A note from Leo Selvaggio

Prototyping Coordinator for the Design Thinking Initiative

Design thinking is a process that can be used by anyone, in any discipline, to reframe problems that produce creative solutions that might otherwise go unexplored. Unlike many other practices related to “Design” with a capital “D,” the design thinking process starts with empathy, community engagement, and human centeredness. This is at the core of what makes it such a bold proposition, because it champions design as a method of connecting with others, collaboratively empowering communities, and creating in service to others rather than as a framework in service to corporate interests. In a world riddled with wicked problems, fueled by political and corporate systems that feed off the disenfranchisement of so many, to design with empathy is a radical act, and it is one that I am proud to see the Smith community embracing.

The Design Thinking Initiative asserts that we are all designers. We all have the potential to challenge the status quo by offering wildly new and innovative human-centered solutions to all sorts of problems, from designing sustainable and easier-to-use trash receptacles for the Campus Center Café (which students in IDP 316 actually did) to reimagining how drones might be friendlier and less intimidating to a wary Northampton community, a task important to Smith’s Spatial Analysis Lab.

This year we distributed almost $40,000 to fund innovative, experimental and collaborative projects. Just a couple examples include Kim Dionne’s government class (Elections Around the World), in which students will redesign an electoral process and apply what they learn to SGA elections, as well as a collaboration between art professor Barbara Kellum and Barbara Polowy of the Art Library to develop hands-on experiences for students to grapple with organizing systems of knowledge in a library context. 

We provide support and infrastructure that allows our students and colleagues to succeed. The Design Thinking Initiative invites you to embrace that calling and empower yourself to address the problems that only you can see. Make the changes that you want to see in your school, community, or environment. If, in the process, you need support, new tools, or just some inspiration, that’s what we’re here for!

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