Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies

Collaborations: MFA CD Blog

Talking vision and collaboration with Olivia Güthling

I sat down with Olivia Güthling (MFACD ’15) to talk about some of her experiences at this year’s Design Week Portland. Here she shares her views on what it means to be a Collaborative Designer, and the importance of talking about the vision that drives your design.


You come to the program with previous experience as a graphic designer. What do you think Collaborative Design is, and how do you see it changing your practice?


Collaborative Design is a wider kind of awareness for different things beside graphic design or other specific disciplines of design– it gives an understanding of the whole. Now, I see the patterns more– I was aware of patterns before, but now I am learning how they become the drivers of my work.


Understand patterns will improve the way I understand graphic design and communication design; in a way that is able to address stakeholders, clients, customers, and to make graphic design more important and having a greater impact. Something I was struggling with was whether the design was keeping people’s attention, does it really have impact or meaning?


I’m not a fan of saying, “Let’s change the world!” because I believe I cannot change you. But I can make something that has an impact, and we’ll go from there.


You cannot initiate a project with the idea to change the world– but you can be fascinated by something. I was always fascinated by Awakening, throughout the entire process. It was crazy, and I had a hard time, but I loved it. And the fascination I had was the reason why so many people participated. The fascination is what enabled me to keep going throughout the whole process– vision, spirit, and the whole picture. A nice looking design is meaningless without content.


It worked in the collaboration. I want to learn to work with a lot of people, all together around one vision. Maybe that’s the leadership thing— how to explain it, and make others fascinated by something. That’s a talent of very few people.


Tell me about work you’ve done prior to moving to Portland.


I did a project called Awakening. I worked on it using a similar process to what we’re doing in Collaborative Design. I did lots of research, wrote papers, and then went to Nepal for a research journey. I created the book, and I collaborated with so many people— motion designers with my performance, book-binders to discuss what would work the best way, musicians and dancers for the performance, and others.


My approach includes these ideas that all the time, and the CD program is giving me a wider understanding of what I’m actually doing.


I started with a very rough concept at the beginning, and I had slightly different idea in mind before I started designing it. The main idea was continuously there. How can I transform something personal to something public? Why should a person be interested in reading my stream of consciousness– that could be really boring, actually. But the transformation through art made it accessible, and I tried to find the big story beyond. The book and the performance are telling a story. In order to tell the story, it was up to me to figure out what the story was.


This is a great way of working for me. I love networking, and meeting people, and bringing so many talents together. It was amazing– I was so inspired and it helped me so much. This is collaboration: an impact on so many people.


Last week was Design Week Portland, and you were able to participate in several events. What stood out for you?


The event that left me most inspired was “Unthinkableism Is Now”, at JDK. It addressed people and was a talk about visions and the reason why we do design. And about the power of design. Another panel I attended, the “Perspectives of Creative Leadership”, talked about their work and less about their vision. There wasn’t a unifying theme, and I felt there was a missing point. It was nice listening to them, but nothing remained in my memory.


Does the idea of sharing vision rather than work resonate with your studies in Collaborative Design?


As a communication designer, I’m always asking what remains in my mind after seeing something, or listening to something. This is the information that is so accessible that it’s still there. We can use it, transform it, and I can embed it into my own life and practice.


Talking about your own work is important, but for an outsider, it’s hard to relate to the work. Vision is accessible to everyone. It keeps us going. The work is just the last part of a long process. I am more interested in the process.


I had the idea with Awakening, it was so important to stay true to my guiding vision for the entire process. Like being honest– so much so that it was almost painful at times. The honesty was so important to keep, because without honesty there’d be no output. It’s one thing to talk about the output. The vision is about seeing the whole picture. It’s about trying to understand it’s about the process– not about the techniques I use or people I involve; it’s about why. This why is easier to talk about for an hour.


What did the presenters want to share? Was it more just about showing off? The audience might be impressed. But the other approach is to share visions and personal stories and experience. Sharing the process means articulating the lessons learned along the way, which is empowering. In the end, it’s sharing the value of producing things, and it makes things real.


Do you have ideas for what kinds of projects you hope to work on during the next two years?


Not a project, but an interest. It’s all in the process. At this point, there’s not a project I think is worth sharing now. What is interesting is the vision, and the big engine that drives projects, and how people feel and how they work to produce things. As a designer, I feel very strongly about integrity. For example, how can I do a project about healthy living when I am not taking care of myself? It gets bigger.


