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[00:00:00] Wunmi: Hi, my name is Wunmi Adekanmbi and I'll be your host today on the inference podcast. My guest on the show today is Carrie Harmer. Carrie is a design evangelist with a passion for social cultural and environmental engagement and community development. She employs design strategies to lead applied research and innovation as a product developer entrepreneurial facilitator, educator unchanged.
the show. Carrie,
[00:00:30] Kerry: thank you so much for having me Wunmi.
[00:00:32] Wunmi: Yeah. I'm so glad you were able to join us on this show. let, let's just, let's meet you, Carrie. How, what's your story? How did you come to be the design guru? What's your journey into design?
[00:00:45] Kerry: That's a really good question. I think I've always had a design mindset. and I think it came from my, from my family, from my background. So my, my grandfather and my father were very design minded or they weren't designers, but, they just had that kind of systems thinking the way that designers think. And I don't think I realized that until I really studied design and started to understand that design is really kind of a mindset and they had that mindset.
[00:01:13] Kerry: And I think that's why I was so drawn to design. I get bored really easily. And I love making things and love the diversity that design brings and, and gives me in my life. Yeah. I just love all the different perspectives that you get with design and the different opportunities that are. I went to school and did, design art at Concordia university of Montreal, which is a great design city.
And I really, really got to immerse myself in all kinds of design in that program, but it was very much, very much about the thinking about design rather than, you know, really skills based in one particular type of design. And so that's what I think led me to becoming. The kind of the design thinker that I am.
I went to, I did grad school. I worked in design for a while in Montreal, and then I did grad school at the U of A where I did my master's in industrial design. And that was framed within sustainability. and I really looked at the emotional attachment that we have really looking at and looking into obsolescence and finding ways for us as designers to really address that issue because of the impact that it has on our environment.
And then I became an editor. And I think that's just, that's the piece around being a design evangelist is if you've got a passion for design and especially sustainability and, and, kind of ethical practices and design then educating is, is a great way to do that is to, is to really engage in those conversations.
And I think, to make a difference,
[00:02:41] Wunmi: what has changed in terms of. The recent focus that has been on in the past few years as been a major focus on design, the design process, design thinking. And I mean, you had your education a lot of years ago and things have changed right now. There seems to be more attention to it. What do you think changed? What's brought that about?
[00:03:02] Kerry: I think, what's happened is that, you know, it was almost as if design had a promotional problem. Often when I tell people that I'm an industrial designer, people don't know. What that is. They think I designed factories. I think design just wasn't really well understood.
But now today, as we, as we've seen the growth, I mean, design thinking, isn't a new thing. You know, people have been talking about it since the sixties and, and understanding the design process and the way the designers think and what it is that they do. But I think in, you know, in the last decade or so 15 years, we've really started to find other disciplines accessing design and understanding the value of the design process and understanding that the value of having designers at the table.
And that's great because design, I think is very much. Transdisciplinary. And I think the design thinking process is very transdisciplinary. I did some research into that at the UofC, in the PhD program, really looking at how transdisciplinary design thinking is as a methodology for getting a number of people, different people with different expertise around the table to solve complex problems.
The exposure that design thinking has given the design industry is really great because it's helping people to understand that. I think we're all designers because. Since the adult we've been making tools. and so we've been designing things to make our lives better. And I think we're just being much more intentional about recognizing that now we've, we've put a name to it.
[00:04:33] Wunmi: And for, in terms of innovation, So many economies are in transition and then pivots into adapt the, the economy, the skills what's, they're focusing on in light of environmental sustainability climate change. So there's innovation of ways of, you know, we rethink how we solve problems and design thinking as being a major part of how many programs and products have been developed these days.
So if you could just share some thoughts on. What do you think is enroll of design thinking in innovation
[00:05:11] Kerry: design thinking is, has a huge role in innovation, particularly the design thinking process and design methodologies. And I think, you know, when you design something all the time, you're, you are innovating.
Designers are always looking for those new opportunities for holes to fill and for needs that are unmet. That's what designers do right from the get go. They really are those problem identifiers. And that's part of the design thinking processes to really understand the problems that that we're being faced with.
