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Why Does Design Matter: A Q&A With Design Forward Founder Michèle Morris

Why Does Design Matter: A Q&A With Design Forward Founder Michèle Morris

Why Does Design Matter: A Q&A With Design Forward Founder Michèle Morris

Michèle Morris currently serves as the Associate Director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego. She also founded Design Forward. We asked her why Design Forward started. Turns out the answer is simple: because good design matters to the present and future of San Diego.

Q: How did you come up with idea for Design Forward?

A: During my time at Stanford Graduate School of Business, I learned that Don Norman was launching a new design lab in San Diego. I knew I’d be returning to San Diego after business school, so I contacted Don, and in 2015, I joined the Lab.

One of my first priorities was to learn the San Diego innovation ecosystem. I met with civic, business, and community leaders; San Diego’s designers, design firms and design-driven companies. During my exploration I asked ‘How does San Diego define innovation? Who is working in this space and what are they doing?’

As I networked around the city, Design Forward became the prototype of everything. A small, core group of us launched the inaugural Design Forward event to both show what design is and could mean for our region and to test whether there was an appetite for design at scale. The turnout revealed a resounding yes!  Almost 600 people attended the event at Port Pavilion. Speakers included Mayor Faulconer, C-suite business leaders, global design strategists, and leaders from a strong cross-section of business and public sectors (e.g. health, education, urban planning, technology). We started a dynamic conversation around the role of human-centered design in the already lively innovation ecosystem in our area. I’m really proud of Design Forward, and feel so humbled to have worked with and been accepted by a community of designers and innovators who have been working in this movement far longer than I.

Read more.

Michèle Morris currently serves as the Associate Director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego. She also founded Design Forward. We asked her why Design Forward started. Turns out the answer is simple: because good design matters to the present and future of San Diego.

Q: How did you come up with idea for Design Forward?

A: During my time at Stanford Graduate School of Business, I learned that Don Norman was launching a new design lab in San Diego. I knew I’d be returning to San Diego after business school, so I contacted Don, and in 2015, I joined the Lab.

One of my first priorities was to learn the San Diego innovation ecosystem. I met with civic, business, and community leaders; San Diego’s designers, design firms and design-driven companies. During my exploration I asked ‘How does San Diego define innovation? Who is working in this space and what are they doing?’

As I networked around the city, Design Forward became the prototype of everything. A small, core group of us launched the inaugural Design Forward event to both show what design is and could mean for our region and to test whether there was an appetite for design at scale. The turnout revealed a resounding yes!  Almost 600 people attended the event at Port Pavilion. Speakers included Mayor Faulconer, C-suite business leaders, global design strategists, and leaders from a strong cross-section of business and public sectors (e.g. health, education, urban planning, technology). We started a dynamic conversation around the role of human-centered design in the already lively innovation ecosystem in our area. I’m really proud of Design Forward, and feel so humbled to have worked with and been accepted by a community of designers and innovators who have been working in this movement far longer than I.

Read more.

Michèle Morris currently serves as the Associate Director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego. She also founded Design Forward. We asked her why Design Forward started. Turns out the answer is simple: because good design matters to the present and future of San Diego.

Q: How did you come up with idea for Design Forward?

A: During my time at Stanford Graduate School of Business, I learned that Don Norman was launching a new design lab in San Diego. I knew I’d be returning to San Diego after business school, so I contacted Don, and in 2015, I joined the Lab.

One of my first priorities was to learn the San Diego innovation ecosystem. I met with civic, business, and community leaders; San Diego’s designers, design firms and design-driven companies. During my exploration I asked ‘How does San Diego define innovation? Who is working in this space and what are they doing?’

As I networked around the city, Design Forward became the prototype of everything. A small, core group of us launched the inaugural Design Forward event to both show what design is and could mean for our region and to test whether there was an appetite for design at scale. The turnout revealed a resounding yes!  Almost 600 people attended the event at Port Pavilion. Speakers included Mayor Faulconer, C-suite business leaders, global design strategists, and leaders from a strong cross-section of business and public sectors (e.g. health, education, urban planning, technology). We started a dynamic conversation around the role of human-centered design in the already lively innovation ecosystem in our area. I’m really proud of Design Forward, and feel so humbled to have worked with and been accepted by a community of designers and innovators who have been working in this movement far longer than I.

Read more.

Read Next

Design Lab Students Swarm CHI Conference in Denver

In May, many UC San Diego Design Lab members and students swarmed the largest human-computer interaction conference in the world, ACM CHI 2017. Affiliated with ACM SIGCHI, the premier international society for professionals, academics and students who are interested in human-technology and human-computer interaction (HCI), the conference brings together people from multiple disciplines and cultures to explore new ways to practice, develop and improve methods and systems in HCI.