One thing that is so present is that I really like what I’m doing now, but I also want to like it in the future. I have to find a way not to stress myself out. To know why I’m doing something. And also to keep healthy, to keep distance, and to be able to leave in order to return. You have to do other things, rather than getting overwhelmed and siloed. Is this type of work possible in an agency? I would be interested in having a business where that works. I don’t know if it works, but it works for me.


What have you learned about collaboration in the first couple months of this semester?


It’s hard to focus on what we are really doing in the program. It’s not about becoming a designer for something particular. The CD program is about working together and seeing the different talents of people, and bring that together to one thing. We have to figure out how we collaborate and find the best ideas within this group of a wide variety of people.


As Collaborative Designers, we should know how to network and communicate with people to realize the available solutions and resources, but not to do everything on your own. That’s the importance of this program.

   Share
* * *

Experimental Experiments : Natalie Jeremijenko speaks at Collaborative Design

Adding to the intellectual ecosystem of Collaborative Design, Natalie Jeremijenko visited the Collaborative Design Studios to talk about Experimental Experiments: How to improve environmental health and eat it too.

Her projects are prosthetics for the collective imagination, enriching to public discourse towards the radical. Doing this work has taught her the value in being a non-expert. The strength is in a willingness to do experiments, with fun being the most important tactical strategy. Experiments are not only the realm of the scientist, but part of a participatory democracy.

You are only as persuasive as your representation.

Someone asked how she quantifies impact. Rather than seeking comprehensive data that might demonstrate some proven hypothesis, the value

There’s much greater strength in providing an experience, and looking to anecdotal proof through stories and personal buy-in. When people share their stories, the impact of project is greater.

People aren’t merely rational, and the power of a designer is capturing attention and intrigue through a provocative experience. Data is important, and can be invaluable supporting proof. But attempting to quantify something as elusive as an experience is often a lesser goal. After all, the value of a project needs only one meaningful experience.

The best outcome is creating a public memory of a possible future.

What might it look like to have fast, efficient, emission-free public transportation? Perhaps zip lines transversing a city; a robust network of interconnected buildings. Looking towards existing infrastructure, we can adapt previous methods and practices to evolve to changing needs and technology. For example, the building code states that elevator shafts be isolated from the rest of the building to prevent spread of fire. But with new technology, buildings could harness the passive cooling technique of stack ventilation, while incorporating mechanical louvers that could close off the shaft if fire is detected. Ideas like this call into question a status quo that’s developed to fix problems of the past, but gets stymied by inability to evolve.

   Share
* * *

TONIGHT: Jay Harman // Biomimicry: Nature Inspiring Radical Innovation.

The MFA in Collaborative Design welcomes Jay Harman as part of the 2013-2014 Graduate Visiting Artist Lecture Series.

Inventor, entrepreneur, futurist, Jay Harman thinks big, outside the box but inside of nature. He is one of the world’s leaders in biomimicry research and development as well as founder of several companies that create industrial solutions that are clean and green and based on mimicking nature’s design solutions. Harman has just published his first book The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature Is Inspiring Innovation.

Harman’s Portland lecture will focus on what he sees as the immense potential for biomimicry to change business as usual and create a shift from a resource depleting and pollution spewing economy to a clean and green economy. Entrepreneurs and scientists are turning to nature to find inspiration for future products, and how to build them in a way that is not only more energy and cost-efficient but friendlier to the environment. Harman has been at the forefront of this movement as a nature-inspired designer of boats, fans, pumps, propellers and mixers, and founder of several companies to bring these products to market. His book, The Shark’s Paintbrush is equal parts memoir, explanation of biomimicry breakthroughs, and business advice.

A native of Australia and now a U.S. citizen working out of San Rafael, California, Harman is a gifted storyteller and successful businessman. Best selling author Paul Hawken says of Harman and The Shark’s Paintbrush, “Imagine Indiana Jones, Huckleberry Finn, and Erasmus Darwin rolled into one person, and you will have some sense of what it is like to roam and see the world through Jay Harman’s biomimetic eyes.”

Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturers have built things by a process now known as “heat, beat, and treat.” They’d start with a raw material, use enormous amounts of energy to heat it, twist it into shape with heavy machinery, and then maintain its design, strength, and durability with toxic chemicals. Harman encourages government and industry to consider biomimicry, to respect nature’s talent as the ultimate designer of more effective, efficient, powerful, profitable, and cleaner technologies not to mention profound biotherapeutic discoveries made by applying nature’s secrets to biotech and the business of public health. A force of change in industries as diverse as construction, biomedical devices and pharmaceuticals, transportation, and information technology, biomimicry is inspiring a new industrial revolution that will dramatically alter the landscape of the business world.

