Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies

Collaborations: MFA CD Blog

Jonah Lehrer visits Collaborative Design Program

The Collaborative Design program in partnership with The Brain Institute at OHSU brought together Jonah Lehrer and a small group of writers, organizations and students particularly interested in creativity and brain function. The conversation was intimate, lively and inspiring. Students were especially delighted for the opportunity to interact in this small group setting.

Jonah is in Portland to deliver a public lecture (see below).

TUESDAY, APRIL 10, 2012*
Creativity and the brain: What is it, who has it and how do we achieve it?
Jonah Lehrer
Author, Imagine: How Creativity Works and Proust Was a Neuroscientist, Los Angeles
Can we learn how to be more creative? As it turns out, we can, says Jonah Lehrer. Lehrer is the journalist whose writings on neuroscience—for Wired, The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine, among others—become immediate flashpoints for discussion. In his new book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, Lehrer, the bestselling author, most recently of How We Decide, shows us that creativity is not some near-mystical trait that some people seem to possess, and which others try desperately to capture. We can—all of us—take practical steps to become more creative in everything we do.

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Timothy Beatley Lecture

MFA CD Lecture: Timothy Beatley

Timothy Beatley visited the Collaborative Design program some weeks ago, and gave a public lecture in the PNCA Commons about Biophilic Cities, the topic of his most recent book. His visit was sponsored principally by the City of Portland—the Bureau of Environmental Services, and additionally, by the Intertwine Alliance.
PNCA’s Untitled Magazine recently posted his lecture so you can take a listen, even if you couldn’t be there the first time around.

In “Biophilic Cities: Integrating Nature into Urban Design and Planning,” Timothy Beatley argues that cities can and must be designed to permit daily contact with the natural world. He identifies a variety of means for doing this, from green walls and green rooftops to urban forests and sidewalk gardens.

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Good Ideas for Cities Forum

Text borrowed from MFA ’13 Katie Mays’ blog

Check out this article about the GOOD Ideas for Cities forum held in Portland on Thursday. ADX approached PNCA Collaborative Design to collaborate on our Marshall High School plan. It turned out pretty awesome, and we got to help present at the forum! Looking forward to see what comes of this.

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Collaborative Design Open Studios

Visitors to the studio checking out student work.

The Collaborative Design studio finally opened its doors to the wider world by having an Open House, and it was a wonderful event! We had a great turn-out, and students really pulled the place together for a truly successful show.

Below are some photos borrowed from Laura DeVito, MFA ’13.

Dave Laubenthal MFA ’13 chatting with instructor Howard Silverman.

An example of some of the work being shown.

PNCA Commons Re-design project

The big wigs: Howard Silverman, Don Harker, and Peter Schoonmaker (MFA Chair).

See a slideshow from the open studios on PNCA’s Flickr page:

Flickr photos by Micah Fischer ’13

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Student Feature: Katie Mays

Katie speaking with someone at Sisters of the Road. Image by Laura DeVito MFA ’13

Katie Mays is originally a Midwesterner—raised in Quincy, Illinois, but lived in Chicago for six years prior to moving to Portland. Her thesis centered on the idea of Design Volunteerism— enabling design students to gain real world experience working on social change projects that wouldn’t normally fall within the scope of traditional design practices. After graduating, she filled a variety of roles including working as a junior designer at a commercial architecture firm, and as a personal assistant to an entrepreneur.

Katie Mays
An example of Katie’s former work, designing low-income housing. Image taken from her website.

She moved to Portland last year to work as a Jesuit Volunteer at Sisters Of The Road, a nonprofit cafe in Old Town that serves meals to folks experiencing homelessness. Katie seeks to honestly evaluate her role in the world, and find a way to work towards a future that is just—her intention is to find the intersection where design meets social justice. She believes the way to accomplish this is through collaboration: the relentless, open-minded exploration of every idea among diverse ways of thinking, by incredibly intelligent people.

Image by Laura DeVito

Katie enjoys cold-brew iced coffee, mountains, fractals, Venn diagrams, trips to Seattle, Skype dates with her sister, and cooking dinner for other people.

Katie hard at work in the beginning stages of studio renovation last semester. Photo by Laura DeVito.

