Archive for the ‘information systems’Category

Remembering Sylvia Harris

By Michele Y. Washington design critic and friend

photo credit: george larkins

The process of paying tribute to the passing of my dear friend Sylvia Harris is an honor, but at the same time it’s perplexing. It is with profound sadness that the design community mourns the lost of Sylvia who passed away on July 24th at the age of 57. On Thursday, July 21st, she collapsed during a meeting in Washington, was rushed to George Washington University Hospital where doctors put her on life support. Surrounded by a host of family members and heartfelt friends who rallied by her side, she later passed due to heart complications.

Sylvia was a beacon, one of those luminous stars whose brilliance encapsulated the design profession at a time when black women designers were few in numbers. I first stumbled upon an article in either Print Magazine of Communication Arts featuring Sylvia with her partners at Two Twelve Associates, a firm she helped cofound with several classmates from Yale Graduate School of Design. It was her smiling face beaming from the photo, a fluke phone call that lead to us meeting. And thus our 20-year friendship blossomed.

Her vibrant career spans more than 25 years. Sylvia functioned in the design community more like a cultural ambassador, serving on the AIGA national board, the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, and was the recipient of a Design Trust Fellowship for Taxi 07.  Much like that fluke phone of us meeting planted the seeds of friendship, the same scenario replayed when Sylvia joined forces with a group of designers that ignited the charge for the first OBD conference,“Dogon to Digital,” held in Chicago. Known as a kind-spirited person, Sylvia could always be called upon to mentor and inspire numerous designers, whom she counseled to keep forging ahead and they too could make inroads in the design profession.

Gail Anderson, Michele Y. Washington and Sylvia Harris

Recently, Sylvia rebranded her firm from Sylvia Harris LLC to Citizen Research & Design a name befitting of her commitment in communicating the needs of public programming and design policy for government, educational and non-profit institutions. Last summer 2010, Sylvia participated in Design Journey: You Are Here, exhibit held at the AIGA national headquarters in NYC. (click this link:

Yes, I can boast of the mountainous accolades and awards as an acclaimed information designer, however her biggest rewards were being a loving wife to Gary, an attentive mother to a teenage daughter Thai, and fabulous sister to Juliette Harris, and a gracious friend to many. We will all miss Sylvia’s fortitude for life, her spirited walk, sparkling smile, inquisitive chats, and her brilliant mind. (Above image from AIGA Design Journey opening, Spring 2010).

Please share your blessings as Sylvia’s spirit walks through the starry night skies along her journey.

Details for a memorial service will be posted during the fall on

Citizen R&D BCAT Feature from CitizenRD on Vimeo.

IRAAA Special Issue Merges Science, Technology, Art + Design

The International Review of African American Art just published a special issue which shows how aesthetic, scientific and mathematical configurations can be perceived in everything and experienced in many ways. This full seeing and being is a spark for innovation in art, science, technology, engineering, architecture and mathematics and, more broadly, in education and business… and life!

This Spring issue features a spectacular group of design and cultural critics, and theorist writing on science, Afro Futurism, STEM Education and the Interplay of Patterns are just a few of the amazing features highlighted in this issue. Pick up a copy and delve into creative intelligence!


OpenInvo Wants YOUR Ideas

Fellow SVA Alumni Emily Lutzker has launched OPENINVO an innovative  online community for businesses that bridges people from the arts and creative fields with corporations.

If you have a brilliant idea for a new product or service, then join as an Idea Provider. We then present your ideas to corporations looking to innovate. The system protects your intellectual property along the way and we make it our job to get you the best compensation for your ideas. OpenInvo is an R&D resource for open innovation where individuals submit ideas for new products and services and companies gain access to those ideas for innovative new solutions

For more information link to: OpenInvo: unexpected innovation. unexpected opportunity.




