When Anna Engström, BIND ’05, arrives at work each morning, there is no personal office waiting for her. No cubicle, no desk— just an ever-changing designated “project space,” a shared room where groups of designers, engineers, researchers, and managers meet to work on specific projects. “Walls start to get covered with Post-its and photos and research,” says Engström. “We’re informed by the environment.” After conducting field research, Engström and her colleagues at IDEO huddle in these spaces to create concepts and designs for things like a needleless immunization delivery device, a community pharmacy, an ideal home for wounded veterans, even classroom furniture that is tailored to the needs of today’s students and teachers. “Design is just a … different way of approaching a problem,” says Engström. “Design can help solve any issue.” Even, apparently, the attention spans of today’s high school students.
Engström’s original life plan didn’t include a company like IDEO. Growing up in Sweden, she would revamp her bedroom every couple of weeks, practicing to become an interior designer. Her father, fearing her dreams of designing luxurious houses would not come to fruition, suggested that she look into industrial design geared toward products, furniture, or even “experiences”—like a visit to the doctor. After studying industrial design at a high school in Sweden, she headed to Wentworth. Her career began at ELEVEN, a design consulting firm, where she became a lead designer and did work for Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, Motorola, and Boston Acoustics. Engström’s designing doesn’t stop when she leaves IDEO’s offices. In addition to cool products, she posts images and ideas from home designs at her blog redhousedesign.blogspot.com, and her Etsy shop features handmade prints that hark back to her Scandinavian heritage. Seems she can’t entirely shake that interior design dream after all. —MAUREEN HARMON