ReDesign.School Roundtable Discussion: Los Angeles / Hosted at ASU California Center in Santa Monica / 05.21.18

On April 27th, The Design School at Arizona State University team ventured to our ASU offices in Santa Monica to engage with alumni, staff, local designers and educators in Los Angeles County to have a thoughtful conversation about the future of design. Below is a summary of the conversation and ideas provided during our roundtable workshop. 


Ben Bednarz – The Design School at ASU
Superintendent, Prototype/Modeling Shop

Paul Coseo – The Design School at ASU
Assistant Professor- Landscape Architecture

Ian Dickenson – LOHA

Julie Eizenberg – Koning Eizenberg Architecture

Mike Goetz – HOK
Senior Designer

Marc Neveu – Woodbury University
Associate Dean, School of Architecture

Christian Robert – R&A Architecture + Design

Michael Rotondi – Roto Architects Inc.

Jason Schupbach – The Design School, Arizona State University

Brett Steele – University of California- Los Angeles
Dean, School of the Arts and Architecture

Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter – Woodbury University
Dean, School of Architecture

After introductions, a warm-up exercise started off the day, with participants writing down their answers to the question, “Where is design going?” 

Where is design going?

Post-it note exercise – Full Group


Ian Dickenson

  • Non-traditional/non-linear
  • Here + Now
  • Establish + Dismantle (Structures)

Marc Neveu

  • Hopefully people will have more access to good design
  • Design becoming a part of everything
  • Hopefully good design is becoming more relevant

Julie Eizenberg

  • Design has more value
  • Dispersing- becoming part of everything
  • Cross boundaries

Michael Rotondi

  • Designers need to be higher on the food chain; in the rooms where decisions are being made
  • How to get composite stories out of many stories
  • Problem-formation

Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter

  • Inclusive- we need greater diversity of voices and types of voices
  • Experiential- moving away from digital experience
  • Project-based- homelessness, climate change- we can be leading on these big conversations

Ben Bednarz

  • Inclusive
  • Collaborative- between disciplines
  • Universal- design applies to our entire world

Brett Steele

  • Design becoming everything else- designers seeing a wider world of possible projects- good and bad
  • Design is becoming too big- it has been industrialized to the point that it’s become a monster
  • Leaving the studio behind- designers are nomadic- studio is everywhere
  • Design is inventing its own history

Christian Robert

  • Unique space for smaller firms at this time
  • Less tied to one style

Mike Goetz

  • Data driven
  • Adaptable
  • Well-being

Paul Coseo

  • Design processes that will focus on vulnerable communities first
  • Resilient design- processes and outcomes- adapting to change

Final thoughts:

Julie Eizenberg

  • Points on non-linear thinking is a really important change
  • Algorithms are becoming more prevalent, which are non-linear

Michael Rotondi

  • As non-linear thinking becomes more prevalent, our educational system is still very linear-focused
  • There is difficulty in higher education to overcome this



Attendees were then led into smaller group conversations to discuss the remaining 4 key questions. 


How can design education be more relevant?

Small group discussion


Paul Coseo, Christian Robert and Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter

  • Focus on project-based learning: learning with real partners
  • Work on complex problems that may not have been design-focused before
  • Clarify the question – Relevant for what? Arizona, national, technical, applied skills, etc.
  • Understand trade skills and the role of the draftsperson
  • Provide K-12 and community college support for design
  • Consider: Should the university drive innovation?
  • Use the collaborative process and design thinking as a way to incubate other ideas throughout the university
  • Designers should take on other non-traditional roles
  • Think of design skills more broadly

Ben Bednarz,

Ian Dickenson, Julie Eizenberg and Mike Goetz

  • Designing with constraints
  • Offer more practical/usable skillsets
  • Reframe the semester: what if the problem is longer than the semester? What if it is a day-long project?
  • Think of the university as a venture-capitalist, investing in its own ideas

Marc Neveu, Michael Rotondi and Brett Steele

  • What is “Relevant” – being at the table, being involved in other disciplines
  • Consider how to we leverage situations as they are, rather than how they used to be
  • Be more nimble may allow designers to be more relevant


Give us an idea for an ideal transdisciplinary studio, course, project, etc?

