Research and Projects

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    Insert the Human Back into Design

    Insert the Human Back into Design 750

    An alumnus bridges the gap between public and policy.

    They say it takes a village to (fill in the blank). But Parsons School of Design graduate Sean Baker knows that while collaboration is essential to solving today's most urgent and complex world problems, it must be combined with strategic human design in order to create sustainable solutions.

    Insert the Human Back into Design inset

    This strategy has proved successful. In 2014, in collaboration with the Humanitarian Design Lab at Parsons, Sean and his design partner, James Frankis, developed Project Fogg, a balloon-powered visualization tool for disaster response and winner of the New Challenge 2014. Through a holistic design process, their diverse team of field experts and community members created a kit that empowers those most severely affected by natural floods, earthquakes, and other disasters. Armed with the Project Fogg kit — a helium-safe balloon, tether, clamp, camera, and microcomputer — disaster victims can aerially survey damage to their communities and gather this data in order to expedite federal relief initiatives. Project Fogg’s practical yet innovative approach caught the attention of FEMA, which subsequently awarded the team the FEMA Appreciation Award.

    Sean continues to bridge the ever-widening gap between people in need and the public sector through such effective collaborative processes. With this goal in mind, he now applies human-focused design at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the first design-inspired innovation lab organized by the U.S. government. There Sean hopes to critically examine the American unemployment crisis, addressing the issue through the same site-specific, people-centered, empathetic design that drives his other projects — thus inserting the human element back into increasingly impersonal public policy.

    The New School, with its focus on design-inspired learning, is a force of new inquiry and humane innovation. Be a Force of New.