Shaping Lives

Stephen Melamed, FIDSA, Inducted Into IDSA Academy of Fellows

His 40-year plus career has spanned the manufacturing, corporate, not-for-profit and consulting fields—both as a designer and a team leader—and placed him at the forefront of design education.

Stephen Melamed, FIDSA, earned the distinction of being inducted into the IDSA Academy of Fellows at the IDSA International Conference 2016. He was caught off guard at the ceremony. “I was sitting in the audience, in between two colleagues, when pictures of me began to appear on the screens,” he recalls. “They began to nudge me and tell me to go up on to the stage. I was stunned, dazed, as I approached the stage.” Only one thing came to Melamed’s mind. “This is one of those moments that’s like an out-of-body experience,” he says. “I am truly humbled by this recognition of my life’s work and sincerely appreciative of the award.”

Born in New York City and raised in Chicago, he began his studies in theoretical physics at Boston University, then earned both a bachelor’s degree—and a master's degree with distinction—in ID from the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC). He studied under Bauhaus designer/artist/author Werner Graeff, an original member of the Weimar Bauhaus—and his son, Roberto Graeff, who was trained at Ulm. Melamed was awarded a Design Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the R. Buckminster Fuller Foundation for the 1981 World Game. He authored the monograph, By Design: Museum Environments for All, and in 1982, became a featured speaker at the first International Interdisciplinary Design Conference at the United Nations in New York City.

Melamed returned to his alma mater in 2005 to serve as clinical professor of interdisciplinary product development (IPD) and industrial design at UIC and as associate director of the IPD Program at the UIC Innovation Center. In 2011, he was honored by IDSA at its annual Midwest District Design Conference as Educator of the Year. A year later, Melamed became chair of the Industrial Design Department at the School of Design at UIC, which hosted a reception in recognition of his IDSA Fellowship in September 2016.

He has served as the faculty advisor to the IDSA Student Chapter at UIC since 2009. As a renowned ID educator, two key words sum up his advice for the next generation of industrial designers: mindful reflection. “I find that everything now moves at such an accelerated pace that it is difficult for designers to be able to take a moment to pause and reflect on their work.” He challenges young designers to ask themselves, “Is it the most appropriate and successful outcome possible as of this time taking into account all of the given constraints?”

Since 2014, Melamed has been a principal of the ID consulting firm, PlusD2 (formerly Tres Design Group), that he co-founded with Luc Heiligenstein and Adam Erwin. The firm has received international design honors in programs such as IDSA’s International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA); Red Dot; Good Design and CEA. Melamed has been a principal investigator—awarded 58 US and international patents. He is also a Certified LSP (Lego® Serious Play) Facilitator.

Along with graphic designer Marcia Lausen, Melamed is a founding member of the not-for-profit AIGA’s national design advocacy group—Design For Democracy (D4D)—and served on its national Board of Directors.

His greatest motivation? “My mentors always shared with me the notion that it is both a privilege and huge responsibility to be a designer, to shape the machine-made environment and improve the human condition. As a design educator, the gravity of that responsibility dramatically increases because you’re being entrusted with shaping young lives.”

He adds, “I believe that our field is on the cusp of the ‘event horizon’ for human experience and the human-machine interface. In that imagined future, the consequences of the integration of technology with our physiology may lead to altering our humanity as we currently know it.”