My primary expertise and the core of my work is design research. For the past 15 years I have been cultivating skills in several research methodologies, especially ethnography and qualitative approaches. My projects have been diverse across content and design. I’ve worked on service, digital, product, environmental and branding design projects. The content areas have varied from food to education, transportation, retail spaces, wearables, public libraries, and plants. One of my most inspiring projects was about indoor gardening and I’m sharing it as an example of one design research approach.
For several years I worked as a design researcher at IDEO, and during my time there, I found over and over again that people were profoundly impacted by the inspiration phase of our research. We’d immerse ourselves in exploring ideas first hand, look at them from multiple points of view, and ask new questions about the world. I discovered that for clients and partners, it was often the most transformational experience they had on a design project.
HUMAN CENTERED DESIGN
Over the past five years I’ve worked as a design researcher and strategic advisor exploring the future of public libraries using human-centered design. This project started with a team at IDEO, in partnership with libraries in Chicago and Aarhus, Denmark to connect more deeply to the needs of the public by using a human-centered design approach (read about it here). During this project we were in conversation with librarians around the world about leading meaningful changes and developing new practices around creativity and experimentation.
BUILDING CREATIVE CAPACITY
Since 2016 I have been working with Transcend Education to build creative capacity for innovation in schools. I joined their Collaborative Team focused on designing learning experiences for a cohort of district and charter schools, creating a framework and space to explore and design innovative school models.
An example of my immersive ethnographic work was a research project on the Venice Beach Boardwalk in Los Angeles, California. The project was focused on understanding power relationships among the vendors on the boardwalk, but it was incredibly challenging to build trust and to talk openly - they perceived me as a tourist. In order to get closer to the vendors, I became one.
To explore the complexity of large-scale public design projects, I conducted a 2-year ethnography of the Orange County Great Park (OCGP) in Irvine, California. The OCGP is one of the United States’ largest, long-term urban planning and design projects, and one that is faced with major problems of contestation and uncertainty. The OCGP planners and designers are faced with extreme challenges: it is an expensive ongoing production for which they must keep resources coming in, while simultaneously maintaining and building public engagement, and keeping hope and belief in the project alive.
During 2015-2016, I was selected for a year long curatorial programming residency at Mana Contemporary Chicago. I approached this opportunity as a hybrid design research and experience based learning project to explore concepts around sensory experience and community. I had been asking questions about what it means to engage the senses as a mode of learning and social connection.
Read an article I co-wrote entitled Affording Meaning: Design-Oriented Research from the Humanities and Social Sciences.