January 2020

Publication in INNOVATION

"The world needs a lot of heroes right now... I believe industrial designers can serve as cruxes in this difficult time for the change we need to see. It goes beyond environmental sustainability; design can impact social justice, failing infrastructure, public health,  etc."

— Grace Budgett, IDSA West District Student Merit Winner

A recent graduate of the University of Washington, Grace Budgett, S/IDSA, was raised in Southern California and England by parents who are both art professors. As such, “I’ve always been smudging, drawing, painting and thinking ‘critique,’” she notes. “But I began having a hard time identifying myself as an artist and aligning myself with the typical motivations of art when I was a teenager.”

      Budgett learned about industrial design when a friend at UW suggested she take an into to design course, which she describes as “exciting” and “a great challenge.” She was particularly taken by how much potential she saw in industrial design for its social and environmental impact. She realized that she didn’t have to abandon her original path in environmental science to focus on ID. On the contrary, she could integrate the two by using values of environmental justice in her design practice. 

      Her passion lies in thinking about how industrial design can make huge impact on the large problems that people face, including climate change, displacement, and social injustice. “The world needs a lot of heroes right now,” she asserts. “I’m not proclaiming to be one or to ever become one—I’m far from it—but I believe industrial designers and designers as a whole can serve as cruxes in this difficult time for the change we need to see. It goes beyond environmental sustainability; design can impact social justice, failing infrastructure, public health, wage gaps, etc.” She approaches each problem with curiosity and an open mind. As part of her design philosophy, she believes that “everything needs to be really well intentioned and ultimately benefit the world.” 

      The many designs Budgett has helped bring to fruition exemplify this ethos. They include Tempo, a smart monitoring system for at-home cardiac rehabilitation; the T1 Traveler, a holistic on-the-go system for type 1 diabetics; and the JerryCarry, a pack board product system designed to aid the women who carry water through rough terrain in water-scarce regions like Sub-Saharan Africa. 

      Budgett describes her design aesthetic as a “working, growing thing,” considering that she’s only been designing products for about 3 years now. She is drawn to emotive and simple aesthetics that play with materials and stress the details. At the same time, having mainly worked for consultancies up until this point, Budgett takes pride in being able to adapt her designs to brand identity. Clients are essential to her design process, though she also enjoys working with teammates, participants, and project managers to bring ideas to life. “Working with people, I’ve realized over time, is just as important to me as good research,” she says, adding that communication is at the heart of all of her designs. 

      An area of design she is most interested in addressing currently is the issue of consumption, particularly “how products are designed to just go straight into the trash.” Budgett also sees that industrial design has a larger role to play in areas of the world where displacement is a problem, whether it’s due to war or climate change. She sees design as having the potential to design new cities that help those who are displaced adapt to living in a new place and that help existing residents be more accepting of the newcomers. She believes that industrial designers need to look beyond the “physical manifestation of things and think about systematic design.”

      Looking into the future, she hopes to work with a design consultancy, excited by the range of products they undertake, and wants to be a part of a forward-thinking group that is tackling difficult issues and providing hard-won solutions to long term problems. “I’m both terrified and excited to gain an understanding of what kind of problems we’ll be facing in a decade,” she says. “Hopefully, I’ll be some part of the movement to adapt design and the way humans interact with our changing planet.”