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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.
Showing posts with label Metropolis magazine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Metropolis magazine. Show all posts

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What is Good Design Now?

This months issue of Metropolis Magazine is a special product issue titled What is Good Design Now? After my interview with journalist and now friend Ken Shulman, I was quoted in the Products for a New Age article (p.96-99). When asked about my recent studio Design for Social Entrepreneurship at RISD I replied:

"There is a real hunger to work on these projects. Two years ago I was part of a minority at RISD interested in these issues. Today students are looking at our economy, looking at where consumerism has led us. They want to shift away from producing excess and do something that makes them feel useful."

Metropolis Magazine being my favorite design magazine, I was THRILLED to be quoted and just as excitedly, Design that Matters had a full two-page spread!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Why Now?

I recently had an interview with journalist Ken Shulman for an article in Metropolis Magazine. He pointedly asked me "why now?" Why now are designers and this generation turning their interests to these topics of social impact?

My initial response over the phone was not as thorough as my ideas below.

"Firstly, much of this new generation in America in their 20's and 30's either grew up hearing about the hippie era from either their parents or t.v. with their passions, philosophies, free spirit and outraged protests. I once spent a summer with ex-pats in Mexico, all self-identified ex-hippies who exclaimed to me their fear that my generation was apathetic and lacking the action orientated mentality that was once seen a few decades ago. At first I agreed with them and thought what a dull generation I am a part of, but I quickly looked back and realized that "no!" this is not the case. In this generation, we may not necessarily be protesting in the streets, although I and others certainly do this on occasion, but more so we have seen where this has gotten our country and rather than curse the "man," we are trying to create this change from the inside to become what RISD's new president calls, "the save-the-world generation." Our generation of passionate, disgruntled youth are instead starting businesses and NGOs , studying international development, working for the UN and we are seeing now that this also includes designers. Designers are finding their voice in this generation of change-makers and proving the amount of impact we can have. Architecture has been pushing this for a while with its LEED standards and more obvious ROI's for environmental investments. This within the design industry is slowly emerging but at a radically incremental rate. One simple indicator of this was my year of graduation I received RISD's Community Service Award from my work in and outside of my studio courses. I was one of three nominees. The very next year the number of nominees jumped up to 9. Now we'll have to wait and see if this is actually a pattern, but my feeling is that there will be more and more students joining this band wagon as I have already seen by the number of students interested in my studio.

Secondly, in addition to growing up hearing about the hippy era, and being surround by entrepreneurs that inspire us to start our own initiatives like this article discusses, we have also grown up with the internet and vast amounts of technology. The world has become smaller and smaller and the injustices that go on around us jump out on a regular basis that we can see and hear with our own eyes and from crevices of the world we may have never heard of, pushing, urging, and inspiring us to act. This of course occurs with videos like this, this, and this on YouTube but also with websites like Erik Hersman's Ushahidi where anyone can submit their situation during a crisis, Kiva, BopSource, or Facebook's Cause application all which open the door to introducing a plethora of causes and people's stories to a new and typically young audience, spreading virally.

Thirdly, and less altruistically, with the economy tightening and market competition increasing, more and more design companies are looking to emerging markets as a new source of income. Companies like Nokia have found great success in tapping into the "bottom of the pyramid," marketing to those earning just a few dollars a day but who are willing to spend money on something that they see as adding value to their livelihood and families. Cell phones are a huge industry in the developing world as seen with Iqbal Quadir's Grameen Phone in Bangladesh which uses a cell phone as a source for generating income by selling its service to others as a telecenter or saving time by not walking miles to a doctor only to find out he is not there. Companies like Procter & Gamble are all rushing to figure out how to tap into this market and so with it they must work to understand the context of designing for the "BoP" aka the "Other 90%." In addition to this other 90% I ask designers, how can we Design for America to help restore our current crisis and downfall. (more thoughts and initiatives on this later!)

All of these are just some of the indicators to answering the question, "why now?" The tunnel of contributors is endless."

Thursday, February 28, 2008

ID vs. Metropolis Magazine: Flatland and New Dimensions

After perusing my latest edition of ID magazine, I've come to realize how two-dimensional it is.

To convey my point, I will paint an analogy to Edward Abbott's "Flatland." For those of you that are not familiar with this book, it is a clever story of a 2-dimensional world, with a visitor from the 3rd dimension. The sphere, the 3D being, aims to explain to the circle, the 2D being, what the 3rd dimension is. As you can imagine, this is quite impossible without simply pulling the circle out of the 2D world and into the 3rd dimension. The circle is amazed at the incomprehensible sight beheld in front of him, below him, and above.

Similarly, in the design world, typical product design is 2-dimensional. These two dimensions being: "form" and "function." We’ve been living in this world for the past century with the Industrial Revolution and longer, but we are approaching a time where we must enter into new dimensions.

Metropolis Magazine reveals the "3rd" dimension, and often times a fourth with "systems" and "culture." The magazine and a big credit is due to the editor in chief, Susan Szenasy, links design to the causes and effects design has on society, and responds to the needs of our time.

Case in point can be made by looking at the competitions each magazine hosts.

ID magazine’s categories include:

Consumer Products, Graphics, Packaging, Environments, Furniture, Concepts, Interactive.

Metropolis Magazine “category” includes:

“The 2008 Next Generation® Design Competition focuses on WATER. In a world of killer floods and rising tides, potable water is a finite resource. We call on your innovative design solutions at all scales and sizes—products, interiors, buildings, landscapes, communication systems, or anything else you’ve dreamed up—for handling this most precious and most threatened natural resource. The time for new thinking on water is now.


ID magazine continues to view design in its old paradigm, as individual entities to be consumed, but yet, does not discuss or evoke curiosity concerning the impact of design. And what are the results? By looking at the magazine cover one would conclude: a pile of stuff. Metropolis Magazine however encourages its viewers and competitors to take today’s most pressing issues and use design as a tool to make positive impact in the world around us; connecting and designing in four dimensions.

A product is flat until combined with a system, and a system becomes alive when integrated with culture. ID magazine seems stuck in Flatland, while Metropolis Magazine is extruding us into new dimensions.