Redefining Design, a Post-it Note at a Time

Student questions posed on Post-Its.

Visitors to the second floor of McNeal Hall may notice a unique display taking shape; a plethora of multicolored Post-its adorn the cork-board wall outside the design, housing, and apparel offices.

On each one is a question posed by a student ranging from the light-hearted (Is there a song that everyone loves?) to the serious (Why do some people enjoy hurting others?) and form the project basis for the Department of Graphic Design’s new Designer-in-Residence, Kelly Munson.

A full-time designer at mono, Munson’s new position at the College of Design is part of the University of Minnesota’s new External Stakeholder Engagement program. “I define my role as a bridge. A bridge connecting theory and practice. Each side needs each other. Sometimes colleges focus too much on the thinking and less on the doing, and vice versa. So it’s been great to live in both worlds and be empathetic to both sides,” said Munson.

With her colorful cork-board, Munson solicits questions and ideas from students on what problems they’d like to see addressed by design. “In the professional world our assignment is usually chosen for us, so it was a bit intimidating to know where to start. But, I circled back to what I think design means to me, which is all about problem solving, and asked students img_8596what things bothered them, what things they wished were better. That proved to be a great jumping off place.”

Using the student submissions as a starting point, Munson has created 4 projects, all of which are shared on the wall:

Project 1: Take something from our disposable culture and convert it into an heirloom.

Project 2: Create an item that adapts to the change in the snow sports industry.

Project 3: Create a community around the work commute.

Project 4: Get people to care about species loss in Minnesota.

Munson’s role gives students the unique opportunity to watch a professional designer work. But it’s also given Munson some new opportunities as well, “The freedom to fail has been the best opportunity for me. In professional settings there is always so much on the line; both for the designer and the client. It’s been nice to follow up on some more “dangerous” ideas that might not see the light of day on the outside.”

The next time you’re in McNeal stop by the second floor and see what Munson is up to! You can also follow her work on Instagram @designer_in_residence.

Learn more about Munson’s work and the University of Minnesota’s External Stakeholder Engagement program in the articles below:

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