And there are complex, there, there are more complex than ever today, and they're more multidisciplinary and, and I think that designers. Have a have an understanding because they're always designing for people. People are always at the center of the design process and, you know, the, the foundation of the, of the design thinking process is this empathy and this understanding of users design is a process that is always user centered
and some people might argue with me, but I think it depends on, on kind of the designer that you all, but we're always thinking about the user and how they're going to interact with whatever it is that we're creating with us, a product, a service, a system, or an experience. And so designers are, are comfortable with testing things out with, with making prototypes, with coming up with a bunch of different ideas,
[00:06:34] Wunmi: bedrock of innovation, right?
[00:06:36] Kerry: It is. Yeah, it really is. And it's that, that comfort with just feeling free to fail. Feeling free to experiment and, and safe, feeling safe in that, which is, is very much the, the experience that designers have. That's what we do is we say, well, I don't know, let's try this. Here's a thing that I'd like to try.
And we're used to collaborating with, with others, with other designers as part of teams, but we're also really used to getting. The specialized knowledge that we need. We're used to reaching out to other people to get expertise. We're kind of trained in understanding what the needs might be and what questions people might have in that process.
And so, you know, we were used to. Figuring out and trying to understand people were used to coming up with a variety of different ideas, to a problem that we've dug deep in an and kind of looked underneath the rocks and then were used to prototyping and testing out things. And we're okay with getting it wrong because that just gives us more information to feed back into that process when we, when we're testing out those, those prototypes.
So I think in a lot of ways, the design thinking process is the innovation process.
[00:07:49] Wunmi: Absolutely. I totally agree. And I like to think about design thinking as very, very versatile, that can be applied to almost every aspect of life actually. So we talk about service design, which in which you include the design process in providing services, maybe as a government to, the community or something like that.
And then there's also in terms of product development, of course. You want to be sure your product is meeting a specific need in the market. Recently, I, I start to think has even individuals can apply the design thinking process. Like how do I solve in terms of my career development? How do I solve the problem that unemployment, perhaps job seekers can even use that process.
to identify what the need in the market is and how they can solve the problem of the employer or the problem of the market, the larger market. And that kind of just creates this context where you can design yourself, design your career designers have as a product to the world. What do you think about that?
[00:08:58] Kerry: Absolutely. Yeah, there's there's a book called designing your work life, which I believe is put out. by some Stanford professors. I think they wrote for the first book they wrote was design designing your life or design your life. And then the next one was designed your work life. And it's absolutely that.
Yeah, you can, you could apply the design thinking process to any problem that you're facing, whether it's okay. What am I going to think about with trying to get my baby to sleep? You know, so let's empathize with what the baby needs and what is the actual problem? Well, the problem is, is not that the baby needs to get to see the problem is that I need to sleep.
Right. And so really kind of looking at, at problems in different ways, the way that the design thinkers do is really powerful because it gets you to kind of say, oh, wait a minute. What I thought was the problem is not actually the problem. You know, there's really concrete methodologies for actually digging, digging down underneath to find out.
What it is that you actually need to be thinking about in terms of creating ideas for, and I I've done this with, with a few different post-secondary institutions as, in a consulting role. And one I did at bow valley college was really great because I had a student services. And so they were thinking about, well, what do our students need?
Really investigating what it is to improve the student experience. So design thinking process can absolutely, it can, it can create a new couch or it can create a new experience for students or it can get your baby to sleep, or it can build your career. You know, it really is like, what problems are we faced with and how do we, how do we really dig into that and come up with some ideas and this such great strategies.
Now there's so many different strategies and methods for all of them. Different processes along the way in the design thinking approach that you see that you can just, if one doesn't work, there's another one to try. And there's, there's so many people doing really great work in this area that I get very excited about it.
And I think once you're, when you're working in the design thinking field, and once you start to think about it and do it, you just naturally apply it to everything in your life.
[00:11:08] Wunmi: Yes.
I totally agree with that. right now you'll work with Mount Royal university and, yeah, maker studio specialist. What does that mean?
[00:11:19] Kerry: Yeah. So it's a great question. So in the library at Mount Royal university, we have a suite of really innovative spaces that support teaching and learning on campus, and also facilitate research into teaching and learning. And so the maker studio is one of those spaces. It's a space on the main floor that has tools and technologies for making.
Mostly for rapid prototyping. So we have 3d printers, laser cutter, digital and sewing machines. We have CNC machines, 3d scanners, all kinds of electronics and robotics equipment. And we have a team of experts and specialists, who can support those tools and technologies to be integrated into curriculum.
