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“We’re All Designers”: IP’s Senior Program Manager On Why Design is for Everyone

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The lightbulb moment that caused Barbie Penn to realize design’s importance in her life involved…an actual lamp. 

It happened during a summer workshop at Autodesk, where Inneract Project students were tasked with designing lamps inspired by the prompt: “I choose to shed light/shine light on _____.” Barbie had been working at IP for just a few months at that point, and was still pretty new to the world of design. She was already impressed by IP students’ creativity and their unique interpretations of this prompt, but that moment was the first time she considered the “why” of design.

“It made me think about even traditionally boring items differently,” Barbie said in a recent interview. “I thought about whether maybe [something is] designed more for the aesthetic or functionality. Whereas before I’m just like, ‘it’s a lamp and you turn it on because you need light.’” 

Since then, Barbie has lost track of the many instances that have made her aware of design’s relevance in her everyday life. Still, however, they inform her work as senior program manager, alongside her extensive experience in education and youth programming.