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Convergence: Design Symposium Marks Progress and Defines Agenda


Design Frontiers


In May, some 80 invited design professionals from academia and industry, including many former U-M design students, came to North Campus for the first Design Frontiers: Crossing Boundaries, Creating Disciplines symposium.

The event followed several recent national design research and education initiatives, including a series of National Science Foundation-sponsored workshops. Panos Papalambros, the Donald C. Graham Professor of Engineering and head of the Optimal Design (ODE) Laboratory at U-M, chaired the symposium.

Papalambros has a lot to celebrate this year. Not only has he been an active leader in design related efforts worldwide; he helped spearhead U-M’s now five-year-old Design Science doctoral program, and his ODE lab marked its 30th anniversary. He also celebrated his 60th birthday.

“All of these things converged and, since it’s also an academic tradition in Europe to celebrate professors’ 60th birthdays, my students persuaded me to mark the occasion with a symposium,” he said.

The two-day event included presentations, posters and panel discussions centered on the theme of “Uniting behind a common cause: Design and the national agenda.” Small groups addressed such questions and issues as the driving needs behind a “design agenda”; who benefits and universities’ role in creating design-oriented minds for industry and society.

At the end of the symposium, participants presented their ideas for taking action and sustaining design movement momentum. More events and follow-up actions are planned.

Information on the symposium and subsequent activities can be found at

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