Member Spotlight - Austin Ledzian

What is your favorite part about your major?

Maybe I’m an idealist, but I love the idea that good design can change the world. In many cases there needs to be supportive political policies and infrastructure to affect social change. But there is still a lot that design can do on it’s own. For example, Akshay is working on a project in India to keep track of immunization records in rural areas using people’s cell phones. That is design working to solve a big problem in a country that is developing super fast. But even smaller things, like how can we help people with arthritis peel a carrot comfortably? It seems small, but for people with arthritis products that solve small problems can make them feel independent and empowered. And it’s even better when we can do that sustainably. What if the best selling vegetable peeler on the market was cradle-to-cradle, meaning at the end of the product’s life all of the parts can be separated and ‘upcycled’ into a new peeler with no waste? That is seemingly a small thing that makes a big impact.

What is your year?


What do you love about Studio Collective?

I love talking to our professors. They are all extremely intelligent and experienced and any excuse to hear their thoughts is a gift. I especially love seeing into their homes and how they live. Talking to Chris, Ellen, and Mitzi about how they live their lives as designers is fascinating, but doing that in their homes takes it to a much deeper dimension. In the process of creating these stories (in volumes I, III, and IV) there is always a special moment for me in the conversation when I feel so much admiration and respect for these people. They are extremely talented designers and thinkers, and to hear them speak about their craft in the context of Appalachia gives me an extremely optimistic and nostalgic feeling that I can’t exactly describe. Documenting their history and their musings feels like such meaningful work, and it’s extremely important to record moments like this for the history of our school.

What is your most embarrassing moment?

I feel like I embarrass myself every day. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t really feel embarrassment anymore so nothing really sticks out in my memory. One time I was at Henri de Hahn’s house and I was doing (attempting) a body roll and Paola Zellner walked in and laughed. It was great.

What do you love/hate about your position?

I am a Student Advisor in Studio Collective, basically it’s my job to improve the experience of our members in small ways and help everyone understand their role. I love watching freshmen join and be really excited about Studio Collective, it brings a new energy to the team and they always bring a fresh perspective. The hardest part is to help them achieve what they want to do but not impose my own vision. Seeing our team take the initiative and create content and experiences is really inspiring to me, and often they do it in a way that I would never have expected.

If you had to pick an animal as a spouse what would it be and why?

A dog. Especially the kind that are calm and like to sit with you. They always cheer me up when I’m sad and they’re great at cuddling.

What do you think your style is when it comes to design?

I try to design products that most effectively solve the problem for the user, so I try to impose the least amount of ‘style’ as possible. I’m drawn to visually clean, primitive forms. I like objects that have an honest use of materials and the user knows what it is immediately, or at least knows where to begin interacting with the object to find out. For example, right now I’m working on designing a contemporary interpretation of a milk bottle as part of a larger project working to make the distribution and consumption of dairy products more sustainable. It’s been very important to me to make the form modern and interesting, but still have cues from the iconic glass milk bottle so it is recognizable. I’ve struggled with it a lot, but I’m enjoying the attrition.