As we prepare for the inaugural AIGA Eye on Design Conference, we meet some of our esteemed speakers to find out more about them, their work, and a sneak peak about what you can expect from them on the big day.

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Jessie Kawata is a Creative Innovation Strategist, futurist, and educator whose passion is to explore the way humans interact with space, science, and technology. As one of the pioneering forces of creative influence at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, lead center for robotic exploration of the solar system, Kawata led industrial design projects at JPL and spearheaded the integration of design-thinking methodologies into early mission formulation.

Kawata was a co-founder for a mobile healthcare management startup prior to graduating, and in 2016 she was given the Young Innovator Alumni Award by ArtCenter. Her work, vision, and personal career stories can be found in media such as NPR, KCET, TIME, Newsweek, and TEDx.

What are the most challenging things working as a designer or Creative Innovation Strategist in the realm of science and engineering?

Everyday is a challenge for a Creative Innovation Strategist in the realm of science and engineering. Not only do you have to be quick at learning new technical systems and finding gaps, you have to be able to translate them and formulate new solutions at a rapid pace.  In addition to adapting to an institution where strategic design is foreign, you have to be smart at introducing a new culture and language of design. 

What is your advice to other designers who may be interested in working for the government? 

Be versatile and patient. If the world of design is new to them, you have to find a way in.

No one will offer you the right job because it might not exist yet.

You have to be an ambassador for the entire field of design no matter what your expertise is. Once you are in, then you can find a way to create a new culture.

What would you like the world to know about women working at the conjunction of of STEAM and the creative field? 

I’m a believer in adding “D” to the end of STEAM. Women working in the realm of STEAMD have to be resilient to the biases of art and design on top of facing a male-dominated STEM culture. My advice is not to let false perceptions get in the way of achieving your goals.

What is one of the most exciting things you’ve worked on within your NASA career? 

Everything that NASA does is incredibly compelling and intriguing. It was always about the journey, not just the destination. Watching the design seeds that I’ve planted grow into actual movements that have influenced real space missions is exhilarating to say the least. 

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