Alum Yanin Alexa Kramsky was recently accepted into Yale’s prestigious Master of Environmental Management program. In this short blog post, Yanin reflects on the impact Designmatters has had on his career path.
Graduating from ArtCenter College of Design in 2011, I had the opportunity to take part in the school’s burgeoning focus on social and environmental responsibility in relation to the design profession. From examining preconceived ideas of appropriate design solutions to acknowledging ethical dilemmas faced within the profession head-on, the lessons I learned in the classroom were sure to inform my professional practice. During my time as a Designmatters student, I became adept at challenging my own assumptions and learned strategies for bridging cross-cultural divides. When leaving ArtCenter and making my entrance into the real world, I came hungry—hungry for work that would allow me to use my profession to make a difference in the world. While later working for organizations like Frog Design and Amplifier Strategies, I was given the opportunity to hone these skills regularly. Working with clients like Barefoot College, I learned about grandmothers who are leading the effort to install clean water and solar lighting solutions in rural villages; I met leaders like Susan Davis, running the world’s largest non-governmental development organization, BRAC. Scratching the surface of issues like water security, I couldn’t help but wonder whether designers can play an even bigger role at the intersection of research and practice and what it might look like if my role shifted from one of breadth to depth.
The lessons and skills I gained in each Designmatters studio prepared me to take the seeds taught in the classroom and mindfully implement design solutions in a professional context. However, upon entering the professional world, I quickly gained insight into the complex economic and political fabric in which such considerations live. I came to the undeniable understanding that in order to make sustainable change, developing an expertise in design alone would not be enough for me. Instead, I craved a more thorough understanding of the systems and structures driving social and environmental injustices. The varied design challenges I encountered in the social impact arena left me searching for a connective thread.
Time and time again, I found that the social issues I grappled with were often tied to our misuse and exploitation of natural resources. I began asking myself how designers can solve problems without pushing them from one arena to another. Questions like these led me to the specific offerings of the Industrial Ecology and Green Design specialization at Yale, where I will begin the Master of Environmental Management program this fall. As an MEM program student, I aim to revisit the fundamental, driving questions of my educational and career pursuits; a holistic, deep evaluation of how natural resources are distributed across products and allocated to meet social needs. Thus, I hope to build on the lessons and skills I’ve learned at ArtCenter, Designmatters, and throughout my professional practice, and to use this opportunity as a diving board. I’m excited to make this creative jump into the world of research and academia—a first step in doing my part to push for expanding the role of designers in our ever-changing global landscape.