Chris Rusay (Grad ID ’05) is Design Director at KeepHuman a product design studio with experience in biohealth and science. For clients Kinemetrics and Metrozet his studio designed a family of seismic sensors and devices used in the California Early Warning System. These systems provide vital warning of earthquake or tsunami, as well as structural health monitoring of buildings. Chris was awarded a GOOD DESIGN® Award: The Chicago Athenaeum, 2013, for new product design, as well as a SPARK Award finalist 2009. Chris is currently teaching in the Design Program at The University of Utah.
DESIGN WITHOUT BORDERS
In 2005, I was fortunate to work with Designmatters during a joint Grad ID and Caltech product design studio focused on the developing world. Working alongside Caltech students we designed a low-cost intravenous IV drug delivery device for international aid situations. This experience was my first exposure at ArtCenter to a design studio focused on social impact and innovation. The project won a best paper award from the Caltech Chapter of Engineers for a Sustainable World. The design was also presented at a local Entretec conference, and recognized by the IDSA – LA chapter, and eventually led to a student development grant. This was a very exciting and pivotal experience for me at ArtCenter which helped spark my interest in areas of health and wellness.
A BALANCING ACT
After Grad ID, I started my small design studio and worked with a combination of consumer and bio-medical clients. Through studio work I have partnered with LEGO, Volvo Trucks, Honda Racing, Maglite, Amada Miyachi, Kinemetrics, Metrozet, Malibu Kayaks, Genefluidics, and Motorola Solutions. The result has been a balance between corporate clients and initiatives, and projects that have a larger societal impact in areas of public safety and health.
One of my first professional clients was working with the Dean and Director of Research at the UCLA Oncology Research Center in the School of Dentistry. Together we collaborated to design a device that monitors a patient’s saliva for markers of specific cancers. Our conceptual design included mapping the patient experience through various stages from interacting with caregivers, taking samples, and analyzing and presenting results to patients. The diagnostic product design was a finalist in the 2009 SPARK Awards – Health category.
Since 2014, I have enjoyed partnering with local technology companies in the Pasadena area. These projects have utilized design to more clearly communicate the brand, technical, and social value of scientific and industrial devices. I am particularly inspired by working collaboratively with a diverse team of PhD’s, scientists, and engineers. Keephuman recently completed work on the design of a laser tube-cutter used to manufacture medical stents. This project included industrial design and CMF (color, material, finish) specifications, as well as UI Design for a HMI, human-machine interface terminal. By focusing on the visible front-end of product design I am responsible for only a very small component of the entire process, but working on projects with a potentially positive effect on public safety, health, and wellness is exciting.
I am currently a visiting assistant professor in the Multidisciplinary (MDD) Design program at the University of Utah, which has a focus in areas of outdoor products, adaptive sports, medical, and health. I teach a Product Design studio focused on outdoor gear, as well as a course on the history of Industrial Design. In my Design History course we study the writings of Lewis Mumford, and Victor Papanek with the goal of instilling principles of socially impactful design within the student experience. I enjoy staying connected as a design educator and find the passion and drive of students inspirational. Additionally it is a great opportunity for me to continue learning and grow personally through research and cross-disciplinary interaction.
More than a decade ago, I traveled to the Lake Atitlán area of Guatemala to volunteer and build homes with Habitat for Humanity. The experience helped impart the positive aspects of volunteering, but it was also humbling to realize I had more to learn from the local community than I had originally thought. It is often a challenge to balance work, family and a career in design, but I hope to continue engaging with design in meaningful ways from which I will continue to learn.