So we help students really build their. technological literacy is at the same time as being innovative in the way that they're thinking about the content that has been delivered in their courses. So we worked, I worked directly with faculty to help them to come up with new projects, that help achieve the learning outcomes for different kinds of courses, all across campus, whether that is in nursing or child studies or education or entrepreneurship and innovation, social innovation.
We've done math classes. We've been computer science classes, all kinds of, all kinds of diverse subjects are using the design thinking process that basically guides everything that we do in the maker studio to really enhance students' experiences. And what we're seeing is that students are really having these.
Transformational experiences by being creative in the classroom.
[00:12:55] Wunmi: Wow. I wish I had that when I was a student.
[00:12:58] Kerry: Yeah. It's really interesting because the students get challenged in different ways. They'll often come into the space thinking that they they're not creative and computers hate them. And then what happens is they leave with, or without an artifact, depending on what the project is.
But what they do live with is, an enhanced creative capacity. They know that they can be creative thinkers now, and there, they don't think of themselves as not creative anymore. And they also leave with a confidence in technology that perhaps used to scare them. That now they've learned one kind of technology or a few different technologies in the space, and now they're leaving with a confidence to, to face other technologies.
They're not afraid of it anymore.
[00:13:42] Wunmi: Umm hmm and I know your studio, it's very, very user friendly. I had my two daughters come there to point if you remember that, and they had a lot of fun, just, you know, creating and making, all kinds of things out of nothing. Is that still, is this still open to the public? Because I know. The mic has to do was open to the public.
That's why I was able to bring in my daughters about now
[00:14:05] Kerry: The space is still open to the public, but we really prioritize our students we've become quite popular on campus. And so we're really quite busy with coursework now. And so we don't really have as much access. We don't really, we can't really offer as much access to the general public as we, as we used to.
Just because we tend to be super busy with our, with our students. Now, as we've returned back to campus, we've got lots of courses and students that are doing coursework. And so we have to give them priority to make sure that they can achieve the learning outcomes of their projects and meet their deadlines.
But we do all of the workshops that we offer. And our website has, all kinds of resources that often we get inquiries from the public and we'll direct them to the resources that we have on the website. We have a YouTube channel with all kinds of videos on how to use the technology that we have.
That's a beautiful thing that came out of the pandemic and working from home is that we were able to create all these videos. And so there are so many resources on the website now that, we really can direct people just to, to those, to do the learning. And, and, and it really helps our students too, because they can learn outside of our regular hours.
And as we know, students often are, are doing their homework at 11 o'clock at night. And the maker studio isn't open at 11 o'clock at night, but they can still learn from the maker studio at whatever time they want to work,
[00:15:27] Wunmi: Does the maker studio have it's on separate website or is it still on the Mount Royal website?
[00:15:32] Kerry: So still on the Mount Royal website and it's part of the library website.
So you can go to the library website from Mount Royal and under spaces and technology. You'll find the maker studio, and there's all kinds of resources there. People can also make consultation meetings with our team. If they have specific projects that they want to, want to learn about. Sometimes we get emails from folk
who are asking for, you know, for particular information. And we're very tied into the creative community in Calgary. And so often we refer people to, either our community Makerspace like fuse 33 or other manufacturing facilities. So for 3d printing, for example, maybe shape ways. So we've got lots of other resources that we can connect people to.
We're really, we're really a hub in the city of that kind of knowledge. And that's why we belong in the library.
[00:16:19] Wunmi: Yes. I was just getting into that. Actually I know a Mount Royal university has an internal innovation ecosystem of sorts. And so I was wondering how exactly does that work. Within Mount Royal university.
And how was, what's your face? What's your contact with the rest of the larger innovation community in Calgary?
[00:16:41] Kerry: Yeah. So Mount Royal has a, really, a really vibrant, innovation ecosystem. And we've actually done a bit of work to really map out what that looks like and identified some students in the last year.
that we interviewed to find out what their innovation journey was. And we did a campaign with Avenue in the summer and have a, a website that actually highlights a number of students who we really think of as innovators. And we've got all these, obviously we've got curriculum, so we have a social innovation minor.
[00:17:12] Kerry: We've got innovation courses on creativity and entrepreneurship courses and design thinking is really embedded throughout the campus facilitated, I would say, in a large part by the maker studio and I actually just last week gave a paper with Dr. Katherine Pearl at, the international social innovation research conference in Milan about.
