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Ohio Northern design students attend conference highlighting design’s critical role in creating social value

October—Concluding National Design Week, several Ohio Northern University design students and faculty attended this year’s AIGA’s Gain Conference, “Design for Social Value.” Students heard design, business and social innovation leaders from a variety of industries share their visionary approaches to creating social value. Presenters demonstrated the broadening role design plays in institutional strategy, leadership, process and service, product and message, and how the creative attributes of designers provide special advantages to tackling socially relevant projects and enhancing the human experience.

Designers, businesses, organizations and governments recognize the need to take a holistic, human-centered approach to working in the greater world and acknowledge that they must create social value in order to succeed.

Held October 9–10 in San Francisco, California, the conference was presented by AIGA, the national professional organization for design. AIGA’s 22,000-person membership comprises graphic designers, brand consultants, design firm principals, web designers and corporate in-house designers from across the United States.

Students and faculty who attended Gain this year were:
• Brit Rowe, associate professor of art & design
• Nancy Burnett, associate director for design (Communications & Marketing)
• Kevin Drain, senior graphic design major
• Andrew Crozier, senior graphic design major
• Lauren Hector, sophomore graphic design major
• Mike Madsen, senior graphic design major
• Danielle Whisman, senior design minor
• Jerry Beard, senior graphic design major
• Abby Brown, sophomore graphic design major
• Brittany Lang, junior graphic design major
• Vicki Moga, senior advertising design major

“Gain” showed the students that what designers do on a daily basis—create, communicate, strategize, analyze, translate, collaborate—is what puts them in the perfect position to build social value for companies, clients and communities.

A few of the speakers included:

Debbie Aung Din, Proximity Designs
Debbie Aung Din is cofounder of Proximity Designs, a nonprofit social enterprise operating in Myanmar (Burma). Proximity Designs makes and sells products and services that provide a path out of poverty for rural families. Proximity operates a full-scale design lab staffed with professional product designers. Products are designed for extreme affordability and typically boost productivity and incomes by $200–$300 so families can afford basic necessities. Proximity delivers products to rural customers through a vast network of independent agro-dealer shops and village service providers. Since 2004, over 180,000 products and services have been purchased by rural households. Aung Din is a native of Myanmar and has lived and worked in Mississippi, Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar. She has worked for a variety of organizations including nongovernmental agencies, local community groups, USAID, the United Nations and the World Bank. Aung Din holds a Masters degree from Harvard University where she studied public policy and development economics. 

David J. Erickson, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco
David J. Erickson is director of the Center for Community Development Investments at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and edits the Federal Reserve Journal Community Development Investment Review. His research areas in the Community Development Department of the Federal Reserve include community development finance, affordable housing, economic development and institutional changes that benefit low-income communities. Erickson has a Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, with a focus on economic history and public policy. He also holds a master’s degree in public policy from Berkeley and an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College. He has also been a leader in the collaboration between the Federal Reserve and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on bringing health together with community development. To date, this collaboration has resulted in 10 conferences around the country and numerous publications, including a cluster of articles in Health Affairsin November, 2011. His book on the history of community development, The Housing Policy Revolution: Networks and Neighborhoods, was published in 2009 by the Urban Institute Press. His most recent book, an edited volume, is titled Investing in What Works for America’s Communities: Essays on People, Place, and Purpose.

Robert Fabricant, frog
Robert Fabricant is vice president of creative for frog in New York, where he leads multidisciplinary design teams for clients such as BBC, Comcast, GE, MTV, Nextel and Nissan. He has developed user experiences for numerous digital platforms, including handheld devices, in-car information systems, medical devices, retail environments, networked applications and desktop software. Fabricant is a leader of frog’s healthcare expert group, a cross-disciplinary global team that works collectively to share best practices and build frog’s healthcare capabilities. An expert in design for social innovation, Fabricant recently led Project Masiluleke, an initiative that harnesses the power of mobile technology to combat the world’s worst HIV and AIDS epidemic in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. He leads frog’s Mobile Mandate, a collaborative platform leveraging frog’s expertise in mobile technologies to create social impact. Launching Mobile Mandate, frog had entered a strategic collaboration with UNICEF for Health programs focused on maternal/infant health and welfare. Fabricant is an adjunct professor at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts where he teaches a foundation course in Interaction Design. In 2009, he joined the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York and is a faculty member of the Pop!Tech Social Innovation Fellowship Program. A regular speaker at conferences and events, and is a frequent contributor to a wide variety of publications, including I.D. Magazine, The Wall Street Journaland Wired.  

