Can you explain a little bit about the type of work you do?
As the Youth Programs Manager, I run DesignPrep, the museum’s series of free teen programs. DesignPrep offers designer-led workshops, studio visits, and college tours that focus on various design disciplines from fashion and architecture, to graphic design and product design. I also help oversee the DesignPrep Digital Badge initiative, which offers youth a way to record their experiences, track the skills they have developed, and demonstrate their design knowledge. By participating in DesignPrep youth earn digital badges. These micro-credentials are based on the design skills and knowledge youth garner during any one of our programs.
In conjunction with DesignPrep, I help cultivate a selected group of teens in our DesignPrep Scholars program. Scholars are selected through an application and interview process. Those who are selected take part in a unique opportunity to hone their professional skills, cultivate their design knowledge, and contribute to the museum’s mission to advance the public’s understanding of design.
As part of the National Design Awards and National Design Week, I also get to run the annual Teen Design Fair. Held every year both in Washington, D.C. and New York, the Teen Design Fair is an opportunity for youth to participate in one-minute-mentoring sessions with professional designers from different fields.
Overall, my job is to help connect youth to professional designers from the full spectrum of design disciplines, allowing them to experience what it’s like to work in the field and see themselves as professional designers.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I am a huge fan of potential. It’s something you get to see a lot when working with teens. I really enjoy the challenge of developing and building opportunities for teens, especially with the purpose of maximizing their potential. I am always rewarded when I get to witness someone discover something new about themselves.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
When developing programs for teens, it’s challenging to find a balance of rigor and fun. We want to engage all teens, from those who have a hint of interest in design to those who are determined to be the next great designer.
What is your favorite Cooper-Hewitt program to date? Why?
I’m a big fan of our Design Triennials. It was always exciting to see entire spaces devoted to the newest, most innovative design.
What was the most memorable moment for you at Cooper-Hewitt?
While visiting schools in Washington, D.C. to promote Cooper-Hewitt’s Teen Design Fair, we had the opportunity to speak with teens to learn about their views on design. We met Sohrab, a young man who shared with us how design has impacted the life of his little brother. Sohrab’s little brother lives with autism. For individuals living with autism it can often be accompanied by other challenges and disabilities. Part of his condition makes it difficult for him to eat. Sohrab told us how every so often a new design for medical equipment changed, making it easier for his little brother to intake food. Sohrab was able to witness design advance in a way that made life easier for his little brother. As one of my first experiences at Cooper-Hewitt, it definitely goes down as the most memorable.
How has the renovation either opened new doors or posed new challenges for you?
With the renovation came the Cooper-Hewitt Design Center in Harlem, which has been one of the main hubs for our DesignPrep programs. It has been a great space to run our multi-day Design Studio workshops as teens begin to really feel at home with the space. As a result, they begin to express their ideas more freely and produce some amazing design work.
Looking forward, what are you most excited about once the museum reopens?
Once the museum reopens, I’m excited to be able to walk through some of the amazing exhibitions that are being planned. I’m looking forward to being inspired by our exhibitions, to make new connections and develop new resources for teens.
What is good design? Bad design?
In a weird way, I think of good design as being invisible; it is implicit in nature and impacts our lives in such a fluid way. Sometimes good design is so good, we couldn’t imagine it any other way. Bad design can almost be too noticeable. We know when it doesn’t work and we sometimes, given the opportunity, find a multitude of ways to fix it. As the body is a unit of measure for design, we are always engaging design with our bodies and we know when it just doesn’t fit.
What is the future of design?
The design process has been made transparent and more accessible through various media sources and institutions. We also currently live in a time where more people identify as “makers,” “tinkerers,” and designers; a culture where people are taking the helm in designing their world. Therefore, it will be interesting to me to see how designers will navigate the challenging, albeit exciting, future of this creative environment.
Finally, if you could redesign anything, what would it be?
As a big fan of animation, I know that there are many stages in designing an animated feature. Therefore, in the vein of the Hollywood reboot, I'd love the opportunity to redesign the look of some of my favorite animated films.