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Students from The Design School at ASU take on the world, one design problem at a time

March 18, 2005

Graduate students in The Design School, in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, are challenged to think not just outside of the box, but also outside of the country.

In fact, these students, who come from multiple disciplines within The Design School,-are required to choose one of a variety of trips led by faculty and designed to take them away from Arizona to explore a particular set of design issues somewhere else, together. For the fall semester of 2014, those places included Brazil, Australia, Japan, Italy, Canada and, within the U.S., New York, Washington, D.C. and New Orleans.

Craig Barton, director of The Design School, explains the reasoning behind the graduate travel studios this way: “Design is increasingly a global practice, and designers, regardless of their discipline, are tasked with making spaces and artifacts which reflect cultural practices.”

Barton says that the graduate travel studios provide opportunities for students in The Design School to glimpse the complex world in which they will practice.

“Our students come away from the experience better prepared to address the challenges of working outside of familiar contexts,” Barton says.

The challenges the students faced included thinking about how design can have a positive impact on a city struck by natural disaster, determining how design can include more than just the typical consumer, and figuring out how to mount a museum exhibition about the work of a groundbreaking architect.

Trevor Kowal was one of 15 students who traveled to Japan for a studio with a focus on universal design and the principles of universal design. Also called inclusive design, universal design produces buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to the widest range of people possible, including people with different physical, perceptual and cognitive abilities.

The purpose of the class, Kowal says, is to expand the target design population and to take design to populations that don’t “unfortunately get included in most designs.”

Loretta Wall, a registered nurse working toward a masters degree in health innovation (MHI) in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, was part of a group of students and faculty from both MHI and The Design School’s Healthcare and Healthing Environments program that spent seven days in Australia looking at the intersection of restorative environments and healthcare for indigenous population. For Wall, the most important part of the design studio experience was getting the perspectives of different professionals on this critical issue.

Lane Plattner, who also traveled to Australia, found the healthcare and design combination “really unusual," just because school is generally so siloed. They’re two totally separate schools, so why would they ever normally come together, but it makes a ton of sense. As a designer, you know that your built environment affects every aspect of your life including your wellbeing. So why would they not be more combined?”

Leilani Carr, who participated in the New Orleans studio, says, “We wanted to look at the city as a whole, how it functions, and then see what all of us could kind of narrow in on as far as how we might be able to help.”

“We went to study a city that was actually affected by a disaster,” adds Megha Parashar, “where we could see the effects of it and how people have tried to make it better and how the rebuilding is happening in the city.”

Rob Huff was part of a group that traveled to Montreal, New York City and Washington, D.C., to study exhibition design. The group then returned to Phoenix and worked with ASU Art Museum staff to design an exhibition about the work of architect Glenn Murcutt; that exhibition, “Architecture for Place: Glenn Murcutt,” is on view at the museum through April 4.

Leo Zhang, who traveled to Japan, says of his experience: “We got to see the culture and most of the tourist sites, but we got to actually go to the companies that were doing what we’re doing and we got to actually see how they did it. This is stuff that people don’t usually get to see, so we’re very fortunate that we got to go to these companies and they gave these workshops.”

“It’s just a really different experience, and being in a world culture like this gets me really excited,” says Parashar. “They encourage you a lot, and I definitely want to work here for some time.

Daniel Gault, who traveled to Japan, says, “It really puts your global citizenship in a bigger perspective than I’ve previously had. So that I’ll take with me – just an awareness of the needs of different people in different areas of the world.”

This year’s fifth year students are in the process of finding out where they’ll be going next year; their options include France, China, Turkey, Italy, Japan, Mexico and the Netherlands.

Media Contact:
Deborah Sussman Susser