Read Smith’s plans for the fall 2021 semester.
Current Operating Mode: GREEN
Work that results from experimentation and collaboration with and through the Design Thinking Initiative explores diverse questions, subjects and mediums. We are proud to showcase the breadth of this work as demonstrations of the power of design to bridge disciplines and create learning opportunities for making and doing.
The mission of the Design Thinking Initiative is to incorporate design thinking into liberal arts education and to facilitate ongoing dialogue about the role design plays in shaping the human experience. To support this mission several curriculum enhancement grants were offered in four categories: Bridging Divides; Methods and Mindsets; Experimental Learning Spaces; and Remix the Curriculum. Explore the categories to learn how faculty have engaged with the initiative and integrated design into their curriculum.
Focus: Collaborating across the disciplinary divisions.
Example: Two (or more) courses from different divisions working together on a common design project.
Landscape Studies & Engineering
- Reid Bertone-Johnson
- Susannah Howe
- Broadscale Design
- Planning Design Clinic
Professors worked together to link two courses around a common design challenge to create a parklet for the Northampton Department of Public Works.
Anthropology & Engineering
- Suzanne Gottschang
- Susannah Howe
- Preparation of future courses in anthropology and engineering
For the second year, Susannah Howe and Suzanne Gottschang will shadow each other’s courses to develop a plan for further student design collaborations between the anthropology and engineering departments.
Studio Art & Landscape Studies
- Fraser Stables
- Reid Bertone-Johnson
- [Studio Art] Cross-Disciplinary Foundations
- Visual Storytelling
Linking two courses through a collaborative four-week design project at Smith College’s MacLeish Field Station.
- Alex Keller
- Dana Leibsohn
- Making Knowledge/Sharing Knowledge
Creation of new interdisciplinary course on the making and sharing of knowledge.
Focus: Propose small but effective changes in supplies and materials that could transform how you use an existing learning space.
Propose a creative and mindful use of the Capen Annex classroom or prototyping studio.
Example: A plan to build a prototyping cart for Japanese language courses that allows students to create artifacts as they learn key concepts.
Understand Italian Artisanry
- Bruno Grazioli
- Made in Italy: Italian Design and World Culture
Enhanced emphasis on design process. Introduction of iterative prototyping to study of Italian culture and design.
Focus: Existing courses are transformed by incorporating design thinking:
Mindsets—collaboration, human-centeredness and experimentation
Methods—redefining problems through empathy with stakeholders, iterative prototyping and testing.
Example: An anthropology course that uses prototyping or making to expand its methodological approach.
Example: Support for a design/build special studies with two or more students from multiple disciplines.
Design Debates on Smith’s MOOC
- Lauren Duncan
- Deborah Keisch
- Psychology of Political Activism: Women Changing the World
Enhanced emphasis on design process. Course applies design thinking principles to effectively scaffolding substantive online discussions for Smith’s first Massively Open Online Course (MOOC).
How to Make a Map
- Jon Caris
- Scott Gilman
- Faculty development workshop
Development of a new course for faculty to facilitate more mapmaking into course work.
- Anna Lee
- Liz Bannish
- Vernacular Photography: 19th Century Materials and Processes
Development of hands-on workshops for study of 19th century photography materials and processes.
Socially Engaged Memory
- Lynne Yamamoto
- Topics in Installation Art
Development of socially engaged art on the topic of memory. Students will design a play corner at the Kensington School in Springfield, MA, which enrolls many resettled children from Syria and other countries.
- Caroline Melly
- Suzanne Gottschang
- Multiple anthropology courses
Enhanced emphasis on design process. Grant to develop prototyping kits for use by anthropology department.
- Nathan Derr
- Experimental Design in Biomolecular Engineering: Nanoscale Vehicles
Enhanced emphasis on design process in the exploration of nanoscale vehicles.
Focus: Design-oriented intellectual engagements that take place outside of the classroom to feed into or expand the educational mission of the campus.
Example: A weeklong design challenge bringing together people from biology, mathematics, French, African studies and dance.
Design Policy Briefs
- Kim Y. Dionne
- African Politics
Enhanced emphasis on design process. Students apply design thinking principles to the effective design of African political briefings.
Student Studio Work
This piece was done for a painting class. I used the lasercutter and materials available at Design Thinking to help me develop my painting in layers. Adhered acrylic and painted wood cutouts give the piece three dimensional elements. These cutouts create physical layers, and I responded to these layers with the imagery and paint, hoping to both develop and confuse space—foreground and background—in the final piece. This project was also an experiment in material and surface. I was exploring the question of how to make plastic, wood, oil and acrylic paint work together in one piece.
Wall-E Team: Tani Somolu, Asmita Gautam, Mia Delpriora & Noor Khan
Wall-E was a project that we completed for our Engineering Mechanics final group project. We were inspired by the character in the movie, as well as our combined interests. Although the project was a challenging one, with a lot of moving parts, it was extremely rewarding to see our robot come to life (quite literally). Wall-E is currently displayed on the first floor of Ford Hall.