04 2011

Black Studies in Art & Design Education Conference

Coming in March
Black Studies in Art & Design Education Conference at the The New School

March 26th-27th 2011. Two Day Conference on interdisciplinary conference on Black Studies in Art and Design Education, featuring speakers from art, fashion. architecture, urban planning, art and design history and theory. Organised by Coco Fusco and Yvonne Watkins, Parsons The New School for Design, New York. Presenters include: Craig Wilkins, University of Michigan; Mabel Wilson, Columbia University; Noel Mayo, Ohio State; Carol Tulloch, Chelsea College of Art and Design; Jennifer Gonzales, North Carolina State University; Michele Y. Washington, School of Visual Arts; Kim Piner, School of the Arts Institute of Chicago; Noliwe Rooks, Princeton University; Clyde Johnson MICA are amongst the list of designers, cultural and design critics, and educators presenters.

The conference is intended to be a forum for reflection on the troubling gap between the notable significance of Black creativity in global culture and its lack of presence in art and design education. The goal of the conference is to elaborate and assess strategies of reform that would diversify curricular offerings and thus improve education for all art and design students while simultaneously generating a more supportive environment for Black students and faculty.

Scholars and practitioners in Fine Arts, Industrial Design, Fashion Design, Architecture, Urban Planning and Art and Design History and Theory will engage in an interdisciplinary discussion about the challenges involved in rethinking  curriculum, engaging with historically disenfranchised communities, and recruiting and retaining Black students and faculty. The conference will also feature two keynote speeches by prominent members of the fields under  figures whose efforts have been central to diversifying the many fields that comprise art and design studies. Panels will address the following topics: rethinking art and design theory and history courses in light of the global influence of cultures of the African diaspora; curricular reform in practical courses of art and design; strategies of engagement with black communities; Black student experiences in art and design schools; and the specific challenges of recruiting and retaining Black students and faculty in school of art and design.

photo credit:

GLIDE10: Fabiola Berdiel + Cynthia Lawson Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design.

GLIDE10: Fabiola Berdiel + Cynthia Lawson Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design presenters brings us up-to-date on Parsons School of Design ongoing mission of incorporating social responsibility in to learning processes as applied to several design disciplines such as product, architecture and more.

One great aspect of Parsons School of Design  program is there hybridity of bringing students together from various disciplines to share information to build stronger coherent knowledge bases. The challenge is instructors function as facilitators, this mode of teaching forces the students to take a more interactive role to immerse themselves fully in there projects, and learn new platforms of studying beyond formal and informal methods of learning.  Students also have the opportunity to acquire primary research through traveling to developing/emerging  countries and explore various modes of practices while interacting with local people,  investigating new materials and methods to enhance new ways of design thinking. This provides the student with practical and hands-on experiences to build a diverse dialog rooted  in social and cultural constructs not available by just sitting in a classroom or surfing the internet.


I’m curious how the outcomes are measured by the students each semester? When the students interact with other cultures through travels, how does this figure into the collaborative process? How do these other ethnic cultures respond to the presences of your students?

I love the concept of students taking on the role of facilitators as a shared experience with this projects. How does this method evolve from semester to semester? Do the students view themselves as real agents of change? If so what are some of the outcomes?

What are the draws backs of the participatory process in this model of learning?

For more information click on:

FIT Exhibition Design Project: Food Opera

In my classroom I challenge my students to think beyond there own cultural beliefs and to expand the dialog of what globalization and culture means as applied to their ideation and design thinking. Here are a few examples of mindmapping/billboarding techniques used to jump start there projects. Below are several examples of students finished projects, billboarding presentations and team interactions.

Isabeal Maryland Crab presentation

Roni, Sarah and Sparky deep in thought

Dominka Polish Food expo, she incorporated poetic verses.

GLIDE10: Keynote presenter Audra Buck-Coleman from China

Stick + Stones project

Audra Buck-Coleman, is our first keynote speaker of the day, Coleman’s topic Identifying Potential Pitfalls + Windfalls in Collaborative Projects will definitely set the tone for what follows. She will address some major issues surrounding collaboration, and it consistent use as a  buzz word in higher education. Finally she proposes design educators develop more projects that foster critical thinking skills to make students better prepared for today’s creative working environments. Audra explores some of the pitfalls that exist with her projects, and investigates the advantages and disadvantages of working collectively across boarders with other cultures where English is not there first language.

How can design educators adept some of Audra’s rich skills and knowledge for collaborative projects?

What happens when language is a barrier to enhance collaborative critical learning outcomes?