   Share
* * *

UPDATE : Natalie Jeremijenko at Collaborative Design LUNCH

Please join Collaborative Design in the our studios (1330 NW Kearney) this Thursday, 10/3 for brews and snacks. Natalie Jeremijenko is visiting and will be giving a presentation, “Experimental Experiments – How to improve environmental health and eat it too”.

Happy Hour starts around 4:30; Natalie will give her presentation at 5:00. Hope to see you there!


About Natalie
Natalie Jeremijenko is an artist whose background includes studies in biochemistry, physics, neuroscience and precision engineering. Jeremijenko’s projects – which explore socio-technical change – have been exhibited by several museums and galleries, including the MASSMoCA, the Whitney, Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt. A 1999 Rockefeller Fellow, she was recently named one of the 40 most influential designers by I.D. Magazine. Jeremijenko is the director of the environmental health clinic at NYU, assistant professor in Art, and affiliated with the Computer Science Dept.

Jeremijenko directs the xDesign Environmental Health Clinic. The Environmental Health Clinic develops and prescribes locally optimized and often playful strategies to effect remediation of environmental systems, producing measurable and mediagenic evidence and coordinating diverse projects to effective material change.

Her work is described as experimental design, hence xDesign, as it explores opportunities presented by new technologies for non-violent social change. Her research centers on structures of participation in the production of knowledge and information, and the political and social possibilities (and limitations) of information and emerging technologies — mostly through public experiments. In this vein, her work spans a range of media from statistical indices (such as the Despondency Index, which linked the Dow Jones to the suicide rate at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge) to biological substrates (such as the installations of cloned trees in pairs in various urban micro-climates) to robotics (such as the development of feral robotic dog packs to investigate environmental hazards).

Jeremijenko is also a visiting professor at Royal College of Art, in London and an artist not-in-residence at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto. Previously, Jeremijenko was a member of the faculty in the Visual Arts at UCSD and in Engineering at Yale.

   Share
* * *

Right 2 Dream Too

Right 2 Dream Too

Recently, the first year Collaborative Design cohort visited the rest area of Right 2 Dream Too to gain an understanding of this local “wicked problem” and the stakeholders in this debate. As an example of an innovative approach of self-determined community solutions, Right 2 Dream Too is self-managed, self-policed, and providing tangible, immediate help to a community that is otherwise marginalized and ignored.

Right 2 Dream Too has recently been in the news because they’re soon moving locations. After two years of contention with the city of Portland and their some of their neighbors at 4th & W. Burnside, they reached a deal with the city to move under the Broadway Bridge in the Pearl. However, the Pearl District Neighbor Association isn’t pleased with this decision. We looked to this case study as an example of urban land use, and the potential for utilizing disruption as a means of creating social change.



Getting a tour from Right 2 Dream Too co-founder Ibrahim Mubarak


Doors of R2D2
The exterior fence, made of repurposed doors, are a fundraiser for R2D2, with donors paying $100 to paint any message on their door


Inside R2D2
We heard the stories of what it’s like to stay and participate in the community at Right 2 Dream Too


Under the Broadway Bridge
On our way back to the studio, we walked past the potential future location of R2D2. Though cooperation with the city is important, it’s a shame that this location is hidden from daily view. One of the greatest benefits of the location at 4th & Burnside is the visible reminder of homelessness, and the conversation this group sparked in making themselves known in our city.

   Share
* * *

BBQ Kickoff

Collaborative Design BBQ

Sara Huston, Roel Ulners, Howard Silverman, Dave Laubenthal, Jake Richardson



Emilie Skytta, Santigie Fofana-Dura, Sean Tichnell, Amanda Wright



Katie Mays, flippin’ burgers.

   Share
* * *

Summer 2013 Design Intensive


Before the start of the new semester, some of the first year students started early with a two-week design intensive course to kick start their work in Collaborative Design. Led by Sara Huston, they spent the first week expanding their arsenal of tools as demonstrated by an all-star lineup of pros.


  • Interaction & Communication Design with Flo Truong from W+K
  • Storytelling & Humor in Design with Laura Allcorn (ACD ’11) from Second Story
  • Audio & Video workshop & lecture with Carl Diehl
  • 2D & Typography w/ Cat Kramer
  • Visual thinking with Roel Uleners of XPLANE



The weekend was an extended field trip examining Western juniper in the high desert of central Oregon.

