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IDSA 2001 National Education Conference

Each year, usually in conjunction with the national "practitioner's" conference, Industrial Design educators from across the country (and the globe) join together to exchange ideas affecting the ever-important realm of academia. In recent years there has been increased participation from practitioners as well as graduate students. If you have an interest in the big picture as well as the future of the profession, the IDSA Education Committee extends the invitation to join them next year in San Jose, California.

Check Out More IDSA '01 Stuff:
Conference Overview
Core77 - Continuum Bash
Release 1 Party
The Design Gallery
Educator's Conference
But about this year - the 2001 IDSA National Education Conference was hosted by the Industrial Design department at Massachusetts College of Art in downtown Boston. For two and a half days there were panel discussions, presentations, and breakout sessions covering myriad aspects of pedagogy, practice, and the profession in general.
Below are a few snapshots of just a fraction of the presenters and a blurb about what they brought to light. You can go to the IDSA website for a copy of these presenters' papers and copies of papers of yore.

Jim Kaufman, Education Committee Chair
IDSA Education Committee Chair, Jim Kaufman, got the ball rolling with a State of the Education Report. There is still a nationwide shortage of Industrial Design professors, so if you have been thinking about a new, rewarding career where you may affect the lives of young people, initiate research projects, teach what you love, and get summers off (!), now's the time.

Eric Anderson, Carnegie Mellon and Dave Middleton, Eastern Michigan

Paul Rothstein, Arizona State and Steve Belletire, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale

A.J. Kassenaar, President of Snap Design
The first panel discussion dealt with the nuts and bolts of design education profession including compensation, tenure, lifestyle, and how to fill those faculty shortages. Paul Rothstein (Arizona State) invoked the product design model as a new paradigm from which to view a faculty teaching position. Many of the issues raised were discussed informally among participants throughout the conference.

Roger Funk, FIDSA
Roger Funk (who used to walk barefoot to the ID office, uphill, both ways) spoke about ITEA, the International Technology Education Association. These are the people who are trying, and succeeding, in getting "Industrial Design" into the vocabulary of school kids and teachers across the world. If you have an interest in writing for their national publications about Industrial Design and its pedagogy, he's the man with whom you want to speak.

Randy Bartlett, Auburn University
Randy Bartlett introduced Auburn University's travel program to Ireland. Each year for the last 5 year's undergraduate students have spent about 9 weeks of their spring semester traveling to several Irish Industrial Design departments to meet with students and engage in a series of design projects. This has been a successful program from all ends and now they are looking for interested faculty members to continue the program (in manageable 3-week stints) and expand the experience--love of Guiness, optional. Contact Randy at Auburn's ID department if you want more info.

Paul Rothstein, Arizona State University
Paul Rothstein, in addition to his Assistant Professorship, heads DesignSpace at Arizona State. This interdisciplinary research and design environment helps undergrads and grads "explore, develop and articulate new methods and processes for sparking user-centered design innovation." With his presentation he introduced his a(x4) ("a by four") method of user-research and a description of it in action during an interdisciplinary corporate-funded project at ASU.

Valorie McAlpin, Mike Hudspeth, Thomas Jensen
A 3-member panel, Dealing with the Avalanche of New Technology Software: Valorie F. McAlpin spoke about the Information Technology program at the University of Maryland.

Mike Hudspeth, a regular writer for Innovations magazine and Senior Designer for Tyco/Health services, He gave his usual helpful overview of the big issues for the major CAD/CAM programs out there.

Dr. Thomas Jensen, Vice President of R&D at software newcomer (new to the US, that is, it's huge in Italy and other parts of Europe) think3, loves his code. He has been pioneering CAD/CAM for decades and you've undoubtedly used his stuff to make your cool stuff.

John Caruso, Notre Dame University
John Caruso (Notre Dame) presented his paper, Problems caused by inappropriate technology; the issue of hand gun safety as a result of unintended use of the object. He walked the audience through a history of the handgun as well as some of the contemporary problems with its use within the context of home protection. Indeed, this is a problem that needs rethinking and design can come to the rescue. The solution does not seem to be in redesigning the gun as we know it (he reviewed some of the safety features that have been added to the typical gun), but instead by looking carefully at people's need for home protection and how an object and/or system can safely satisfy this, especially when children enter the mix.