“I love the mix of people at CHI—chatting with people making new sensor technologies, new theoretical approaches, new architectural construction techniques -- it has incredible diversity but is still brought together with a common set of ideas and expectations,” said former Design Lab Fellow Derek Lomas, who presented at the conference.

This year, the mega-HCI conference, which was sponsored by tech-industry giants such as Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Yahoo! was held in Denver near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Organizers selected the site, which is full of scenic trees, mountains and valleys to serve as a motivation for the theme of “Motivate, Innovate, Inspire.”
Waste Management

Waste is an enormous problem. But recycling is the wrong solution.

Part 2 of a FastCompany editorial on Recycling by Don Norman

I am proud to be one of the developers of what is today called human-centered design. That is design that always starts off understanding the needs, capabilities, and desires of people. It has four basic principles, all four of which are being violated by today’s recycling craze.

Recycling is broken. There’s little clarity about what can and can’t be recycled, and the rules change from one city to the next, and sometimes even within the same city. According to the World Bank, we produce 1.4 billion tons of waste a year worldwide, a figure that’s expected to increase to 2.4 billion tons by 2025. Waste is an enormous problem that needs to be addressed if we’re going to prevent the worst effects of climate change. But recycling is the wrong solution.
Tricia Ngoon

Tricia Ngoon, UCSD & Design Lab PhD Graduate, Discusses “Adaptive Conceptual Guidance”

Currently, in the spotlight of Tricia Ngoon’s research and involvement with The Design Lab is her recently accepted paper, Shöwn: Adaptive Conceptual Guidance Aids Example Use in Creative Tasks, which will appear in the Designing Interactive Systems virtual conference this summer, 2021. Her research hypothesizes that providing “adaptive conceptual guidance” will improve a person’s implementation of examples within creative work, as opposed to providing a static example. Using the domain of web comics, “[researchers in the study] present concepts to people alongside examples as they work.” Ngoon adds that “It’s essentially a step towards coaching. For example, if [a person is] working on a comic you might present a concept to consider the framing or kind of the composition of the panel and then [show] examples of different types of framing and composition.” Ultimately, her research concluded that “these adaptive suggestions as a person is working in context really help with making a clear and more unique story. It kind of changes the way they look at their ideas because they are more likely to explore different [ones].” 
Don Norman To Receive Sir Misha Black Medal

Don Norman to Receive Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education

The Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education for 2021 is awarded to Don Norman, Design Lab Founding Director Emeritus and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the University of California, San Diego, USA.

He will receive the Medal at a Ceremony to be held at Imperial College London, at 6pm on Tuesday, October 19th 2021, where he will deliver a short address on his philosophy on design education.

This Ceremony will be combined with the Awarding of the 2020 Medal and the 2020 Awards for Innovation in Design Education.

The Sir Misha Black Medal honours those who have given distinguished services to design education. It was the first, and is the only, international award to do so. The Awards commemorate the work and life of the designer and architect, Professor Sir Misha Black, whose pioneering work played a crucial role in the development of design in Britain.

Meet Member of Postdoctoral Fellowship Program’s Debut Cohort: Jane E

Jane E is part of UCSD’s Computer Science and Engineering’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program and is currently a member of  The Design Lab under the guidance of mentor Scott Klemmer. E’s journey to The Design Lab started when she earned her B.S. in Computer Science in 2012 at Princeton, then studied as a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at Stanford University. Along the way, she has worked in the information technology sector for companies like Adobe and Microsoft, and her awards include the Microsoft Research Dissertation Grant. Jane’s research aims to expand the horizons of human creativity by searching for a balanced relationship between humans and computational assistance. 
Olga McConnell

Olga McConnell, Project Specialist and Executive Assistant to the Director of The Design Lab

As the Executive Assistant to the Director of The Design Lab, a project manager for the Lab’s special projects and annual events, and a lifelong learner who holds a M.A. in English Linguistics and Translation, and a M.B.A. in Business Administration and Management, Olga McConnell’s zest for knowledge is palpable. She is currently on track to complete a Project Management Certification at UC San Diego Extension at the end of 2021, and she is planning on obtaining her Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification after that. “I’m kind of addicted to getting degrees,” jokes McConnell. “I even thought the other day, maybe I’ll go to law school. And then I was like, no, enough, enough.” 

For nearly five years, McConnell was Executive Assistant to Don Norman, the Founding Director Emeritus of The Design Lab. She is now the Executive Assistant to the new Director of The Design Lab, Mai Thi Nguyen. It is Nguyen’s vision of human-technology-community interactions, along with her JEDI (justice, diversity, equity and inclusion) approach that has McConnell excited about this new chapter in the Lab’s legacy, saying, “I see how great she is as an efficient leader, so I’m really looking forward to working with her, supporting her administratively, as well as taking charge of certain projects that she has in mind.”
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