Product design demands a deeply personal investment on the part of the designer. This inclusion of the subjective self is what design has in common with art and is why Eliel Saarinen wrote, "I learned open-mindedly to respect the work of others -- when honest -- even if it be in disagreement with one's own concept, taste or line of development." Having the great honor of being mentored by Eva Zeisel, who summed up her design approach as "a playful search for beauty," I intimately understand the communicative role of the object. I nurture my students on their personal journeys to nonverbally communicate meaning that words alone cannot convey. I take a one-on-one approach to help students understand the tools that best allow that communication.
Yet, the interconnectedness and interdependencies of our era create complex wicked problems that ask today's students to find their best selves within a participatory, collaborative and integrative process that transcends boundaries. Indeed, the major problems of out time are complex and cannot be solved in isolation. It is imperative that our young designers are comfortable orchestrating and participating in designing for complexity. It is imperative that teachers celebrate and preserve the unique abilities of the individual design student while helping her celebrate and preserve the health of the overall system.
As a teacher, my goal and great honor is to create good citizens and responsible stewards of our planet. By teaching all aspects of the design process from a deep ecology, systems-thinking perspective, students learn to see the connections between their actions and the ecosystem and between themselves and others. Students develop an intimate understanding of sustainability and a broader version of empathy. Bringing deep ecology and active learning to complex problems, students learn to widen "self" to include not only the user but the system. This establishes what Fritjof Capra calls, "not a logical but psychological connection [to the web of life]" where the student will (as opposed to should) be inclined to care for all living things."
Professor of Product Design
I teach Senior and Junior Innovation Studios and Design Research: Systems Perspective for Designers.
Consultant, Design Lead and facilitator
I led workshops and acted as a mentor at the School of Public Health's Innovation Studio, Stamps School of Art & Design's MDes Integrative Design Program and the School of Information's UX Design Clinic.
Associate Professor of Design
I created and taught the course Poetics of Design, introducing integrative thinking and systems complexity to juniors and seniors. I also taught 3D (Alias) and CAD software.
I created, coordinated and conducted a course for Steelcase designers to discover and explore the roots of passion of fellow creative professionals. Our guests have included the likes of Susan Szenasy, John Berry, Vic Strecher and the Grand Rapids Ballet.
Cranbrook Academy of Art: On Designing talk
The College for Creative Studies: Things…and the Space Between talk
Mayo Transforms Healthcare Conference: Design thinking workshop
Medical World Americas Conference: Design as a Tool to Rethink Healthcare Delivery, talk co-authored and presented with Upali Nanda
The Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience: Empathy and Innovation Summit: IDEO design thinking workshop
AIGA Creative Mornings: Crossover -- Empathy and Difference talk
HxRefactored Digital Health Design Conference: Designing the Entire Experience talk
Adobe Behance: Designing a Life talk
Quest, Steelcase: Non-verbal Communication talk
West Michigan Design Week: moderator of Devoted to Design - A Morning with Susan Szenasy
Steelcase Global Headquarters, Theater: Designing the Entire Experience talk
Additional talks delivered at ICFF (International Contemporary Furniture Fair), Parsons School of Design and Cooper Union Design Series
My students learn a Deep Design process that helps them work within complexity, be resilient and develop a personal connection to sustainability. I engage students with active learning and diverse subjects that help students see from multiple angles and triangulate across multiple areas of knowledge, bringing more of the world into their considerations so that their solutions fit within the larger (and local) context.
Students learn principles of design and "how to see," by participating in real-world scenario mock-up sessions, frameworking, using strategic design problem solving techniques to map problems from multiple perspectives and circling the problem for varying degrees of abstraction. They engage in ethnographic and observational research, define design criteria, recognize wicked problems and reframe problems to create the largest circle of empathy possible (sustainability), exposing a wide solution set where each individuals student can find their voice and passion.
I teach storyboarding and encourage any means of storytelling that a student is comfortable using. Students are given time to iterate broadly on the problem, with close guidance and frequent sharing roundtables. Critically, the concept is returned to the context that created it, where it is validated within the system it was designed to fit within.
We are all bettered when a student finds and “follows their bliss,” their own path. In mentoring students the goal is to help awaken passions and guide, not impose. I bring a wide range of design experience to the classroom and use that range to adapt to the specific needs and desires of each student. There is nothing more rewarding than helping to align the unique innate desire of a student with an outward purpose.