Carolina Rodriguez

Product Design

“The most meaningful design opportunities are found in some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and societies.”

Why Art Center? Why Designmatters?

I’ve always thought of Art Center as the practical approach for wanting to have a creative career. Designmatters grounds us; gives us a reason to fill that “making” urge we all have at Art Center.

Describe your design aesthetic. What makes your work unique?

I don’t know if I have an aesthetic, but I think I have a common thread in most of my work. As designers, we all have the urge to make, but to deeply consider what we’re making and for what purpose, I think adds a level of meaning to why we make. I think of myself as a social & environmental impact designer: I look to the base of the economic pyramid and the fragile state of our environment for design opportunities. I want to improve our conditions as a species without compromising the overall condition of our planet and its other inhabitants.

What does social impact design mean to you? And why is it important to your overall design work?

Social Impact design is good design. The most meaningful design opportunities are found in some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and societies.

Which Designmatters TDS courses have you participated in? And what was the biggest takeaway from those studio classes?

Safe Agua: Colombia, Smart Image Social Impact, Vans Studio, Nike Girl Effect, probably some academics too… Yes it definitely has. From taking these classes I’ve learned that so many of our answers lie in the very hands of those we want to design for. By involving everyone in the design process (co-creation), we can skip hurdles that we might have otherwise missed and come to deep insights that can lead us to the core of why certain things are the way they are. To quote one of my professors very loosely: we don’t want alleviate the pain, we want to get at the root of the malady.

Besides your Art Center class work, have you been involved with any Social impact projects?

I worked with the Orangutan Foundation International in the summers of 2013 and 2014. I came in thinking I would only learn about orangutans and deforestation by way of palm oil, but I learned so much more. I learned about the rich cultures of the Dayak people in Kalimantan, their relationship to the land, to government, the rest of the world. I cultivated a deep appreciation for our differences as a species. More than anything else I learned on this island was the feeling of empathy and the drive to act upon these feelings by way of imagining, making and working together.

If you wanted to inspire a new Art Center student to become involved with Designmatters, what are the top 3 reasons you would give him or her?

Well, I can think of only one really: do you want to be creating conveniences and iterations of things that ultimately don’t need to be designed? Or do you want to be filling voids with deep and meaningful work? Harsh, but it’s the truth; Designmatters feeds into the latter.