‘Design Thinking’ certificate program debuts next spring; new building renamed for donor

artist's rendering of Nancy Richardson Design Center

An undergraduate certificate program in “Design Thinking” will be offered for the first time next semester at Colorado State University’s new Nancy Richardson Design Center, which is scheduled to open in January.

“This certificate is about learning design principles and methods and applying them to solve problems in any field,” said Laura Malinin, director of the center.

She explained that the approach involves taking a broader, holistic look at identifying the causes of a challenge or dilemma. “By defining the problem in different ways, it allows you to see solutions you may not have thought of,” she said.

Malinin leading tour
Laura Malinin, right, leads the department’s faculty on a tour of the Nancy Richardson Design Center, which is under construction west of the Gifford Building.

In an oversimplified example, if you’re consistently oversleeping, perhaps the issue is about the design of your alarm clock, or its location (too close to the bed), or your social support system, or your diet, etc. Design thinking can be used to create better products, processes, or services.

Open to all CSU students

The interdisciplinary certificate program is open to students in any major at CSU, and will consist of three components: a three-credit “Introduction to Design Thinking” course; five-credits of “Design Thinking Toolbox” courses; and a four-credit “Design Thinking Collaborative” course.

The first class introduces students to the creative, flexible process of design thinking. “Students build creative competence and an appreciation for thinking across disciplines as they develop a new mindset and skillset that guides innovation,” according to program materials.

In the second course, students will choose to study subtopics from a menu that includes 3D modeling, digital imaging, wood, textiles, paper medium and infographics. These one- or two-credit courses are focused on skill development and will use the equipment in the woods, metals, fabrications, virtual reality and computer labs.

Students using VR
Students experiment with virtual reality during a 2016 “hackathon” in the Aylesworth Building’s D Lab, which will move to the new design center.

“We want the certificate program to be very nimble and responsive to changing trends or student passions,” said Malinin, who is also an assistant professor in the Department of Design and Merchandising.

The final collaborative class resembles a capstone that involves an interdisciplinary team of students and community/industry partners solving a socially significant, real-world problem chosen by students.

New equipment available

In testing and evaluating their designs, students will have access to the full array of new equipment available at the Nancy Richardson Design Center, many of which feature Computer Numeric Control (CNC) capability. New offerings include fabrication labs with high-tech digital routers and milling machines for metal and wood, a prototyping lab with 3D printers and laser cutters, a screen-printing lab, an ultraviolet hybrid printer, textile printers, a seam welding machine, quilting and embroidery machines, a 3D scanner, a vinyl cutter, and a large-format printer.

Malinin said there will also be a virtual reality lab space and a virtual-reality equipped computer teaching lab in the new center, thanks to funding from the Office of the Vice President for Research and the College of Health and Human Sciences.

More information is available at design.colostate.edu.

The Department of Design Merchandising is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.

New name honors donor and visionary

What’s in a name? In this case, a chance to honor donor and alumna Nancy Richardson, ’82, whose vision led to the creation of the Richardson Design Center at CSU. The full name is now the Nancy Richardson Design Center.

Nancy’s husband, Curt Richardson, along with her sons, wanted to be sure Nancy’s dream of promoting design thinking at her alma mater, where she graduated with a degree in interior design, was celebrated.

The Richardsons’ $8.1 million gift is supporting the state-of-the-art new building, as well as Nancy’s vision for the center to be a leader in the integration of design thinking across multiple disciplines at the University.

NRDC signNancy’s family surprised her with their wish for the new name, which was unveiled at a small family tour on Aug. 30, where Nancy‘s parents also got to witness the unveiling of a banner reflecting the new name.

University leaders are also thrilled to have Nancy‘s name on the building. Her passion and generosity are ensuring that CSU’s next generation of innovative and creative design professionals and entrepreneurs have an iconic facility to embrace design thinking and bring ideas together from across campus.

The Richardsons are the co-founders of OtterBox and Blue Ocean Enterprises.

The Richardson family
Nancy Richardson, center, reacts to the unveiling of the building’s new name.