Maria Giudice, HOT Studio
Innovator, artist, protagonist, and positive provocateur—Maria Giudice has pursued a vision of intelligent, elegant, people-centered design throughout her professional life. Under Giudice's leadership, Hot Studio, the experience design firm she founded in 1997, has grown from a two-person outfit into a full-service creative agency with offices in San Francisco and New York City. Along the way, Hot has been named to Inc. Magazine’s Top 5,000 fastest-growing businesses every year since 2008, and in 2011 was inducted into the San Francisco Business Times’ Hall of Fame. Known for her candor and wit, Giudice has spoken at conferences throughout the U.S. and abroad, including TEDxPresidio, SXSW and AIGA’s Design Conference. She teaches regularly at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and in California College of the Arts’ DMBA and MFA programs. Giudice holds a BFA from Cooper Union and is co-author and designer of several award-winning books, including Elements of Web Designand Web Design Essentials. In 2012, she was named an AIGA Fellow.

Denise Korn, Youth Designand Korn Design
Denise Korn is the Principal of Korn Design, a nationally recognized brand strategy and design firm with offices in Boston and New York. Korn has worked with a wide range of clients delivering groundbreaking strategic work for top-of-class developers, entrepreneurs, chefs and institutional leaders, providing expert consultation on an equally wide range of assignments in the categories of leading hospitality, restaurants and luxury goods. In 2003, Korn founded Youth Design, a nonprofit organization one of the nation’s leading programs that focuses on addressing the critical socioeconomic needs of urban youth by teaching them highly marketable design skills, giving them access to committed professional mentors, and supporting them along the path toward higher education by introducing them to viable career opportunities in the design industry. Youth Design is helping to shape the next generation of diverse design professionals through its robust workforce development and educational initiatives set in the context of design and promoting diversity in the creative economy. Korn graduated from Cornell University where she received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in fine art and photography through the School of Architecture, Art and Planning. Korn served as co-president of the New England Creative Economy Initiative and currently sits on the Advisory Board for the Boston chapter of AIGA Boston, and the Design Industry Group of Massachusetts (DIGMA).

Patrice Martin,
Patrice Martin is the co-lead and creative director of, the nonprofit organization started by IDEO to address poverty-related challenges through design and to encourage the use of human-centered innovation in the social sector. Martin's work at focuses on partnering with nonprofits, social enterprises and foundations to deliver innovative solutions to problems that affect low-income communities. She’s worked across a diverse set of challenges, including youth employment, early childhood learning, scalable solutions for water and sanitation, financial inclusion and more. She also created and stewarded HCD Connect, the online platform to build community amongst human-centered practitioners, a now vibrant website with 10,000 plus users. Before founding, Martin was a design director with IDEO and her work spanned large-scale social change in the private, public and social sectors, with clients including Nike, Mayo Clinic, The American Red Cross, Gates Foundation and Marriott International. 

Leslie Ziegler, Rock Health
Leslie Ziegler is the Chief Evangelist and part of the founding team at Rock Health, a San Francisco-based incubator for early stage digital health start ups. Rock Health brings together the brightest minds in technology, medicine, investment and corporate to find new ways to address issues in the health care system through technology. Prior to Rock Health, Leslie worked as one of the first employees at an early stage start up, and spent over eight years in advertising, at agencies including McCann Erickson and DDB, with clients ranging from (RED), Starbucks, Intel, Pepsi and Microsoft. Leslie is an avid photographer, reader, runner and traveler. 

AIGA, the professional association for design, stimulates thinking about design, demonstrates the value of design and empowers the success of designers at each stage of their careers. AIGA’s mission is to advance designing as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force. Founded in 1914, AIGA remains the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design. For more information, visit

Ohio Northern offers both the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees with majors in advertising design, art education, graphic design and studio arts with concentrations in two-dimensional, three-dimensional and pre-art therapy. The department of A&D holds memberships in national organizations such as the National Art Education Association, College Art Association, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education, AIGA: The Professional Association for Design, and the National Council on Education of Ceramic Arts. The department is recognized in the second and third editions of “Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers” as one of the best creative programs nationwide. For additional information about the department of art & design or the University’s 2012–13 Arts Exhibition Season, contact the department at 419.772.2160.