Western juniper is part of the cedar family and is prevalent from western Oregon to Texas. Allowing Western juniper to take a natural growth course has produced a lot of negative effects on the environment. Western juniper depletes the water supply and causes soil erosion. Because Western juniper roots are deep, they absorb any available ground water. Western juniper has encroached and replaced the sage and grass dominant landscape known as the sagebrush steppe. This is the main habitat of the Greater sage-grouse. Currently the Greater sage-grouse is listed as a candidate for the endangered species list. If Greater sage-grouse reaches the endangered species list, the federal government would control the management of Western juniper. In the past 130 years, the Western juniper range has increased ten-fold, from occupying 600,000 acres to 6,000,000 acres of land. There are many causes which encourage the growth and spread of Western juniper and include, but are not limited to, its natural accelerated growth, ability to survive in less than ideal environments, suppression of natural forest fires by humans, a wetter environment, and an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere thought to be a stimulant for the growth of Western juniper. Managing Western juniper is an extremely challenging and difficult process for various reasons, and people have attempted to address it since the 1960s. This question remains: what are the best means, economically and logistically, to control or remove Western juniper1




And back to the studio to complete multiple design projects during the second week of the course, based off the information, documentation and research gathered while in Terrebonne, Oregon.

1 Western juniper in Eastern Oregon: Research Report and Recommendations for Further Inquiry. June 8, 2013. The Western juniper 6: Chris Cox, Dominique Forrest, Logan Lamb, Tatyana Moshchenkov, Paula Terry, Marina Zurkow

   Share
* * *

Summer Intensive 2013 - Studying the Oregon Coast

August 5 – 9 Interventions for Coastal Debris, Cannon Beach OR
(Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday, 9 – 4:00 pm, 1 credit)
This one-credit field workshop will examine micro plastics and invasive species (resulting from the 2011 Tohoku tsunami) along the Oregon coast. This field course will be based in a beach house in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Prerequisites: Junior standing

   Share
* * *

Students Present to Cannon Beach Earth Day Event

Danielle Olson, Sharon Dvora and Chelsea Stephen presented their Clean Castles project to a group of 60 citizens in Cannon Beach, Oregon. The Clean Castles team also included David Laubenthal. The team’s design was in response to the Clean Beaches Design Challenge which was part of the Cultural Entrepreneurship class. The team also spent part of the afternoon on the beach with Marc Ward of Sea Turtles Forever, an organization dedicated to protecting sea turtles and cleaning up micro plastics. Another team from the Cultural Entrepreneurship class designed a project around creating an alternative spring break to bring young people to the beach to clean it up and a third team designed a “nurdle” management project to prevent those pesky little pellets that are the feedstock of plastic injection molding machines everywhere from escaping into the storm water, on into our waterways, out into the ocean and onto our beaches.

Students were part of The Gaylord Nelson Earth Day Dinner and witnessed a community coming together to recognize and appreciate the good work of citizens in protecting their environment. It was a real display of social capital. Collaborative Design students made a great contribution to the evening. The world premier of the Clean Castles video was a big hit with the crowd.

   Share
* * *

Food is a Portland Obsession

Portland has an obsession with food. Collaborative Design’s annual student magazine Blight is obsessing over obsessions this year. Two Collaborative Design students, David Laubenthal ’13 and Craig Higdon ’14 hosted a dinner conversation to explore issues of food addiction and obsession. Jake Richardson ’14 was official photographer.

Four luminaries of the Portland food scene, each obsessed with food from a unique perspective: a farmer, restaurateur, dietician and food policy advocate joined the student-organized dinner. The menu and dinner was carefully crafted where each course embodied a unique conversation and perspective about food, and our obsession with it (in Portland as well as from a macro world-view). The four local food legends of Portland sat around an intimate table and had a delicious conversation that dished up priceless insights and perspectives about food. The relaxed atmosphere facilitated personal stories, laughter and unguarded critical inquiry around a complex societal issue, often hiding in plain wrappers and long lines.

The evening ended on a high note and all participants were hungry for more conversation and another event like this one. The group remarked that they could have stayed there talking throughout the evening and students would have continued as rapt audience. The students ended up with over 3 hours of invaluable audio to digest for their food obsession article. Look for this article, and more, in the upcoming (early June) issue of Blight.