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Christopher Phillips Visits the Studio

Text by Dustin Freemont MFA ’13
Christopher Phillips talking to CD students

The PNCA MFA Collaborative Design program was honored to host Christopher Phillips for a Constitution Café on February 1st. Members of the program were joined by community residents, members of OccupyPDX, and Illahee board members. Phillips’ notion of a Constitution Café is to provoke discussion around the language of the constitution, something most of us probably regard as sacrosanct. In a time when our politics are so polarized, the Café was an enjoyable, non-partisan discussion. We discussed an extract from the 1st amendment:

“Congress shall make no law… abridging… the right of the people to peaceably assemble.”

Phillips guided the group through several key questions surrounding the seemingly simple wording. Why just Congress and not any other part of the government (federal or local?)? Should where they assemble be specified (on public land? What constitutes public?)? Who decides what is peaceable? Would the term non-violent be more clear? Shouldn’t Congress actively protect my right to assemble, instead of merely just not making prohibitive laws?

Image from Washington Post

We constructed a couple of alternate versions: “Congress shall protect/facilitate the right of the people to peaceably assemble” and “No arm of the government should obstruct the ability of the people to peaceably assemble.” Some clarifying statements such as “on public property,” in the end, we felt were better left alone to keep rights and privilege more open to interpretation.

These questions were discussed against the backdrop of recent Occupy oustings around the country. They were done at the city-level; technically Congress did not interfere. Does this failure call for an amending of the Constitution? Phillips sees no harm in considering it, and as a political scientist, I agree. Yet while I will not foist my opinion on this audience, I’ll only say that the longer I contemplated the original wording, the more convinced I was of its wisdom.

Phillips’ book. Image from BookSmith

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Reading List

From the “Building as Business” article on MetropolisMag

The reading list of Collaborative Design students is always varied and widespread—we collectively try to maintain an all-encompassing, holistic view of the world.
Just to give you a brief glimpse into what students are keeping up with these days, here’s a handful of what’s currently on the studio magazine rack:

Sight & Sound
Handbook on Community-Led Total Sanitation
Bon Appetit
Popular Mechanics

Image from Popular Mechanics. Story about the superpowers of spider-silk

Rotman Magazine of the Rotman School of Management
Fast Company
National Geographic
The New Yorker
Harvard Magazine
Harper’s Bazaar
T Magazine
Outside Buyers Guide
BEAR Deluxe
The Economist

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Student Feature: Emma Dorothy Conley

Image from Emma’s site

Emma Dorothy Conley attended the University of San Diego and Bennington College in her undergraduate education. Her focus was in sculpture, installation, performance, and interactive art. Her work was mostly conceptual and consisted of mixed media with an emphasis on the fantastical or speculative. Emma’s work occasionally involved printmaking and digital art. Her thesis project was a floating dwelling designed for the pond at Bennington College. She moved from Massachusetts to Portland in 2010, and is now a first-year student in the Collaborative Design program. Her work continues to be invariably cross-disciplinary and multi-faceted.

An visual hint of how varied Emma’s projects have been in the past.

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Intertwine Field Trip

Mentor Mike Houck and MFA Chair Peter Schoonmaker

This past weekend, the Intertwine class went on a Field Trip to visit some of the green spaces around town, including Jamison Square, Oaks Bottom, Tanner Springs, and several other destinations.

Laura DeVito MFA ’13 has kindly shared some of her photos from the adventure. Check out the following images to go on a short tour of urban Intertwine spaces!












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Design Intertwine

The Intertwine
Image via The Intertwine

One of the most exciting studio labs that students are participating in this semester is Design Intertwine, with mentor Mike Houck. What is the Intertwine?—it simply refers to the amazing network of parks, trails and natural areas in the Portland-Vancouver area.

Places you might explore: The Gorge. Photo via Democratic Underground

The Intertwine has united a broad coalition of public agencies, private businesses and nonprofits to celebrate, protect and improve this network of outdoor places and trails. As partners in what is called The Intertwine Alliance, we check our jurisdictional and geographical boundaries at the door to work side-by-side toward a common mission. By joining forces, we boost our effectiveness to increase investment in our parks and expand conservation efforts.

Experience the Intertwine
Image via The Intertwine

The Intertwine Alliance has two major objectives: to ensure the region’s network of parks, trails and natural areas are completed and cared for; and to help the residents of the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region connect with nature and live active, healthy lives.

