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Siebel Center for Design May 2021 News

Siebel Center for Design is unique among design centers in the United States. Our mission: to practice, model, and teach design thinking, using human-centered design to reimagine our campus, community, and collective world. Siebel Center for Design is a catalyst for and driver of multidisciplinary collaboration and study. Our 60,000 square foot facility provides space for programming, instruction, prototyping, events, meetings, and more, and serves as a human-centered design focal point bringing together people from all disciplines, cultures, and realities.

The location of the new Illini Dads Centennial Plaza, near Alice Campbell Alumni Center 

How might we design a campus space that honors the impact of father figures on Illinois students? 

At Siebel Center for Design, collaboration is the name of the game. We’re proud to work with a variety of campus departments and organizations to infuse human-centered design thinking into various curricula. This semester, we had the opportunity to offer a new class in collaboration with the School of Art and Design, Facilities and Services, Student Affairs, and the Illini Dads Association called Design Thinking for a Campus Space.

Led by SCD Lecturer Amanda Henderson, 30 undergraduate students from various disciplines had the opportunity to use design thinking to develop concepts for a new, commemorative space supported by the Illini Dads Association, the oldest known parent association in the United States. Since 1922, the Dads have supported student success through opportunities, scholarships, and relationship building. This new plaza - prominently located just north of Alice Campbell Alumni Center - will mark the Dads’ 2022 centennial celebration and create a space that honors the impact of dads and father figures on Illinois students.

Students in the course conducted immersive research, place-based observations, and user interviews to understand the needs of the plaza’s stakeholders and then worked collaboratively in teams to develop cohesive concepts for implementation. Henderson said that it was especially important to encourage the students to think outside the box of traditional fatherhood, honoring the needs and perspectives of people with different lived experiences, whose father figures may have been an uncle, a brother, a friend, or even a teacher. The resulting designs will provide a holistic, inviting experience for all who visit the new space.

The Dads have been very involved throughout the course, providing students with regular feedback and critique to help shepherd the vision. They have been thrilled with the results of the collaboration. Chuck Dushman, co-chair of the 2022 Centennial Plaza Project and past president of the Dads said, “We have been amazed every step of the way. The human-centered design approach, the leadership and guidance of Amanda Henderson, and the truly inspired, creative efforts of the students have been awe-inspiring. This is a dream 'Dads Project': working with 'our kids' to create memories for the university, the community, and all students for generations. We could not be prouder.”

SCD is equally proud of the students and staff that helped bring this unique collaboration to life this semester. Students will present their final concepts to the Dads next week, and a team of graduate students will refine the concepts over the summer before ground is broken on the new space. An artist-in-residence will also be recruited to create and install the centerpiece of the plaza. We can’t wait to see it come to life in 2022!

 Kathleen Culligan, FAA '22

Intern Feature:
Kathleen Culligan (FAA '22) 
SCD connects students to unique experiential learning opportunities with campus and community partners. Kathleen Culligan, a junior studying industrial design and minoring in sustainability, energy, and the environment, has been working with SCD as a student intern since January 2020. We spoke with Kathleen about her experience as she wraps up her school year.

Why were you interested in working at Siebel Center for Design? 
I was really excited about attending Illinois because it is so interdisciplinary - I chose Industrial Design because I have an interest in art and in engineering - but I like to dabble in everything! I walked by the building every day during my freshman year, and when I was finally able to connect with [SCD Director] Rachel Switzky and learn about design thinking, I thought to myself, “that’s exactly what I’m missing.” 

What projects have you been involved with?
I have been involved with Molecule Maker Lab since I joined in January 2020. I also worked on the SCD building experience team during the internship last summer. That project looked at how the building will actually act and function and work once students are in the space. 

Tell me about the Molecule Maker Lab project. 
The ultimate goal of the Molecule Maker Lab is to democratize molecule making for anyone who wants to learn. This year, our focus has been on the online molecule builder platform - how to gamify and incentivize the online learning of chemistry - but also make it something that [people] really want to do! None of the members of our design team are educated in chemistry, so it’s been really cool to figure out how to insert design thinking principles into the scientific world and see how they intersect. 

How has it been collaborating with Dr. Marty Burke on this project?
There is such an energy that he brings - he is so excited and passionate about everything that we propose, and about SCD’s involvement with the project. The ‘blue sky’ thinking that Marty brings is uplifting and encouraging for our team - he really sees the [huge] potential that this initiative has, and is a great person to have leading the force. 

Has working at SCD been like you thought it would be? 
I enjoy doing it so much that it doesn’t even seem like a job to me. I have loved our team so much; this school year, in particular, we have really hit our stride. I definitely feel like I have [gained] a holistic understanding of how to do a full project, start to finish, using the HCD process like the back of my hand. I have loved seeing my projects grow from where they started to where they are now. 

What have you learned during your experience at SCD? 
I’ve learned a lot about team dynamics and how important it is to have a team where you can trust everyone. It’s the simple things that I hadn’t really honed into before - how to communicate well, be a good team member, storytelling, being proactive, and [definitely] the human-centered design process. I am now able to fit the human-centered design process into whatever I need it to fit into - whether that be school, or another creative process, or anything at all. It’s really just a different way of learning things. 

 SCD Sneak Peek Video

SCD Sneak Peek! 

In part two of our "SCD Sneak Peek" series, check out the teaching spaces at the new SCD headquarters. We hope to be able to show them off in person to many of you later this year! 

Kendra Wieneke 

Learn more about Siebel Center for Design

Kendra Wieneke
Associate Director of Business Development and Advancement
kwieneke@illinois.edu | 217.300.9383

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