Isabelle started her own business in the Draper Competition, created a Youtube channel with millions of views, and makes countless gifts for friends and family. This series is a collection of “charms,” which can be used as bracelets, window ornaments or Christmas decorations. Isabelle used a computer file to cut outlines with the Glowforge, and then mixed and matched materials to create a stained glass effect.
Sophie Willard Van Sistine
This broadside was created using entirely reused materials. For this project “reused” can be defined as materials that were found, recycled, shared, communal or second-hand. The goal of this project was to engage with the Northampton Community about reducing waste, and to begin discussion about sustainable art practice. I partnered with the Northampton ReUse Committee to collect their stories about reducing waste. Their stories are depicted in cartoon panels and printed on one hundred unique recycled papers. I found the papers in recycling bins across Smith campus, from donors on the Northampton FreeCycle Network. I used the laser engraver in the Design Thinking Studio, to engrave a wood board, which I then coated in ink and used as a “stamp” to transfer my design onto each paper. The broadsides were distributed in Northampton at Pulaski Park on Wednesday, December 12, to the first one hundred people to show up. This project will be extended in the near future to include web-exclusive comics that were inspired by the numerous stories collected, that did not have room to be printed on this one-page broadside.
Student Course Work Videos
Student Project Portfolios
Global Design Immersions match Smithies with emerging international organizations who are committed to making a positive social/environmental impact in the world through the practice of human-centered design. Students are awarded a grant that provides a living stipend and covers all international travel expenses. This is an opportunity for students to apply their education in real-world dynamic environments, to explore beyond the comforts of the classroom, to be immersed in new cultural contexts, and to experience first-hand the transformational potential of design thinking.
Zoya Azhar ’20
Zoya is interested in behavioral economics and journalistic narrative and how she can use language to make economic issues accessible. She recognizes that economic theory is formulated by Western societies and breaks down outside of the Western context she wants to work at the forefront of economic issues in non-western contexts. She will be traveling to Nairobi, Kenya, to work with a behavioral economics research firm committed to human-centered design. She will be synthesizing and translating research insights into compelling narratives.
Marta Garcia ’19
Statistical and Data Sciences
Marta is passionate about the intersection of data visualization and social justice, she is interested in empowering marginalized communities working on systems level change. She will be traveling to Mexico City where she will be working with Isla Urbana, a nonprofit committed to addressing to making clean water accessible to the most marginalized populations through rain water catchment systems. Marta will be working to collect user data and to communicate those insights visually.
Barbara Garrison ’21
Barb is passionate about community engagement and curious about how design interventions influence peoples behavior. She is interested in ground-up design solutions and derives a deep sense of joy contributing something meaningful to the world. She will be traveling to Wellington, New Zealand, where she will be working with the Design+Democracy Project out of Massey University to design toolkits for introducing K-12 students to democracy.
Patience Kayira ’20
English Language & Literature
Patience is interested in how stories and language bring people together and is passionate about identity, which explains why she is drawn to understand the experiences of indigenous communities. She will have a chance to engage with questions of communication and design for populations inclusive of indigenous people through her work at Design+Democracy Project to introduce concepts of civic engagement to young people.
Noor Kahn '20
Noor is passionate about understanding human needs, she understands what it means to be seen but not heard and is interested in work that draws on that empathy. She also brings her playful inner child to her work and is looking for opportunities to apply her Spanish language skills which is why she is a great fit for working with the interdisciplinary design firm, Studio Jose de la O in Mexico City where she will be aiding in human-centered design research and product development.
Matlhabeli Molaoli '22
Intending BioChem & Public Policy
Matlhabeli has come to Smith directly from the African Leadership Academy (ALA) which develops leadership in young people in hopes of cultivating the leaders of tomorrow. She is passionate about entrepreneurship and empowering young people, which is why she is a great fit for joining the Latin American Leadership Academy (LALA), an initiative modeled after the ALA. She will bring her experience supporting ALA’s network to helping LALA develop and design their own community platform.
Maca Rojas '20
Maca is interested in exploring a career in product design after graduation and has experience working on sustainable solutions for some of the worlds most impoverished populations. If she chooses to join Marta at Isla Urbana in Mexico City this summer she will be working across the engineering and product development teams to resolve some of the filtration and purification technology built into their rain water catchment system.
Belise Bwiza ’20
Belise is an economics major with an interest in designing microcredit programs that ensure financial uplifting for women. She has facilitated projects that promote girls’ involvement in debate competitions, women’s access to insurance and enrollment in universities in Rwanda and beyond. She plans to write a thesis focused on the question “Does microcredit really lift women out of poverty?” Belise’s immersion will be hosted at Busara Center for Behavioral Economics in Kenya, a research and advisory firm that advances behavioral science research focused on the Global South. Belise will help Busara research teams apply design thinking to building a new consulting capacity that advises local clients on implementation of human-centered programs. Learn more about Busara.