Photo via Portland Monthly

Intertwine Activities

+ Paddling Ross Island
+ Running the Wildwood Trail through Hoyt Arboretum to the Pittock Mansion
+ Waterfalls at Jamison Square
+ Walking the Oaks Bottom Loop
+ On Sauvie Island: Afloat in the City
+ Birding, Sake and Wine to the MAX

All ideas via The Intertwine

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Student Feature: Dave Laubenthal

Image via Dave’s website

After studying architecture and sculpture at Arizona State University, Dave Laubenthal worked for Michael Curry Design, managing the sculpture department for 8 years. Dave still collaborates with MCD occasionally on commissioned projects, with highlights including masks and puppets for Broadway’s Lion King, Cirque du Soleil, and the Winter Olympics opening and closing ceremonies in Salt Lake City, Utah. Dave has been operating his own company, DJL Studio since 2001, specializing in custom design and fabrication in wood and steel. Objects include furniture, lighting and fixturing. He has shown sculpture and encaustic paintings in various group and solo shows in Portland and in Phoenix, Arizona.

Most recently Dave has worked on a large project for Brooks shoes, for which he co-designed and fabricated kits for the international rollout of their new Pure line. This project has also led to further opportunities to create similar work for Mountain Hardware. Currently Dave is working on two separate public art commissions for the city of Portland. One is an ongoing sculpture installation at the Burnside Couplet (MLK and Burnside) as part of the design collective, LODGE. The second project is a sculpture piece he is working on with mosaic artist, Ruth Frances Greenberg, which will be installed in NE Alberta.

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2011-2012 Courses + Labs

Image from Joan Lundell’s MFA ’13 blog ; Collaboration with W+K on the Oregon Sustainability Center

One of the most unique elements to the Collaborative Design program is simply how, well, collaborative it is—not merely between students within the program, but within the urban landscape as a whole. The best way to describe this contextualization of the program within Portland and the larger Pacific Northwest is to look at the city as a living learning lab, where students are interacting with real-world issues on a daily basis. Not only do they confront relevant problems face-on, but they get to do it with some of the biggest and brightest designers, thinkers, anthropologists, programmers, writers, makers, etc. that the city has to offer.
Below you’ll find some of the exciting collaborations that have been taking place thus far:

+ Problems and Stakeholders; Urban Rural Design; Collaboration and Facilitation, Peter Schoonmaker, Program Chair

+ Systems Thinking, Howard Silverman, Ecotrust

+ Interactive Design, Mayank Sharma, Intel

+ Brainstorming and Facilitation; Business Planning for Creatives, Aric Wood, Dachis Group

+ Sanitation, Hygiene, and Integrated Technologies, Molly Danielsson and Mathew Lippincott, Cloacina Project

+ Oregon Sustainability Center, Nick Barham and Jamie Ostrov, Wieden + Kennedy

+ Web Design Interaction, Scott Sakamoto, Ronin Studios

+ Institutional Design, Don Harker, Sustainable Northwest

+ Design Intertwine, Mike Houck, Urban Greenspaces Institute

+ Design Ecologies, Kathryn Langstaff, Autopoiesis

+ Food Systems Design, Bonnie Bruce, Celilo Gardens

+ Portland Home(less), Tom Webb, The Bear Deluxe Magazine

+ Sousveillence, Dawn Nafus, Intel

+ Design Bootcamp, Paul Platosh, Puddletown Press

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Student Feature: Joan Lundell

Image via Joan’s website.

Joan Lundell earned a Bachelor of Industrial Design degree at Auburn University. After graduation she lived for one year at Arcosanti, a sustainable community located in the high desert of Arizona designed by visionary architect Paolo Soleri. While there she worked in the bronze foundry crafting the bells that are sold to generate funding for the project. Following six months of travel throughout South America studying the language and culture, she settled in Portland where she worked for PVS In-Store Graphics, a large format print production company. Her responsibilities included working with clients to develop prototypes for retail displays and signage.

Joan recently started a Collaborative Design blog, highlighting inspiring projects, videos, people, ideas, and movements. As stated by Joan: “Here you will be able to see examples of new and old ways of design thinking through student work, sustainable design efforts, systems theory, design ecologies and social design practices. Take a closer look, from a student perspective, at the MFA program in Collaborative design at PNCA. After browsing through these posts and checking out the links you should have a pretty good idea of what it’s all about!”

