowing that life is gonna be just fine and everything will work out? … Yess.

This white woman standing in front of you is accepting her whiteness

But not denying her responsibility to be a catalyst for change.

One step at a time

We collect our dimes

To save up enough strength

To pull our own weight.

So what do we dooo? The people call out.

Bring yourself to account each day I say.

Educate yourself, open your eyes and see

That technically

Just because white is the absence of color

Does not make it the norm.

White people are NOT the norm.

That privilege has just been displaced there.


This sense of White Privilege is one of the main causes of the injustices we see in our American Society today. By not considering the consequences of our own actions or the subtleties of the prejudice around us, we are doomed to perpetuating a cycle of oppression. Environmental Injustice is a consequence of this cycle, and to get out of it, white people in particular need to open their eyes to both the social and environmental damage we create.