Skip to Main Content
of desiGn

Reshaping the World through Human-Centered Design

By Latrina Lee (MDes 2023)

June 6, 2023

Latrina Lee speaking at commencement
Placing Human Needs, Aspirations, and Experiences at the Core of Our Work

Latrina Lee (MDes 2023) spoke at this year’s ID Commencement Ceremony on May 12. Following is the transcript and video of her speech.

It is an incredible honor to stand before you today as we celebrate this momentous milestone in our lives. Congratulations to my fellow graduates, the Institute of Design class of 2023! As we begin this evening celebrating our achievements, let’s enjoy our final night together in Chicago’s noisiest building. Tonight, we stand at the threshold of a new chapter in our lives— a chapter brimming with boundless possibilities and potential.

You all have truly been an inspiration to me. Your brilliance, fearlessness, and motivation have been my favorite part of the past two years at ID. At the 85th anniversary of this very institution, we raised the question of what we will call the next era of design. In conversations with one another, projects with clients, interviews with potential employers, in the classrooms, and halls of this building, we have explored the many possibilities for the future and value of design.

This evening, I want to share with you a vision and a reminder inspired by conversations and learnings from our time at ID. This is also inspired by a quote from poet Maya Angelou, she said “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

This is a vision of a future where human-centered design helps shape the world we live in. It is not just a buzzword or a passing trend. It is a powerful philosophy, a mindset that places human needs, aspirations, and experiences at the core of our work.

It is about understanding that every solution we create, every product we design, and every system we build should be with the intention of improving the lives of society as a whole.

Watch Latrina Lee’s entire speech.

As we step into the next chapter of our lives, we will face many challenges and opportunities. The world is evolving at an unprecedented pace, and the problems we face are increasingly complex and interconnected. Climate change, social inequality, and technological disruption are just a few of the pressing issues that demand our attention. In the face of these challenges, human-centered design becomes an imperative.

You are imperative.

Imagine a world where the impact of climate change is mitigated through innovative, sustainable design solutions that prioritize environmental preservation while enhancing human well-being. An equitable world where smart cities seamlessly integrate technology, systems, and infrastructure to create inclusive, accessible spaces for all. A world where healthcare systems are revolutionized, offering personalized care and empowering individuals to take charge of their well-being. It is a future that acknowledges the power of design to shape perceptions, transform lives, and create a more just and equitable world.

By embracing human-centered design methods, we can unlock the true potential of design and use it as a force for positive change, fostering a society that celebrates diversity, empathizes with others, and fearlessly challenges the status quo.

This is the power of human-centered design.

But this vision is not just a dream. For the past two years, we have been prototyping this future. It is within our reach, and it starts with each and every one of us graduating today. As graduates of the Institute of Design, we possess a unique set of skills and knowledge that empowers us to make a difference. We are not superheroes, but we have the potential to shape the future through our work, our creativity, our approach to ambiguity, and our ability to work with others.

But remember, it is not just about technical expertise, frameworks, methods, or design thinking. In this future, design transcends the boundaries of frameworks and methods and recognizes the richness that comes from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences of all stakeholders. It is about embracing diversity, fostering inclusivity, and listening to the voices of those who have been marginalized or unheard. It is about questioning the status quo and challenging the assumptions that underpin our systems and structures.

We must recognize that injustices and inequalities persist in our society, but we aim to address them head-on through our work. It is about being bold and courageous in the pursuit of change.

As we embark on our respective careers, I urge you to keep the learnings from our time at ID close to your heart. Be curious, constantly seeking to understand the needs and desires of the people you serve. Collaborate with others, recognizing that the most impactful solutions are born through the collective efforts of diverse mindsets. Be resilient in the face of failure and setbacks, for innovation often arises from learning and adapting.

But above all, never lose sight of the power you hold as human-centered designers, we are change-makers. We have the ability to shape the future of our world, to make it more compassionate, more equitable, more just, and more sustainable. Each decision we make, and each project we undertake can have a ripple effect that extends far beyond what we can imagine.

So, as you walk across the stage, remember that you are not just graduating from an institution. You are graduating into a world that is hungry for your ideas, your passion, and your commitment to being human-centered designers. Embrace the challenges that lie ahead, and let us together create a future where the needs and dreams of every individual are at the forefront of our work. Congratulations, class of 2023. The future is in your hands, and I have no doubt that you will shape it with the same wisdom, compassion, and the transformative power you’ve shown as a student of the Institute of Design.