Getting Down to Design


(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

(Photo by Dane Goodwin)
(Photo by Dane Goodwin)

The U’s multidisciplinary design major, through the College of Architecture, is in its second year and will have its first graduating class this spring.
Currently, the program only has about 35 students.
Stella Liechty, a senior in design and the student representative of the program, said that before the program was created, she had been planning on creating her own major of general studies with a focus in design and marketing. Jim Agutter, the program’s founder, told Liechty to apply to the design program instead.
Liechty said this major has been a combination of everything she loves — independence, innovation and working with people.
In one of her classes, Liechty and her peers redesigned a crash cart for a hospital.
There are eight pre-major courses for the program, which include design classes and physics. The two-year program combines psychology, marketing, design, architecture and engineering.
Liechty said the classes she took in marketing and engineering are meant to help students gain a broader perspective of design so that when talking to an engineer about a product, the student will be able to keep up and understand.
Elpitha Tsoutsounakis, assistant professor in the program, has been involved since it began.
“Jim and Elpitha are like the parents of the program who love us like their kids,” Liechty said. “It’s a tight community.”
Tsoutsounakis said the program aims to create something unique for students. It expands the principles of design, showing there are no boundaries to design itself.
“The students inspire me to push boundaries and innovation and be exciting about it,” Tsoutsounakis said.
Liechty is currently working as a graphic designer. She said the class that inspired her the most was “Intro to Design Thinking,” which helped her gain more confidence in the design process.
Brian Charlesworth, a junior in the program, said the class was his “first introduction to a whole new world of design.”
Another class, “Digital Fabrication,” has students come up with a concept, build it and manufacture it. Liechty designed a simple tile and got some freelance work out of it.
Although this project was a non-starter, Liechty said it was a good first project and she was able to learn more about herself and the realm of business.
Liechty added that the program has also taught her she can’t be afraid of failure.
“The ability to look at things in a new way has been beneficial,” she said.
MaKell Webb, a junior in design, decided on this major because she realized architecture was not for her. After a fellowship with Tsoutsounakis, she applied for the program.
Webb has learned how to work on a team and become more confident through this program.
This year, the program added a History of Design course, which is open to all students. The program offers two tracks: one that is digitally related and one for the creation of physical products. To apply to the program, students must have at least a 3.0 GPA and submit a portfolio and a letter of intent.
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