Young Designers to Explore Global Issues

Each year the Fulbright Program offers grants to 1,700 Americans to study, teach English, or conduct research.  This year, the design world has much to look forward to. Earning the title of most highly represented specialized institution of 2010, seven students holding bachelors and masters degrees from Rhode Island School of Design have been chosen to study design from a number of global perspectives.

The surpassing of such institutions as Julliard and the New England Conservancy of Music by RISD in the number of Fulbright grantees is exciting for the design world. It seems as though the Fulbright Program is sending a message about the importance of design research and the importance of placing responsibility for innovative and sustainable design in the dexterous hands of young design students.

Louie Rigano  studied industrial design at RISD, and is interested in exploring ways to fix the problems that our over industrialized, consumption-driven society has created. His approach – to adopt the sentiments of Wabi Sabi philosophy and apply them to design – to create deep meaning in the objects he designs. He’s hoping to alleviate the throw-away mentality that overwhelms the western world. Design to him is about being simple and thoughtful, pragmatic and fabulous. Sustainability to him “is about designing new products that, instead of focusing on sustainability as the primary consideration for responsible design, have more empathy and emotional qualities.”

Rigano is smart to consider inscribing feelings onto objects as an effort towards sustainability. He looks back to simple Eastern ideas, rather than forward to the technology driven and complex solutions of sustainability that flood the west. And so thanks to the Fulbright program, this industrial designer has been given the opportunity to be immersed culturally and aesthetically and to participate in in-depth research and creative practice which will, undoubtedly, spawn innovative ideas and bodies of work.

Other RISD Fulbright grantees include Matthew Perez, a graduate from the MFA Glass program who will travel to Australia to research shape- induced stress factors in annealed glass. Andrew Bernot, who studied Glass and Engineering as an undergrad and plans to develop his interest and work in glassmaking in Sweden and Denmark while doing his research, and compare traditional Scandinavian glass design to innovative contemporary work.  Recent RISD alums, Gigi Gatewood, Michael Hahn, Sloan Kulper, and Lindsey Meyer, will be doing research in design in Trinidad/Tobago, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Morocco.  

After a year of bolstering creativity through comprehensive and sometimes radical research projects, while being immersed in new places with new cultures and design aesthetics, these Fulbright grantees will emerge with a lot to offer. The chosen seven from RISD offer exciting prospects for the design world, as well as to society at large.

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