Audra’s presents one project between Blacks students in  southern community and Mormons who came to realized they shared  more similarities then differences.

She proposes the following question to consider: When working on collaborative projects do your students know how to navigate through stereotyping issues with other ethnic, religious, gender based groups?

Audra proposes the following suggestions based on her collaborative experience of working with Students in China:

Chinese students prefer organized structured learning over US students flexible learning.

What is your Classroom Culture?

Are you well versed in the nuances of the culture?

How prepared are you for flexibility and improvisation in the classroom?

What are the benefits of the professors experience from collaboration?

Check out: Stick + Stones

THIS WEEK’S BUZZ: GLIDE10 + Global Bloggers

Sorry I took a little time-out, however I’m back with this week’s buzz. Eric Benson from the University of Illinois, in Urbana and I will be the quest blogger for GLIDE10, a virtual symposium taking place on 27 October, 2010, starting early at 8:30AM. Eric maintains renourish blog that focuses on sustainable design. We’ll be posting questions on our blogs, and twitting simultaneously during each presenters talk from all over the globe. This years theme focuses on indigenous design with line-up featuring a host of design intellectuals from around the world, such as Audra Buck-Coleman from China, Adream Blair-Early from USA, Dr. Li-Hsun Peng and Chia-Hsin, from Taiwan are among some of the distinguished presenters this year. Great you don’t need to travel anywhere far. It’s easy to register then throw back while you relax  at home in front of your computer, TV in your jammies, or office or classroom space and just listen.

Keep in mind none of my commentary postings directly reflect the opinions of the conference planning committee Audrey Bennett, Adream Blair-Early and Gloria Gomez. As a designer and educator I was asked to share my opinions and that’s exactly what I have done.

ARCHITECTURE: Renee Kemp-Rotan’s Call For Haiti

Renee Kemp-Rotan co-founder of the blog, and the director of Capital Projects for the City of Birmingham, Alabama has authored a project to revitalize the devastated country of Haiti. She’s seeking all those creative visionaries interested in helping to rebuild Haiti to answer the international call for papers.

The following as reported on BDN:


by Renee Kemp-Rotan, author of the code
A Culture Code for Haiti: The Rebuilding of National Identity through Architecture (NIA) assumes that culturally informed architecture can help to fulfill new national ideals, through rebuilding Haiti as a utopian civilization with NIA/purpose.
First, The Culture Code will outline a comprehensive framework of 100 cultural considerations advanced across the socio-economic geography of pre-colonial, colonial, post-colonial and post-earthquake Haiti, in a way that informs all future design and development.
Second, The Culture Code is an international call for papers to address 100 topics on Haitian culture, politics and space for:
•    cultural anthropologists
•    geographers
•    policy planners
•    urban designers
•    architects
•    developers
•    economists
•    historians
•    disaster experts
Third, The Culture Code will meld ‘form and content’ data collected above to propose a series of design principles structured to influence all future and permanent master plan efforts in the rebuilding of post-earthquake Haiti. Thus both quantitative and qualitative design decisions can be made.
Fourth, The Culture Code will develop specific ‘pilot prototypes’ that lead to a system of development contracts that follow best practices for town planning/settlement building/housing designs (macro and micro) that  are culturally significant, replicable, yet influenced by population capacity, location, geography, transportation, communication and resources.

For more information: visit

On Point: Social Media Revolution 2 (Refresh)

Just out.  While media moves through space quicker than superman, this new updated version of Social Media Revolution 2 differs drastically from last years outdated video, this version is fresher with new stats and graphics.
Social Media Revolution 2 is a refresh of the original video with new and updated social media & mobile statistics that are hard to ignore. Based on the book Socialnomics by Erik Qualman.
As reported by the SocialTimes Blog:
Socialnomics Revisits ‘Social Media Revolution’
Last August Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics, introduced ‘Social Media Revolution’, an infographic video chock full of social media statistics.  The original video was a hit, with over 1.8 million views, but in the 9 months since it was released the world of social media has changed quite a bit and many of the statistics represented in the video have become outdated.  Yesterday, Socialnomics released a refresh of their video, new and improved with up-to-date social media and mobile statistics, facts and figures.
For more read the SocialTImes.