Louise St. Pierrey, University of Washington
Louise St. Pierrey presented what was chosen to be one of the best papers at the Educator's conference and was given the opportunity to present it to the practitioners at the "main" national IDSA conference. Louise (admittedly a "raging environmentalist" below her mild exterior) introduced a method to help designers engage in the sustainable creation of products. She talked about lessons from the Whole Product Design Project, key elements from The Whole Product book, and samples of sustainable-focussed student projects at the University of Washington (two of which won international design awards).

Uday Gajendar
Uday Gajendar, a recent graduate of Carnegie Mellon's graduate ID program, presented "What is design's role in sustainable globalization?" - featuring a case study of the Coca-Cola Company. All of you grad students out there should think about presenting your work at the next, or future, IDSA Education Conferences.

Peter Lawrence, Corporate Design Foundation
Peter Lawrence moderated the fascinating panel, The Interdisciplinary Nature of Product Development and the Critical Success Factors for Collaborative Product Development Courses. The panelists Steve Eppinger, Matt Kresey, Craig Vogel, and Nirmal Sethia are all committed to understanding and facilitating interdisciplinary work between ID and those business/marketing/engineering freaks.

Steve Eppinger, Sloan School of Business (MIT) and Matt Kresey, Rhode Island School of Design
Steve Eppinger and Matt Kresey have been running a groundbreaking interdisciplinary ID and business course between MIT's business school and RISD's ID department. While the B-schoolers greatly outnumber the ID's, they are still able to move through the product development process and make their original product ideas viable in the marketplace without having them look like your aunt (or some gearhead) from the suburbs styled them.

Craig Vogel, Carnegie Mellon
Craig Vogel has been working for years with business school types at Carnegie Mellon and most recently completed a project with Ford Motor Corporation. His students studied the interdisciplinary product development process, looking at issues like values and success measures for industrial designers, engineers, and marketers. Check out his new book, "Creating Breakthrough Products: Innovation from Product Planning to Program Approval," get it from our friends at

Nirmal Sethia, Cal State Poly, Pomona
Nirmal Sethia is a Professor of Management and Human Resources at California State Polytechnic-Pomona. He does interdisciplinary work and includes social scientists in the ideal mix of professions necessary for product development.

JohnPaul Kusz, Illinois Institute of Technology
JohnPaul Kusz, "Mr. Sustainability", presented repositioning the designer as facilitator in a comprehensive process. Through his extensive research in the area of sustainable product design, he has "come to believe that an open, comprehensive and system-based approach may uncover solutions to product challenges, reduce environmental consequence, and create a better value for stakeholders."

Bruce Hanington, Carnegie Mellon
Bruce Hanington of Carnegie Mellon had the opportunity to spend a summer in Seoul, South Korea to "guide an interdisciplinary team of Samsung employees, on leave from their usual work, through a design project centered around the theme of 'sharing life with machines.'" His paper, Lessons Taught and Learned: A Cross-cultural Experience in Design Education, outlined his sometimes-humorous experiences with the products and services of a different culture. These issues were brought to the fore as examples of the cultural sensitivity necessary for product designers within a global community.

Ben Pratt, University of Wisconsin - Stout
Ben Pratt flew in from Singapore, where he is on sabbatical from his usual duties as Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, to present his paper, A Darwinian View of Product Design. Ben's thesis involves the use of Darwin's theories of evolution and the "remarkable similarity between nature and the marketplace." His theory of product evolution can be used to describe, as well as predict, the success or failure of specific products within specific market contexts.
So there you have it, the IDSA 2001 National Education Conference. Like every year it is a nice complement to the practitioner's conference--it is less-frills but more content for those who are serious about affecting the future of the industrial design profession. To view the 70-some papers that were submitted, keep checking they should be posted soon. Next year the conference will be held in San Jose, California so keep your calendars open (the dates will be posted on the IDSA website also). Remember, practitioners and students are always welcome!

The Educator's conference was reviewed by Core-specialist Bruce M. Tharp. Mr. Tharp is a Ph.D. Student of Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of Chicago trying to bridge the gap between the worlds of Industrial Design and Anthropology. Having previously studied Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Design, he is now researching the connection between artifact consumption and the "production of self"--how products and the meanings we ascribe to them affect us at individual and collective levels. He welcomes your comments: