Director, Product Design Program & Principal, Green Product Design Network, University of Oregon
IDSA Young Educator of the Year 2011
Former IDSA West District Education Representative
Kiersten Muenchinger, IDSA, is founding director of the Product Design Program and a principal of the Green Product Design Network at the University of Oregon (UO). Muenchinger researches new materials and their processing methods to understand when and why the newest materials technologies are accepted in mass-produced consumer products. She lectures on the intersection of materials, manufacturing and design in academia and business.
She's been an active member of IDSA since 2006 and held positions such as IDSA West District Education Representative and IDSA West District Design Conference planning commitee member. Before joining UO as an associate professor in 2007, Muenchinger was a design engineer with IDEO, Ford, Fitch, Sottsass Associatti, Walt Disney Imagineering and the Long Now Foundation. She founded the company Parapluie. Muenchinger received her master’s and bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and Dartmouth College, respectively.
When Muenchinger interviewed for the director position of the new product design program at the University of Oregon, it had no faculty, no students and a boilerplate curriculum that had been designed jointly by interior architecture and art professors. It could have been described as a dream design assignment. Or a nightmare. Perhaps both.
She could only see the dream. When she left her position as assistant chair of the California College of Arts ID department to take the post at Oregon in 2007, she brought 15 years of professional practice and a resume that featured IDEO, Ford, Disney, Stanford and Dartmouth.
At UO, she was tasked with developing and running ID programs on two campuses: Eugene and Portland. She went to work immediately writing new curricula, hiring colleagues, procuring and installing cutting edge manufacturing capabilities and building relationships with industry partners to secure corporate sponsors for the school’s senior studio.
In addition to providing a steady hand in solving multiple growing pains faced by the new program, Muenchinger co-founded the Green Product Design Network—a group of University of Oregon leaders working to advance the development of sustainable products. The network has been highlighted as a major strategic initiative for the university. And under her direction, the product design program at the University of Oregon has matured rapidly to emphasize deep instruction in materials, materials application, product development, design for use and design for lifecycle.
Muenchinger's pedagogical credentials are unquestioned and rarely matched. And her unwavering enthusiasm informs an educational experience that covers all the complexities of the design process, without dimming her students’ passion for design.