In fall 2010, Kelton Minor came to Copenhagen for the first time to study abroad in the Graphic Design and Architecture programs at DIS. Now almost four years later, and having received his bachelor’s degree in Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University, he is back in Denmark on a Fulbright scholarship. We caught up with him to find out what brought him back to Scandinavia and how DIS has influenced his current studies and future plans.
Kelton Minor: During my spring semester at DIS I took the Integrated Sustainability elective course and also began a Student Research course on adaptive design. In combination, these DIS courses helped to cultivate my interest in the social side of sustainability as it relates to human interaction with the built environment. I realized that environments and products can both constrain and enable the human spirit and that disability often emerges during the interaction of people with their environment and thus rarely lies within the body proper. These realizations influenced my later decision to explore the fascinating world of design, disability studies, and cognitive science on my return to Cornell. The topic of my Fulbright stems from this intersection, and investigates cases of inclusively designed products in Denmark that involved a diversity of individuals in the design process.
DIS: What specific projects during your time at DIS do you look back on with most satisfaction?
KM: Of the many that resonate from DIS, the joyful albeit arduous journey of the Architecture Design Studio proved particularly influential. I have memories of sparring and (practically) living together in our top floor Architecture studio with two fellow DIS students – Derek Magee from Tulane and Tiffany Carlson from Cal Poly. We became totally engrossed in trying to conceptualize how to bring the complex socio-environmental dynamics of a Swedish walking street into a vertical skyscraper for Chicago Architecture Today’s 2011 Annual Skyscraper Competition. It was a sensitizing experience! In the marathon period of just three months we developed a mock firm identity (VOX), tangram-inspired team work flow, and a skyscraper proposal for northern Stockholm, while filming the entire process (daily routines, morning glory, site visits). The video is actually still online here and was covered in an ArchDaily article.
DIS: And then you took the learnings from that project further immediately after DIS…
KM: Yes, this project helped me to translate my bike explorations of Copenhagen and Stockholm into a summer internship designing Google NYC’s new bike room and bicycle storage solutions. The transition in scale from imagining a future skyscraper to crafting bike racks and designing details at the human/cyborg scale was very welcome.
But beyond my studio experience at DIS, I found Courtney Jensen’s Visual Journal class truly challenged, changed, and expanded the way that I document and trace my personal observations of the encompassing world of material and immaterial interrelationships and environments. Courtney’s course and instructive insight helped me to push my own practice forward, while valuing the designer’s social responsibility to always remember that ‘ethics’ is the core root of aesthetics.
KM: There are so many possible futures! One of them involves working for a few years as an interaction designer or design researcher at a human centered design firm before possibly pursuing a Ph.D. in interaction design or environmental psychology.
DIS: You really made DIS work for you, so I want to finish by asking what message would you give to a student considering coming to DIS?
KM: Let Copenhagen become a laboratory for your experimentation and exploration. It is remarkable how much time study abroad students spend in close proximity to DIS – on Vestergade and Strøget, especially – even outside of class. Challenge your cognition and try to set up a regular routine of avoiding common routes through the city.