IDSA Members Make the Case for ID at University of Kentucky

A longtime IDSA member is taking the lead in trying to start industrial design undergraduate and graduate programs at the University of Kentucky

Mitzi Vernon has been an IDSA member since 1996—and since 2005—served as dean of UK's College of Design, which offers majors in architecture, historic preservation and interiors. In fall 2017, she held a Product Design Roundtable, inviting IDSA Medical Design Conference 2018 Chair Bryce Rutter, PhD, IDSA; deans from across the University of Kentucky; external academic leaders; and industry professionals to help conceptualize the new program.

“There is a palpable opportunity to do something very specific with medical device development and health care service in the product design realm,” Vernon explains to UKNow. "With UK’s distinguished healthcare campus as our neighbors, we have the resources to develop a product design graduate program that offers students a unique career path. And there is no formal degree offering for undergraduate product design in the Commonwealth. We can do both.”

“Developing the well-rounded designer who understands the fundamentals, design-thinking skills and ergonomics of design is crucial,” says Rutter, an internationally-renowned ergonomics expert and founder and CEO of Metaphase Design Group, an IDSA Ambassador. “With the College of Design interacting with engineering and the medical school, it has a lot of traction. You’ll get people already predisposed to want to go to a university that has these interdisciplinary facilities.

Hartley Feld, RN, of the College of Nursing faculty, was excited to see more opportunities for nurses and nursing students to apply their knowledge of the community and patient care environments to innovations in product design. “(Nurses) have a unique vantage point to identify design that could improve the safety, health and well-being of their patients,” Feld tells UKNow. “This new design program has amazing potential to engage a new generation of interdisciplinary health care professionals.”

Guigen Zhang, professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME), envisions joint efforts between the BME Department and the College of Design, as well as other colleges, that "would allow us to take advantage of the existing strengths on campus to quickly build new programs. This will attract and retain more students, including women and underrepresented minorities, to learn, work and earn to their full potential.”

UKNow reports that with the backing of numerous academic and professional innovators after the two-day think tank session, the College of Design is ready to take the next steps to mobilize this new venture, ensuring the longevity and planned growth for the college.

Previously, Vernon sered as an ID professor in the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech. Her career spans 30 years of leadership, practice and teaching in ID, engineering and architecture. As originator of the project, Fields Everywhere, she has been recipient of several patents and grants supporting her research in using design to teach science to children. Vernon was one of the inaugural speakers for TEDx Virginia Tech, delivering Mapping the Invisible in 2012. She is an Edward Singleton Diggs Teaching Scholar, and among other awards, she earned the 2008 Dell ReGeneration International Design Educator Award and the William E. Wine Award for Excellence in Teaching.

She holds a master's in engineering, product design from Stanford University; a master's in architecture from Virginia Tech; and a BS in housing and interiors from University of North Carolina.Field Of Study