Socially Engaged Design


Here / Hear Now! Socially Engaged Design

This is a call to action. We need the art and design worlds to stop talking big and start doing; to put the problem-solving skills on which we pride ourselves to work on issues both local and global; to design for health, imagination, resilience, poverty, education, and building creative confidence. We will look at projects that reflect design in inherently interdependent social spheres to provoke questions, and to inspire action and reflection.

We need to challenge the design world to turn our focus away from the "product" and to deliver results and impact rather than form and function; to reconsider who our work really affects; to leapfrog our consumer and luxury aesthetics in order to enlist a new generation of design activists who can listen to others and whose practices reflect core social values of empathy, reciprocity, and friendship. We need big hearts, imaginative business sense, and we need courage to strive towards non-normative work that can inspire, challenge, and respond with vision, sensitivity, and surprise.

Professor Nick Tobier explains components and production process of a tricycle mounted water purification unit. The machine was designed and fabricated with help from area students and industry partners. Click the video above to watch the entire presentation. 

The first of four speakers in the Design Science Speaker Series, Professor Nick Tobier challenged the audience to take action and to expand their in-person social networks to better solve today's design problems. For more information on upcoming presenations, please visit our informational seminar page.




 Nick Tobier

Nick Tobier, Professor 
STAMPS School of Art & Design

University of Michigan

Edward R. Ginsberg Senior Counsel
to the Provost on Faculty Civic Engagement

About Nick Tobier

Nick studied sculpture and landscape architecture, worked at Storefront for Art & Architecture in NYC for 5 years on projects and later as a designer first with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation/ Bronx Division, and LandWorks Studio, Boston.

Nick's focus as an artist and designer is with the social lives of public places, both in built structures and events. He has designed and/or activated bus stops, farms, kitchens, boulevards, and has worked within and without municipal structures in Detroit, Tokyo, Toronto, San Francisco.

Current and recent projects include Marvelous Guests (initiated with Juliane Stiegele), a series of site-specific urban interventions, and the Brightmoor Maker Space, a hands-on workshop for designing, building and sharing ideas, skills, projects and friendship in Detroit.

Nick is a Professor at the Stamps School of Art and Design and the Center for Entrepreneurship, and serves as Senior Counsel to the Provost on Faculty Civic Engagement.