Where Designers and Geo-Scientists Converge

Back to all News

January 14, 2011

Guest blog by Bianca Fuchs, student, Graphic Design Department

Designers and geo scientists? That seemed to be the unasked question on the minds of the engineers, policy makers, meteorologists, emergency managers, and other participants at the  US Geological Survey’s ARkStorm Summit in Sacramento on January 13 and 14, 2011.

As you might have heard, Designmatters has been closely working with the USGS for a number of years. I was in my sixth term when I was introduced to the concept of social impact design offered at Art Center. It was a Designmatters sponsored ID Systems class for the USGS’ Multi-Hazards program, specifically on wildfires in California. About a month into my term, in October, Art Center hosted a designstorm for the Geological Survey’s ARkStorm Flood Project. Elisa Ruffino, Designmatters producer, was kind enough to extend an invitation to my class, in the effort to help my peers and myself get a deeper insight into the USGS and their mission. I willingly accepted the challenge and dove straight into an intense full day brainstorming session with authorities in emergency rescue, urban planning, scientists, federal departments, and more.

At the end of my term, Gloria Kondrup and Sean Donahue’s Desigmatters/ID Systems class was a success. Elisa then offered me the opportunity to travel up to Sacramento and join the team of faculty and alumni that were working with the USGS on the 2-day ARkStorm Summit. The summit was basically a giant version of the previous designstorm held in October, but with a lot more coordination, facilitation and improvisation necessary to keep a very large crowd of scientists, managers, etc. in “participation mode” for two consecutive days.

The days started off early, with we facilitators meeting at 6:30 am in the lobby to discuss the organization of the day’s event, ending with last minute corrections/re-planning at night in the lobby, and a final sigh of relief when finally going to bed.

The two-day conference was an amazing and unique event to participate in.  Seeing our team of six people running around, documenting, organizing, participating, outreaching and so much more to ensure the success of building “Paths to Action” among the Summit’s 200+ participants, was a great learning challenge–with many praising Art Center’s visual communication and ideation methods.

From this experience I will take great insight into a very large part of the science community, and its skills in management and organization—but also an insight into a world almost completely foreign to the power of design.. It was a great experience, giving me new skills and understanding that help me grow, and which I will be able to use in the future. I’m very thankful I was given the opportunity by Art Center College of Design and Desigmatters to take part in this project and working with some amazing people! Thank you Elisa, Julie, Sherry, Josh, and Chris for taking me on board.