   Share
* * *

Collaborative Design Students work with local teachers

Danielle Olson (MFACD ’13), Emma Conley (MFACD ’13) and Laura Devito (MFACD ’13) are working on a book project with Sarah Taylor, Founder of Sunnyside Environmental School. The book’s purpose is to provide principles rooted in education, love, the environment and with little or no use of any money. The point is, any teacher could take this book and apply it to their classroom without extra resources and come away with additional knowledge, perhaps wisdom and feeling appreciated.

We thought what better way to incorporate artwork into the project than to approach the teachers we are designing the book for – and make the book with them. In the next few weeks this book should be finished (crossing fingers) and being sent out to the world.

   Share
* * *

Neuroscientist David Eagleman joins CD students for conversation about the brain

David Eagleman, Phd is a neuroscientist and a New York Times bestselling author. He joined a group of CD students and PNCA undergraduates taking a neuroscience class to discuss a wide range of topics relating to students questions about the brain.

David directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action at the Baylor College of Medicine, where he also directs the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is best known for his work on time perception, synesthesia and neurolaw. His work of fiction, Sum, is an international bestseller published in 27 languages. His book on the internet and civilization, Why the Net Matters, is available as an app for the iPad and as an eBook. Wednesday is Indigo Blue explores the neurological condition of synesthesia, in which the senses are blended. His latest book, the New York Times bestseller Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, explores the neuroscience “under the hood” of the conscious mind – all the aspects of neural function to which we have no awareness or access.

David Eagleman, PhD is Director, Laboratory for Perception and Action; Director, Initiative on Neuroscience and Law; Author, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, Baylor College, Houston, Texas. Eagleman is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Next Generation Texas Fellow, a council member on the World Economic Forum, a research fellow in the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and a board member of The Long Now Foundation. He is the scientific advisor for the television drama Perception, and has been profiled on the Colbert Report, NOVA Science Now, the New Yorker, CNN’s Next List and many other venues. He appears regularly on radio and television to discuss literature and science.

   Share
* * *

David Aycan, Design Director for IDEO joins CD students for an intimate conversation about design

The MFA in Collaborative Design program brought David Aycan to campus as part of the 2012-2013 Graduate Visiting Artist Lecture Series.

In addition to his public lecture, David joined the MFA Collaborative Design students for an intimate and free ranging conversation about design. CD students were familiar with IDEO and their approach to design. David’s visit afforded CD students the opportunity to explore an array of their individual questions directly with David.

David Aycan is the Design Director at IDEO and has experience integrating a strategic business perspective with a human centered approach to design. During his seven years at IDEO, his experience has ranged across several industries from commercial real estate to technology and food and beverage to insurance. Prior to joining IDEO, David co-founded and ran skateboard company Wongneto and clothing company Dull Clothes.

   Share
* * *

MFA Collaborative Design student Chelsea Stephen has new gallery opening.

Chelsea has created an intriguing collection of “living trees” who for some unknown reason pull up their own roots for a walk about. Come see her creativity come alive.

   Share
* * *

MFA in Collaborative Design second-year candidate Santigie Fofana-Dura invites you to his first solo

Fifty Maplewood Wands explores the oft-neglected, and more oft-romanticized, multidimensional realm of magick that has existed on Earth since “the beginning”. The wands do not simply work by themselves as magick is a human centered endeavor. This body of work is the culmination of intense research, heavy application of ancient craft, and the innate desire to harness the elements of Earth’s natural and ever evolving energy field in order to live in harmony with the planetary life force. Come join Santigie at his opening reception where he will use his wands in an attempt to release a lighting bolt from the sky.

Where: 1532 SW Morrison Portland, OR
When: Thursday Feb. 7th 5pm-8pm
Why: The power of magick is real and it is for all of us.

Santigie Fofana-Dura is a teaching artist and 2013 MFA in Collaborative Design candidate at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. He currently works as a music teacher for alternative high schools around Portland and holds a BS in Sociology and MAT in Education.

   Share
* * *

Page 1 of 4 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›

Future Students    Programs •  Transfer Info •  Global Studios •  Visit •  Apply

Current Community    Homeroom •  Library •  Email •  Records + Registration

Alumni    Exhibitions •  News + Notes •  Gifts to PNCA •  Transcripts   

Continuing Education    Courses + Registration •  Program Blog •  Youth •  CE Contact

Museum of Contemporary Craft   Main Site •  Hours •  Become a Member