Monday Minute, April 20, 2009

Dear Colleagues,

I write to you having just returned from Niels Diffrient's lecture this evening in McNeal Hall. One of the great industrial designers of our era, he reminded me, through his work, of the potential synergies that we need to continue to build in our college. Trained as an architect, he has designed interiors and products, paid close attention to the needs of users, worked closely with manufacturers and retailers, and collaborated with graphic designers and textile designers, including his wife, Helena Hernmarck, who lectures tomorrow night in 33 McNeal at 6 p.m. Few colleges have the range of disciplines we have to do such integrated work, and we need to take advantage of our breadth by making connections among our fields, as Diffrient has done so brilliantly in his designs.

This is particularly true in times like these. The poor economic climate can make us all want to hunker down, but that is exactly what we shouldn't do. The solution to our budget challenge lies, in part, in reaching out to others and developing large-enrollment courses that would appeal to students across the University. I can see at least one such course coming out of each of our programs, addressing the widespread interest among students in the designed environment in which we live, work, and shop. Such courses would not only help our student credit hour balance-of-trade, as Brad Hokanson put it in his presentation at the faculty assembly on Friday, but they would also help the general student body become better informed clients, users, and consumers in the future. As Diffrient's lecture tonight showed, good design can pack a hall -- so let's get packing.