Crafting a Practice (12/2)

This Wednesday, we were joined by two first year PhD students, Madeline Sides and Adam Cowart. Both of them shared their stories and journeys on how they have crafted their design practices and professional paths.

Maddy started her story explaining how she came from a science background, as this was always her primary interest. She continued her education in bioengineering and went straight into her Masters but there she began thinking, “Can well-designed products change lives?”

Later on, she stayed with a company for four years, researching, prototyping and developing a product — Kyron. Seeing her product in the world helped her to recognize how products exist in systems but while products could bring about change, systems, as we have all experienced, are hard to change. Ultimately she left the company in 2019, wanting to focus her work on design. A year later, she enrolled into the Transition Design program here at CMU. She’s been focusing on continuing her research and learning about how to bring about systemic change for enhanced health and sustainability.

Adam, on the other hand, came from an arts background. After studying creative writing in undergrad, he worked in operations. It was at this point where he began thinking about design. He went back to school to do his MFA and two other masters, including an MBA. These explorations in creative and business settings helped open his eyes to explore deeper into the design field and was a launching pad to alternative concepts. He started to think about stories, like the hero’s or heroine’s story, and how they fit into futures thinking and foresight — with a special interest in the structures or patterns of stories and how they could be understood as possible spaces to intervene in for transformational change. For his PhD in Transition Design here at CMU, he is interested in further exploring the intersection of futures, design, and story with an emphasis on the pattern of stories across long scale transitions. One of the questions that he is pondering is How could we reimagine structure together? With a fun and short exercise, he reminded the class how we are embedded in systems and patterns that we fail to notice in our daily lives and how, in the end, it is all a matter of perspective.

Over the last few weeks we have seen that design isn’t always a straightforward path. With various guest speakers from vast backgrounds, we have seen that design intersects very much with many fields and how each of our personal experiences can add to the conversation and share insight from multiple perspectives.

We finished up the class with some time to work on your projects. The presentations are due next week and we’re all looking forward to hearing about your projects.




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Christina Ip

Christina Ip

Interaction Designer | MPS 22' at CMU School of Design

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