While she may be an engineer by trade, Dr. Christina Harrington identifies herself as a designer. She has a background in electrical engineering and industrial design and focuses her design skills and research on the areas of universal, accessible design. Specifically, she has looked at how to use design in the development of assistive products for older adults and individuals with differing abilities, and how to use design to center communities that have been historically been at the margins of mainstream design. Based out of Chicago, Dr. Harrington is the Assistant Professor in the School of Design at DePaul University and serves as the Director of the Equity and Health Innovations Design Research Lab.
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Pluriverse Publication Chapter: Dr. Christina Harrington
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Dr. Christina Harrington is an engineer by trade, but she identifies herself as a designer. However, that wasn’t always the case. Dr. Harrington didn’t stumble upon design until college, and just getting to college was a challenge for her. The idea that Dr. Harrington, a young black girl from a single-parent household, would go on to college was unfathomable to some of her high school guidance counselors; many pushed her to consider community college. It wasn’t until people in school started to recognize her excellence in math and science that they pushed for her to study engineering.
During her electrical engineering studies at Virginia Tech, Dr. Harrington started following a couple of mechanical engineering major friends to their industrial design classes. The boredom that she felt in her discipline was what led her to discover design. “Engineering felt much more rigid for me personally,” Dr. Harrington reflects. With design, she was captured by the creativity and ingenuity that emerged from studio culture; it was love at first sight and that moment was just the beginning.
Her love for design drove her to pursue a Master’s in Industrial Design at North Carolina state. While Dr. Harrington’s initial desire was to design furniture, that quickly changed to design research. Her work involves examining the design of assistive products for older adults and individuals with differing abilities. Dr. Harrington considers place and identity to be the “driving force” for what she does. Her work focuses heavily on ways to use design to center communities that have historically been an afterthought and what she considers “the marginalized of the marginalized”. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor in the School of Design at DePaul University and serves as the Director of the Equity and Health Innovations Design Research Lab. Dr. Harrington says that Chicago has given her “a new insight to design” and has surrounded her with “people that are doing things to shift social issues”.
The definition of design has transformed from just being a major or a discipline to her. She thinks of it as more of a tool that individuals can use to shift paradigms. To those that are seeking to tap into the mindset of a designer to solve nontraditional problems, Dr. Harrington suggests that you ask yourself, “What is your motivation for change?” This will help you spur a spark that will help you know how to approach the problem. Dr. Harrington states that when you “start to conceptualize that change and to envision or re-envision how can we change the system” that’s when you start thinking like a designer.
The Hello from the Pluriverse Podcast aims to open up and create a space to have conservations about the pluriversality in design.
This podcast is a project of the Design Thinking for Social Innovation Program at the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University.
Executive Producer: Lesley-Ann Noel, Ph.D
Hello from the Pluriverse 2020-2021 Student Team
Hello from the Pluriverse 2019-2020 Student Team