How we're using design thinking to facilitate social innovation mindsets on campus. And we had examples of, of ways that we've done that through a variety of different initiatives or spaces or experts that are on campus, places and events that happen. And the, and there, they might be tied specifically to a particular faculty or program or discipline, like for example, the center for psychological innovation or the sea and supply chain analytics lab, or the health simulation lab in nursing.
So we've got, you know, places like that. We've also got the Trico Changemakers studio, which is a social innovation and collaboration space that does all kinds of interfaces with the community. And I'm sure I'm sure your listeners are probably well familiar with that space. And of course, we've got the institutes on campus as well.
So the Institute for community prosperity, environmental sustainability, the Ms. DACA's research Institute and the center for community disaster research. And of course the center for innovation and entrepreneurship under the direction of, Ray DePaul, which hosts innovation and social innovation sprint.
every semester, even in the summer for students where they can take part in a month long sprint and really hone their innovation and entrepreneurship skills. And then they can lead into launchpad, which is kind of an eight week entrepreneurial incubator, where they can take those ideas that they've come up with perhaps in the sprint or perhaps where if they were making prototypes in the maker studio, or even in curriculum, we've worked with students who have come up with concepts and new innovations as part of a collaboration with the maker studio and, and, coursework.
[00:19:18] Kerry: And then they'll go to launch pad and pitch those ideas. And get support from community partners, for things like legal services or design services, things that they need to be able to really launch their businesses.
[00:19:30] Wunmi: That's really encouraging and it's encouraging to see. post-secondary institutions taking active roles in community development and innovation, you know, it's no longer just go through university to learn.
And then that's it. We are focusing on the next set of students and people just, you know, the, the mentality of I'm just going to learn what I will now apply in the workforce. Now students can graduate. as entrepreneurs. Already set on their careers that is very exciting to see. And it's not just Mount Royal university, I think Alberta is very blessed to have this innovative post-secondary institutions.
[00:20:10] Kerry: That's right. And, and I think that, you know, the, kind of the innovation that happens in the city, that there's so many generous community partners in this city who really are open to working with students. And so there's never. There's never a difficulty for us to be able to reach out to community partners and involve them in any of the initiatives that were, that were running on campus.
And so I do feel that kind of the doors to the university are always open for people to come in and participate. And, and we're really lucky to have so many, so many people who support our students in that journey. That you're right when our students graduate, whether they're graduating from business or not, they graduate with those innovation mindsets.
They graduate with an entrepreneurial mindset and an opportunities and a community that is, is really opening their arms to help them and support them through this process.
[00:21:04] Wunmi: I'm excited for the times we we're in not just in Alberta, but it's, there's just this energy in the air where you just believe so many things are possible.
And just being in that space where, you know, there are communities you can turn to, even when your post-secondary institution is like, an innovation hub. I think that's very, very, encouraging and empowering.
[00:21:28] Kerry: I think so. I mean, Mount Royal university is an, ashoka designated changemaker university.
There's this energy on campus where, where the students are really empowered to make a difference. And to seek opportunities to have an, an impact on making the world a better place. And that's, I think what I really enjoy about Mount Royal is that the students do you feel empowered? They feel supported. And there's so many opportunities for students to, to participate in those extracurricular activities that really help them to, to bridge that gap between the university and industry and the community outside of campus.
[00:22:08] Wunmi: Do you think we need more people making a career out of. The design process design thinking, because right now, like we mentioned where you discussed earlier, it's now at the forefronts, you're having to apply design thinking to most of the things we're already doing. So do we think we need more people in that field?
And if we do, what path might people do?
[00:22:30] Kerry: That's a great question. I think we do, but then I really believe in the power of design to make meaningful change everything in our world is designed. And so what that means is that we can redesign things. I'm really enjoying right now, the work that the creative reaction lab is doing, where they're, looking at redesign for, for justice.
And so there's so much possibility for innovation designers and for innovation design to. Make the world, what we want it to be and to shift us in a, a more sustainable and a more equitable direction. And do I think there's more room for all kinds of designers? Absolutely. Absolutely. And how do people access this space?
Well, I think we're all designers and we all come at, come at our disciplines with, with some kind of a design approach. does it mean that we can 3d model and object and, you know, or a product not necessarily doesn't mean that we can do an amazing graphic design or a design, a building or a space?
Not necessarily, but that creative mindset I think, is, is part of being a human being. And so I think there's, there's so much possibility for design to, to be part of everybody's toolkit. And so that's that, that is what, what I do in my position, both as, as the maker studio specialist, but also I'm teaching two classes.
