Kareem Collie was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from the Pratt Institute with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Design in 2001, and he spent the next decade as an art director for clients including Nickelodeon, USA Network, Coca-Cola, Starwood, and Mercedes. From 2006 through 2011, he and his business partner launched and then ran the design studio Dimitrious II Inc. while he also taught graphic design at Pratt Institute through 2012. Kareem earned his MA in Culture and Communications in 2016 and is currently the User Experience Design Lead at IBM in Los Angeles, California.
Connect with Kareem Collie:
Pluriverse Publication Chapter: Kareem Collie
Download the PDF Layout of the Kareem Collie chapter of the Pluriverse Publication.
Kareem grew up in East New York in the 1980s and 90s, a time when Brooklyn was still a primarily African American neighborhood. His parents encouraged him to build and create, making sure that he was surrounded with toys and art supplies that strengthened his artistic and tactile affinities. Growing up, Kareem felt he always had people in his corner in academic spaces, pointing him towards new opportunities to grow as a blooming designer. Teachers also recognized Kareem’s creative abilities and opened doors to weekend drawing programs at Pratt Institute and The Cooper Union. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School, where he was able to take architecture classes. His combined interests in building, making and drawing lead Kareem to study architecture as an undergraduate at Howard University. Halfway through his degree, however, Kareem realized he was “more interested in artistry and craft of it than strengthen materials and physics.” He began to move away from the mathematics involved in building and focused on the fluidity of designing and making, ultimately graduating with a degree in digital art.
When asked about the impact of place and identity on his career as a designer, Kareem responded that these factors are inherent in how he sees and interprets the world. Growing up in Brooklyn situated Kareem in the heart of a diverse network of entrenched multicultural communities. He explained that you could go into these pockets and feel like you’re in a different world. In his neighborhood, “there was a very specific type of blackness.” Kareem referred to Howard as “the Mecca,” explaining how the flood of African Americans of the diaspora brought all types of cultural influences and understandings of the world to the campus. This experience “opened up [his] perception of what it means to be a black man” and energized Kareem to amplify aspects of his culture in his work. Consequently, cultural theory became an area of curiosity for Kareem, specifically within the scope of commercialization and branding.
Kareem spent the first 15 years of his career teaching at Pratt Institute and working as a commercial designer. Throughout this phase of life, Kareem noticed that that design could be used in more than just branding, but as a tool to critically engage subjects through research. He proceeded to return to school, earning a Master of Art in Culture and Communication from NYU. It wasn’t until Kareem moved west for a teaching fellow position at Standford’s d.school that he was introduced to their design thinking lexicon. As a “designer who thinks,” Kareem criticizes the nomenclature of “design thinking” to be a bit heavy handed. Nonetheless, he values the process-oriented methodology because it provides creatives with a structure of insights to help along their journey. Or as he put it “ambiguity is just a part of life but having the tools to engage it is what’s important.”
Kareem brought his fascination in design thinking to his current role as the Director of Design and Creativity at The Hive. This center for collaborative creativity serves five schools in the Claremont Consortium in Southern California. Kareem’s vision is to “help students and faculty reimagine how they’re engaging their disciplines by offering them new tools and methodologies that provide shifted perspectives and alternative outcomes.” Kareem teaches a human centered design class and critical design studio, engaging the liberal arts through design thinking, human-centered design and design theory.
Kareem feels we all design in our day-to-day lives and therefore all have the faculties of design. But, for non-designers interested in design, it’s very important to go through the rigor of understanding the tools, understand the practices. Kareem explained that though design is a very human thing, to become a designer it’s important to practice in order to positively and thoughtfully influence systems, services, and products.
Kareem’s ever-evolving understanding of and attitudes toward design is the ultimate illustration of embracing ambiguity. He is so clearly passionate about his work as a professor but also critically learning about his discipline. At one point in our interview, he told me about a meditation exercise he used to do as an undergraduate architect. He would sit down and try to build a structure or object in his mind just using his imagination. As an aspiring designer and meditationist, this is a practice I plan on adopting.
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
- Natalie Hudanick (LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nataliehudanick/) and
- Michaeline Anglemire (LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeline-anglemire/) – Podcast Leads
- Tiwani Oseni (LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tiwani-oseni-651516a2/)
Hello from the Pluriverse 2019-2020 Student Team