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Software Ecosystems Design Presentations


The fall semester wrapped up with an informal Open House at the Collaborative Design studio, focused on a series of three presentations from the students involved in Mayank Sharma’s Software Ecosystems course. As outlined by Intel Designer and anthropologist Sharma, this studio lab was designed to address the following:

Small enterprises, including various social-good players like NGO’s, education, small government, social entrepreneurs, and impact investors, have traditionally been relegated to developing their own applications (one-offs) for running their own businesses. OR they have been required to shoehorn other large enterprise applications to accommodate needs from certain parts of their smaller and more unique businesses. Within the last three to four years, the software application landscape is undergoing drastic transformation from a multi-function/user/“shrink-wrapped”/several-hundred-dollar marketplace, to a simple/focused/function/individual user/few bucks marketplace. Can this changing software application landscape provide opportunities for small enterprises in a local community to band together with a goal of innovation, efficiency, and economic sustainability?


Students tried to deal with some of these questions and issues by developing their own software ecosystems for three specific demographics: teenagers, small start-up businesses, and individuals who are afflicted by homelessness. The images represent some of the research material and software systems created by the students over the course of the semester to build creative solutions for these particular communities. 


Photos by Halley Roberts MFA ‘13

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OCCUPY Portland: Musings + Observations Part 2

Text and photos by Danielle Olson MFA ’13
Photo via Crystal Beasley

Pre-eviction: November 11th

I attended my first General Assembly the night before Occupy Portland was to be evicted. There was a discussion about how to prepare for being arrested as an act of civil disobedience. Small groups discussed what the next steps for Occupy Portland would be after the eviction.

Marching, celebrating and engaging: November 20th

After the eviction, I decided to participate in a march in order to continue my observation and involvement in the Occupy movement, as there was no longer a camp to visit. I first walked by the empty parks where the Occupy camp had been housed only one week prior. I found the scene to be a beautiful but strange juxtaposition of golden Autumn trees, chain link fence, and towering corporate buildings, surrounding the park. Before the march started, the organizer read a very touching letter telling the story of a man with mental illness who had found his way to the Occupy Portland camp. Previously, the man had been travelling the country, keeping very little contact with his family, who were naturally worried sick about him. Eventually, he showed up at his parents’ house, speaking more coherently than he ever had before, and told them of the help and inspiration he found in Portland. The people at the Occupy camp had taken him in, listened to his conspiracy theories, given him advice, and gotten him healthy and on a bus ride going home. To him and his family, Occupy had saved his life.


After the march, particpants ended at Salmon Springs where representatives of committees and working groups introduced themselves to the crowd and made themselves available for questions. I took the opportunity to conduct an interview that I would use for my case study. I wanted to focus on Occupy Portland, but interviewing a single person about an intervention proved to be tricky in a leaderless movement. I eventually managed to track down Cameron Whitten, the primary organizer of the Jamison Square sit-in. The event gave a first opportunity for those who wanted to practice civil disobedience; it created a greater awareness about the Occupy movement in another area of town, and it was an emotionally moving experience for all of those involved. I wrote my case study about what leverage points this event utilized to intervene in the systems of government and corporate structures, and how effective it was.

OWS Brainstorming with XPlane: December 1st


After participating in and observing the Occupy movement over the last month and a half, I was very excited to be able to participate in the Visual Thinking School interactive session at XPlane, taking on OWS as a client. The agenda was to clarify the goals of the movement, i.d. core audience/support constituents, generate priority messages, suggest strategy changes. Through a group facilitation process involving a large supply of post-its, we established that the primary themes driving the Occupy movement: Big Bad Corporations, Inequality, Money in Politics, and what Occupy represents as a community.
After that, we broke into groups according to the different audiences (Protestors, government, corporations, general public, and media) and came up with a profile of what their sense of the world might be. We then came up with a list of what actions OWS might like to see come out of that audience. Lastly, we took into account the world view of that audience and outlined our approach for impressing upon them the benefits in taking those actions. My group, discussing corporations, settled on a message that operating a business with good will is good business, creating a feedback loop of upstanding reputation to draw more market in this sensitive environment. Also that a business which is run with integrity is proven to be trustworthy, therefore gains more freedom from regulations and constraints.


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