This academic year as well. I'm teaching social intro to social innovation, and I'm also teaching the civic innovation course and, and both of those courses really deal with human centered design. And so I think that that design can be embedded in all of the disciplines. And I think anybody can access that.
Like, I'm really excited about innovation design and innovation designers, and if you're not familiar with that as a term, the moment in Toronto on their website actually have a really nice description of, of what an innovation designer is and I think if people are interested in, in getting into that field, you'll see that there is a value in every single discipline.
And that nobody has all of the skills , and they have this really nice map that you can map your yourself onto that allows you to be able to see, okay, I've got strengths in this, but I don't have strengths in that. And the beauty of that is that then you can kind of start to partner yourself with people who have the strengths that you don't have, or if you're just entering into this field, you can say, okay, w what's really interesting to me.
Oh, I've got some of that skill I could build. I could build that up. And the work that they're doing is fantastic. Really interesting work also. I mean, if we're thinking about locally, I think we're really starting to see a growth in that area, in the innovation design field. And so you can look at what J five are doing in Calgary, or even the city of Calgary's innovation lab.
And see what they're doing. And there there's many more in Alberta as well of folk who are really using design based approaches to innovation.
[00:25:36] Wunmi: So because it was already embedded in so many other disciplines, you don't think it's necessary to major in design as a discipline.
[00:25:45] Kerry: I think everybody can take from design and certainly employ that into, the, the work that they're doing.
And, everyone could add a little bit of design to their toolkit, but certainly we, we still do need that expertise. We need designers, we need more designers at the table. We need more designers in, in every industry because of the way that designers think and to be able to facilitate because for some people.
And I see that in my, in my day-to-day work for some people. Design is intimidating. And they don't think of themselves as designers. And so I think we need the people for whom design is, is a natural ability or the people who have developed that expertise to be able to facilitate others to come along because it's, it's not easy for everyone.
But, you know, if you've got, if you've got the skills as a, as a designer, then you can, you can bring people along in that process and designers who are trained in that are all very much trained in, in co-design as well. What we refer to is having people participate in the design process. So we need both.
We need designed to be everywhere. I think we need design expertise. but we also need a little bit of design in everybody's toolbox
[00:27:04] Wunmi: on a lighter note, you did say design is a mindset and it kind of permeates every aspect of your life. So what's the most mundane thing that you've had to, that you applied the design process to in your life.
[00:27:20] Kerry: One example I always use with, with students who don't think that they're creative. I explained to them that well, every time you make a meal, You design it, you might follow somebody else's design. That is the recipe, but you choose how you put it on the plate, right? So you might have, I don't know, three different things that you're putting on your plate, maybe your burrito and some rice and the salad, but you don't just dump it all in the middle of a bowl and say, there you go.
Or, you know, or I'll put it in three different plates or maybe you do, maybe you do it differently, but everybody's making a choice and they're designing what that plate looks like. To make it appealing for the person that they're, that they're cooking for or for yourself. So that then it's the way that you want it with the sauce on the top or this also on the side.
Right? So we're always making design decisions in everything that we do everyday. We get dressed, we're making design decisions. As to, you know, okay, how am I going to compose this outfit today? So those are the mundane things, just eating and dressing. And, you know, how do you design your sleep cycle?
You know, the, those basic things that they're, they are very mundane. but it might be also, I, I make a lot of clothes. I do a lot of sewing, so it might also be that I'm going to design my outfit and make it, and then I'm going to wear it. Tomorrow's. It can be a little bit more complex or it can be super simple that, you know, it's the pandemic and I'm wearing my leggings again.
[00:28:49] Wunmi: Right. This has been absolutely refreshing. And just the last, now like to ask. What's not on your LinkedIn profile. What's interesting thing. Is, is there about you that we can't find on your LinkedIn profile?
[00:29:03] Kerry: Oh, do I have to share those things here?
So I think one thing that's not really on my LinkedIn profile is that I actually worked in the music industry for 10 years. before I became a designer. And so I'm always, you know, in that creative field. but music is very much a passion of mine and I love live music and I've missed it so much over the last year and a half.
Yeah. And sometimes people don't expect me to listen to heavy metal, but I do. I listened to lots of other music too. I I've actually through the pandemic and, and working at home I've really i'm really enjoying, some of the new classical music. So yeah, my musical tastes are,
[00:29:47] Wunmi: That's great. Thank you so much for joining us.
[00:29:50] Kerry: Thanks for inviting.