Two small group discussion


Julie Eisenberg, Marc Neveu, Michael Rotondi and Brett Steele

  • Introduce a “Wet” class:
    • Pick a location in the desert – the space between buildings in desert allows for expansive idea.
    • Don’t make the class a fixed term; student-defined duration
    • There needs to be an aesthetic, experiential component to whatever complex problem is being proposed

Ben Bednarz, Paul Coseo, Mike Goetz and Christian Robert

  • Have a client-based approach focused on a real problem, such as landscape, architecture, scientists, graphic designers, business
  • Address an unconventional problem – examples: a lunar landscape project
  • How do you challenge the students around the problem?


What are the skillsets of the future we should be teaching now?

Small group discussions


Julie Eizenberg, Michael Rotondi and Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter

  • Soft skills, like empathy, contemplative dialog, collaboration and visualization
  • Comfortable being uncomfortable
  • Storytelling- being persuasive and clear in ideas to diverse audiences; thinking about branding; communicating ideas in non-traditional ways
  • Adaptive learning using Digital tools
  • Dots versus universes- students should
  • Hand craft and manual skills vs. technology
  • Active relationships with drawing
  • Emergent skills – inability of students to see that their drawing provides more than one possibility
  • Diverse conversation
  • Nuture curiousity
  • Learn how to frame a question
  • Learn how to fail

Ben Bednarz, Marc Neveu and Brett Steele

  • Critical thinking
  • Advocacy
  • Empathy
  • Writing
  • Cultural competency and awareness
  • Presentation skills and substance lacking
  • Communicate complex problems and make a case
  • Meet all needs and define constraints: technology, accessiblity, business and empathy
  • Adaptability and being comfortable with change
  • learning to fail
  • Equally challenge students of different background and cultures, teaching for diverse cultures
  • Cultural literacy
  • Learn hard skills and build a foundation
  • Must experience it – use matierals
  • The ability to prototype – digital and physical

Paul Coseo, Mike Goetz and Ian Dickenson

  • Develop soft skills
  • The ability to be a thinker
  • Adaptive and responses in all scenarios
  • Comfortable being uncomfortable
  • Storytelling- learn how to sell an idea and the ability to interpret information
  • Learn about communication/body language
  • Sense of clarity in ideas
  • Learn from other disciplines- workshops/charrettes that allow for multi-disciplinary teams- similar to how practice works
  • Tell brand stories – the ability to find different tools and go beyond traditional tools
  • Think more broadly
  • Learn hardskills in workshops with multiple disciplines more often
  • Learn teamwork (no silos)
  • Build earlier communication skills
  • Empathy – use all five senses

Ben Bednarz, Marc Neveu and Christian Robert

  • Ability to communicate in a group setting
  • Framing a question versus how to solve it
  • Learning how to fail and be resilient
  • Be a magician- how to capture a room in a unique way
  • Making- physical modeling- mockups to communicate


What should a design school do to forward equity and inclusion?

Large group discussion

  • All: This question needs to be first
  • Brett Steele: Fold equity/inclusion in everything that is taught, all projects, not as an aside
  • Michael Rotondi: Why are domestic populations in higher ed going down? 
  • Christian Robert: The amount of student debt is exorbitant in this country and we must recognize how that contributes to inequality in higher education.
  • Julie Eisenberg: Show visible success. Architecture has not found a way to keep women in the profession, hasn’t set up a good support system for women during child-rearing ages. We must train our educators, we’re not doing a good job at that compared to other disciplines
  • Mike Goetz: Studio culture is designed to be hyper competitive and that just compounds the issues related to equity

ReDesign.School Roundtable Discussion: Los Angeles

Hosted at ASU California Center in Santa Monica

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