Lily McClure, IDSA

Lily McClure, IDSA
Drexel University
IDSA Northeast District Undergraduate Student Merit Winner 2018

IDSA Northeast District Student Merit Award winner Lily McClure’s undergraduate career at Drexel University was a multidisciplinary one, shaped by the designer’s many passions. “I’ve never been someone able to work on simply one thing at once, and while at university there are so many possibilities,” she says. “At one point I counted and realized I’d taken classes in nine out of the 14 colleges at Drexel.”

In addition to earning her BS in product design at Drexel University, McClure also contributed to food research and recipe development in the Drexel Food Lab, worked with Drexel Smart House and did research for the university teaching hospitals. While these were rewarding experiences, McClure learned over time the importance of focusing on what mattered most. “There are only so many hours in a day, and I only have so much emotional energy to put forward. Things turn out so much better if I put more of myself into fewer things than a tiny bit into a million things, no matter how much they get me jazzed up.”

McClure’s creative pursuits are due, in part, to her parents. “I was incredibly fortunate to be the child of two massively creative people,” she shares, “who knew not only the importance of design and beauty but also the joy of messing around with materials.” McClure herself was a daily witness to her parents’ artistic abilities and was raised from an early age to understand that innovation is often born from experimentation. “When [my parents] would come downstairs to find I’d broken into the tape drawer again on an urgent mission to tape together a handful of fake gemstones, they taught me how to divert that energy into useful pursuits.” Her decision to pursue product design in college was an extension of this engrained ingenuity. “It wasn’t until I was touring accepted schools that I realized that I didn’t have to choose between a ‘making stuff/engineering’ type major or a ‘people person’ major or a ‘creative type’ major.  I really could have them all in one place.”

That one place was Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, an environment that McClure says was ideal for young designers like herself. “The Drexel product design studio space is a gift that cannot be overstated. We’re given access to some crazy making spaces and then encouraged to experiment.”

As McClure is quick to point out, however, the best programs can only take the designer so far. “Academia gives you an amazing wealth of learning opportunities, but sometimes the challenges you face…don’t reflect the outside world.” IDSA, she says, exposed her to the world of design beyond academia. “Through the ability to present my work and the exposure/networking at conferences, I’ve been able to learn so much about the actual world that designers exist in, rather than just the theoretical limbo that you experience while in university.”

A combination of theory and practicality produced a design portfolio that McClure claims prioritizes simplicity over aesthetics. “I believe in simple controls with obvious use,” shares McClure, “so my work tends to be extremely simple from the outside.” Many of McClure’s products are designed to encourage the user to think more deeply about certain issues. One project, entitled Memento Mori Armoire, is a fully compostable casket made entirely out of post-consumer waste and plant/algae bioplastics; it is intended to encourage users to think more sustainably when funeral planning. Other projects include Aerogrow, an aeroponic growing system that allows the user to observe its roots and branches; Metla Whisk, an angled whisk designed to counteract the tremors of Parkinson's patients and the elderly; and Paper Pulp Chickie Bank, a fully customizable piggy bank kit that teaches kids healthy spending habits. “I very literally want to create the world around me,” McClare says. “Whether it’s on the micro scale with the art and models I hide around the design studio or the macro scale of mass manufactured designs, I want to know that the little pieces of myself I put into my design are out there and doing some good.”

Looking forward, McClure says that she hopes to continue contributing to the medical industry in some capacity. “I love the medical field because every time I’ve worked in it I’m forced to constantly learn and detangle dilemmas every step of the way. There are so many wild puzzles to solve when you’re working with biology, regulations … that every step of the way a possible solution is a victory.” Ever the innovator, McClure nonetheless looks to a future that has yet to unfold. “I sincerely hope that the career I have in 10 years isn’t something I’ve even heard of today. The most exciting opportunities are the ones you never see coming.”