Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum honors MIT D-Lab with National Design Award

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum announced that MIT D-Lab has won the National Design Award in the Corporate and Institutional Achievement category. Nominations were solicited from leading designers, educators, journalists, cultural figures, corporate leaders, and design enthusiasts from every U.S. state.

“D-Lab’s work in bringing design thinking to under-resourced areas of the globe is a tremendous example of MIT’s mission to serve the world,” comments Anantha Chandrakasan, dean of the MIT School of Engineering. “The D-Lab team deeply understands that designing and developing products and services for people living in poverty is not enough. Teaching people to design solutions to meet their own needs is rich with benefits — a sense of pride and accomplishment, the joy of creation, and an increased sense of agency,” he continued.

One of 11 awards, the Corporate and Institutional Achievement Award is "given in recognition of a corporation or institution that uses design as a strategic tool as part of its mission and has consistently exhibited ingenuity and insight in the relationship between design and quality of life," according to the Cooper Hewitt website.

“It is an incredible honor to have our work recognized by this award,” says Amy Smith, D-Lab founding director and senior lecturer in mechanical engineering. “Design is such an important part of what we do at D-Lab — we believe that both the products and the process of design can have a significant impact in addressing global poverty challenges.”

Comments Thabiso “Blak” Mashaba, of founder of These Hands, GSSE and one of D-Lab’s longtime collaborators in Botswana, “We work with D-Lab because our community members not only learn design skills, they become equal design partners on projects that matter and then design leads as they move projects forward and start others.”

Founded in 2002, D-Lab began as a single course known as The Haiti Class, which sought to apply engineering and design principles to the complex issues faced by people living in poverty. That first course embodied the values of technical expertise and a commitment to deep and respectful collaborations that D-Lab continues to hold at the center of its work today. D-Lab’s programs include more than 20 interdisciplinary courses, six research groups working in collaboration with global partners, as well as field programs focused on social entrepreneurship, inclusive markets, innovation ecosystems, and humanitarian innovation.

“This award is a wonderful recognition of D-Lab’s nearly 20 years of world-leading collaborative design education and research focused on empowering local communities to alleviate the pervasive challenges of global poverty,” says Ian A. Waitz, vice chancellor for undergraduate and graduate education.”

When the National Design Awards were established in 2000 as a project of the White House Millennium Council, the stated intent was to affirm design excellence in the U.S. “Twenty years later, the achievements of this year’s class underscore not just the incredible prowess of American design today, but advance our understanding of the power of design to change the world. From MIT D-Lab’s work to address the daily challenges of poverty through design to Open Style Lab’s functional and stylish wearable solutions for people of all abilities, the 2019 winners join an impressive group of honorees who have made an indelible impact on society,” says Caroline Baumann, director of Cooper Hewitt in a prepared statement.

The other National Design Award winners are Open Style Lab, co-founded by Grace Teo PhD '14 (Emerging Designer); Susan Kare (Lifetime Achievement); Patricia Moore (Design Mind); Thomas Phifer (Architecture Design); Tobias Frere-Jones (Communication Design); Derek Lam (Fashion Design); Ivan Poupyrev (Interaction Design); IwamotoScott Architecture (Interior Design); SCAPE Landscape Architecture (Landscape Architecture); and Tinker Hatfield (Product Design).

National Design Award winners will be invited to participate in public-facing programs at the Cooper Hewitt during National Design Week starting Oct. 12. A gala to celebrate the award winners will be held at the museum on Oct. 17.