Here in DFA, we rely on volunteer mentorship of design and business professionals around the country to support our teams. So we wanted to take a moment to recognize one of those awesome people here on our blog- Erin Liman! Erin Liman is an “Innovation Accelerator,” an entrepreneurially minded problem-solver who is passionate about increasing innovation capacity in organizations. Erin was nice enough to take a minute and answer some of our questions here about what it’s like to be a DFA mentor!
We had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Kulikowski, a student founder of the DFA studio at Virginia Tech about a recent project of theirs, the BurgFinder. The BurgFinder is a series of town signs to promote alternative modes of transportation, involving visual cues that use time as a measurement of distance to a particular destination by biking or walking, making it easier to get around town outside of an automobile.
How did you guys decide to tackle this local challenge?
We focused on alternative transportation for our first run at the DFA process last spring because it is a hot topic in Blacksburg and easily identifiable for everyone. Through the kickoff workshop, we were excited to conduct some guerrilla type experiments and avoid the red tape of seeking approval with controversial proposals.
DFA UO @ Eugene has hit the ground running this year with some amazing events designed to pull students out of their seats…and into the world!
Initial enthusiasm is strong!
“We are needed everywhere and if we can make an impact in Eugene then that is a significant contribution. Design for American combines a love of design and a love of philanthropy and service. And I think this is the best way to find meaningful and long-lasting solutions.” -Claire Sakaguchi, Product Design, Sophomore
Partnering with a representative user–product designer and newly-hired faculty member Molly Rogers–to explore the challenges a wheelchair user might face on a daily basis, they borrowed wheel chairs from the health center and went to a grocery markets to experience first-hand the difficulties of shopping in a wheel chair.
In the words of one attendee, CUSP is inspirational, funny, thought-provoking, eye-opening, informative, inspirational, fascinating, humbling, soothing, shocking, awesome, inspirational, unbelievable, wise, touching, smart, healthy, honest, confusing, inspirational, affirming, creative and just friggin’ amazing. Did I mention inspirational? CUSP gets 300+ smart, energized, creative, inspiring, talented people into a room, get them talking to each other, then waits to see what happens.
For a second year, Design for America has been honored to be a speaker at CUSP. After stepping up on stage last year with DFA faculty founder Liz Gerber, Mert Iseri took the spotlight as a featured speaker while passing the baton to DFA senior, Aaron Horowitz, who was sharing the story of Jerry the Bear.
“With Stars in their Eyes, DFA Students want to change the world,” is the title of Fast Company’s feature on Design for America. And this couldn’t ring more true.
As we just witnessed the breadth of energy and enthusiasm from our Summer Leadership Studio, we know that DFA students, now at eight universities throughout the country, are not waiting for a changed world, but are creating it.
From improving the lives of children with diabetes to improving foot care for the homeless, DFA students are tackling the complex issues of today, one project at a time with tireless efforts in interdisciplinary teams.
I think we can safely say from all of us at DFA, it is a huge honor to be highlighted by such a well-respected source and couldn’t be more thrilled. We only hope that this type of recognition will help broaden our reach and our abilities to make tangible impact in our communities and in America.
We are mentioned twice, so here’s a clip from the main article, United States of Design.
In typical American fashion, the antidote to a vacuum of governmental support has been the recent creation of an unofficial, bottom-up, democratic ecosystem. Scott Wilson tapped into that ecosystem via Kickstarter, and there are many other strains–from crafts seller Etsy to social product-development company Quirky to fast-expanding online design communities such as Behance, Dribbble, Ffffound, Forrst, Svpply, and others. These sites give designers venues to share and vet their creations, to reach out to prospective employers, and to launch businesses without suffering through the complexity and obstacles of traditional capital raising or infrastructure building. A burgeoning national student organization called Design for America, started at Northwestern by Yuri Malina, Mert Iseri, Hannah Chung, and Liz Gerber, is bringing design-process thinking to students at eight universities across the country, who typically might imagine that design encompasses furniture, fashion, and little more. There’s even interest in Silicon Valley, where venture capitalists have created a not-for-profit called the Designer Fund to train and capitalize designers.
Wow, what an amazing weekend we had! 21 students from 8 different universities flew in Thursday night from as far as Sao Paulo, Brazil. Despite geographic differences it was clear that each one of these students has something in common that would soon bond them all- an unwavering commitment to use design for social innovation. Although everyone came in with varying degrees of experience in design and student leadership, they all left with a bold confidence and eagerness to get their studios kicked-off for the fast approaching fall!. Check out some of the lessons they learned in the video below and the pictures from the weekend!
Julio Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science and main DFA supporter, was recently interviewed as part of Let Go & Lead, a video project by strategy execution and employee engagement firm Gagen MacDonald that aims to explore the ideas of leadership and transformation in the 21st Century.
Why do we need new designs? Is it simply to create another version of last year’s gizmo? Ideally, the goal is to improve the world we live in. But that can mean a lot of different things—a healthier planet, a better user experience, a growing business, a stronger community and more. What do you design for?