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Crate and Barrel Co-Founders Endow Design Institute at Northwestern

March 20, 2007 | by Alan K. Cubbage

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Gordon and Carole Segal, co-founders of Crate and Barrel, have made a significant donation to establish a new institute for design at Northwestern University, Northwestern President Henry S. Bienen announced today (March 20).

The generous gift will create The Segal Design Institute, which will significantly expand the University's existing undergraduate design curriculum in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, support the development of new master's degree programs and fund research on design.

The new institute builds on McCormick's longstanding commitment to design. In the 1990s the school launched its first initiative in design education: Engineering Design and Communication in which first-year students take on the challenge of designing new products to solve real-world problems; in 2002 it began the Master's of Product Development; in 2003 it formed the Institute for Design Engineering and Applications, which provides the curricula and facilities for an education in engineering design; and in 2005 it opened the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, a state-of-the-art facility that houses McCormick's design programs.

“Design entails starting with poorly understood situations containing broad, imperfectly shared ideas, and gradually structuring these ideas to come up with solutions to problems,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of McCormick. “We see design-think as a process that opens horizons and opens minds. For us, design-think provides a pathway toward innovation.”

Gordon Segal, CEO of Crate and Barrel, is a member of the Northwestern University Board of Trustees and a 1960 graduate of Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. Carole Browe Segal, Vice President of Civic Affairs of Crate and Barrel, is a 1960 graduate of Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

“We are very excited to make a contribution to Northwestern that will enhance its reputation as a leader in design,” said Gordon Segal. “Companies such as Crate and Barrel need graduates who have been exposed to the principles of design. Design is probably the biggest competitive advantage the United States has in a rapidly changing and highly competitive world.”

“We need to create and nurture individuals who can anticipate, identify and fill the needs of society,” added Carole Browe Segal. “The Segal Design Institute will support creative design education for Northwestern students to meet those needs today and well into the future.”

The cross-school institute will foster curricular development and research in design across all schools at Northwestern. Dipak Jain, dean of Kellogg, and Ottino have worked to develop new cross-school graduate programs in design that build on Northwestern's world-class programs in business education.

“At Northwestern we have students who receive a broad-based education that allows them to be innovative, and this institute will assist us greatly in those efforts. It is a way to cross-link disciplines - engineering, business, medicine, communication, humanities - around a common objective,” said Bienen.

“We are very appreciative of this gift from Gordon and Carole Segal and their continuing support of the University, as well as their recognition of the importance of innovative design,” added Bienen. 

The co-directors of the institute will be J. Edward Colgate, a professor of mechanical engineering who is a leading researcher in the field of robotics, and Don Norman, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and professor of psychology and author of numerous popular books on design, including The Design of Everyday Things.

The Segal Design Institute will sponsor two conferences on design this spring. On April 19 the National Academy of Engineering will hold its regional conference at Northwestern with a theme of Design: Innovation and Engineering. The presentations at the conference will cover a wide landscape, ranging from electronics to large-project architecture. The conference will examine a variety of processes and products, from those with rapid product cycles to those such as buildings that are built to last for 30 years or more.

On May 22 the institute will host a conference on design at Northwestern that will showcase the talents of the design community in Chicago.

Topics: University News