Felicia Villalobos ’19
Felicia is eager to see a world of technology developed to address issues of access to housing. Her experience as a legal aide in Texas and her classes in data sciences have sharpened her interest in highlighting the stories of urban marginalization that data can reveal. Felicia’s immersion will be hosted at Catalytic Communities, a nonprofit organization focused on media and mainstream social integration of informal housing in Brazil. Felicia will spend the summer constructing data visualizations that reveal how changes in media portrayal of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas can motivate changes in social policy on housing rights. Learn more about Catalytic Communities.
Laura Lilienkamp ’18
Laura has a passion for developing clean energy technology and has served as president of Smith Engineers for a Sustainable World and as a Prototyping Studio Design Partner on campus. She has played an instrumental role in developing makerspace workshops to get more students exposed to tools for designing such as lasercutters and 3D printers. She has worked with Instrumentation Laboratory to develop prototypes for blood sample analysis, has prepared prototypes for solar energy technology for GRID Alternatives, and has published research on wind turbine supply chains. Laura’s immersion will be hosted at ReMaterials, a firm that designs roofs for people living in slums and villages in India. Laura will focus on developing prototypes for roofing units. Learn more about ReMaterials.
Maia Erslev ’18
Maia was instrumental in developing the Modern Images of the Body from East Asia exhibition and researched the anthropological focus of Smith’s East Asian Art collection. She has conducted ethnographic research in China on indigenous architectural and cultural preservation. Maia’s immersion will be hosted at Iyer, an architecture and urban planning firm that emphasizes placemaking and specializes in projects that open up once segregated cities in South Africa. Maia will join Iyer’s design team and contribute to the conception of a government housing project that will be home to thousands of South Africans. Learn more about Iyer.
The Design Thinking Initiative brings emerging and established leaders in the field to campus to share their work and perspective on the practice of design in today’s world.
October 13, 2017
Emily Pilloton, founder and executive director of Project H Design, stopped at Smith College on her Design Revolution Road Show, a traveling exhibition and lecture series bringing “product design that empowers” to 25 high schools and university design programs across the nation in the spring of 2010.
Trained in architecture at UC Berkeley and product design at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Pilloton started Project H to provide a conduit and catalyst for need-based product design that empowers individuals, communities and economies. Former managing editor of Inhabitat.com and a writer, Pilloton has written for ID, GOOD and ReadyMade, and has taught design theory and lectures worldwide about new social impact imperatives for the product design industry. Her book, Design Revolution: 100 Products that Empower People, is a compendium of and call to action for product design for social impact.
April 3, 2017
Lilly Irani is an assistant professor of communication and science studies at the University of California, San Diego. She is a co-founder and maintainer of digital labor activism tool Turkopticon.
As human-computer interaction designers explore the possibilities of human computation, their rush has been to the potential of this new form of work rather than the forms of inequality this innovation presumes and relies on. With Six Silberman (UC Irvine) and Amazon Mechanical Turk workers, Irani designed a system called Turkopticon that both addresses and draws attention to those inequalities. In her lecture, Irani will discuss the lessons learned from designing and running the system, offer implications for how activists approach design interventions and conclude with reflections on how discourses of “design thinking” can produce rather than address inequality.
November 7, 2016
Liz Gerber serves as associate professor of design in the School of Engineering and School of Communication, as director of the Design Research Cluster, and as faculty founder of Design for America at Northwestern University. Gerber researches the role of technology and organization in the innovation process. Her work is generously funded by the NSF, Microsoft and the MacArthur Foundation. She received her Ph.D. and M.S. in management science and engineering and product design from Stanford University. Learn more about her work.
October 19, 2016
Etosha Cave is co-founder and chief science officer at Opus 12, a startup bringing electrification to the chemicals industry on Earth and someday on Mars. Opus 12 has developed revolutionary technology for recycling CO2 emissions into usable fuels. This technology provides both a method to combat global carbon emissions and offers a fossil-fuel alternative that is cost-competitive in the industry. Cave received her Ph.D. from Stanford University, where she gained the foundational knowledge for this technology. Before Stanford, she worked in Antarctica at the McMurdo Research Station and hopes to return to the continent someday to stay the winter. Opus 12 has received various grants from the Department of Energy, NASA and the National Science Foundation.
October 19, 2016
Anna Ly has vast experience in business development and strategy across various industries including entertainment, media, technology and social enterprises. A Stanford graduate, Ly made the 2016 Forbes 30 under 30 list and received the Biz Journal Women of Influence award for her dedication to impactful media and technologies. For the past few years, she has spearheaded creative technology partnerships and ventures at Sesame Workshop, home of the beloved show Sesame Street, designing and strategizing new ways of playing, storytelling and interacting. She has orchestrated and contributed to three of their biggest plays this year, including Sesame Studios, IBM Watson Partnership and Sesame Ventures. She’s also worked on media and technology development projects at Amazon Studios, Out of the Blue Entertainment, Intel and The Fred Rogers Center.