Where do design, culture and your senses meet? According to Stephanie Grey, an alumna of Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design, it’s in Copenhagen.
Grey (BFA, ‘93) is the founder of Stir Copenhagen: design, culture + your senses, now in its third year. Stir Copenhagen is a 10-day immersive design tour of Copenhagen, Denmark for students, professionals, faculty and anyone with an interest in design. A theme of the senses—taste, texture, smell, sound, sight, etc.—is used to navigate daily experiences and to prompt discussion. Results are new inspiration, new points of view and a new group of design friends for all who participate.
“Just after I finished graduate school, my husband and I had the opportunity to move to Copenhagen for a year with his company,” said Grey on the genesis of Stir Copenhagen. “I had just completed my master’s thesis, which is all about the human senses and the design process, and I was suddenly in a new country with a lot of time.
“I started meeting with every designer that would make time for me and ended up building an incredible network of designers and friends,” continued Grey. “I joined sports clubs and language groups in order to meet people and learned a lot about Danish culture and their views on the world. Designers were intrigued by my thesis work and this resulted in teaching sensory-based design workshops at a couple of the design schools.
“I wanted to recreate my experience for other designers and start to connect people.”
According to Grey, Scandinavian design has been synonymous with “distinguished design” and Copenhagen is a capital city in that part of the world.
“It is a place that every designer must experience because daily life—riding the train, biking through the streets, hanging out at a concert, buying groceries, visiting a museum—has the foundation of good design and when you spend time in Copenhagen you notice this immediately,” added Grey.
Since earning her degree from the School of Design, Grey has filled a range of creative roles. From corporate design work for Wall Street firms to working as a user experience designer in a Dutch castle, she has enjoyed a fascinating career path. Currently, Grey teaches Graphic Design at Framingham State University, a liberal arts university located west of Boston while she continues to work on projects around design and accessibility.
Even though Grey’s career has taken her all over the globe, her experiences at CMU still hold a special place in her heart.
“Everything I learned about a solid work ethic such as dedication, dependability, resourcefulness, a healthy dose of humility, and more, I can attribute to my Carnegie Mellon experience,” said Grey. “Whether designing projects or teaching, these are with me daily.
“The faculty shared their career stories, their connections, and in getting to know them better, I began to try to figure out what my professional life would look like,” continued Grey. “I think of this often now when I’m working with students.
“I remember how important it is to share all of the perfect imperfections.”
But it wasn’t all about work; she also fondly remembers “the wins and fails and the late nights” spent with classmates in the studio. “I think the family atmosphere of the studio really stands out for me. It was both fun and incredibly challenging.”
She credits the studio-based learning, a close-knit environment, and the focus on solving real-world problems for leaving lasting impressions on her.
“At Carnegie Mellon you will gain the skills and tools to succeed as a designer,” said Grey. “But most importantly, design at CMU offers you a special lens through which to see the world.
“This is the kind of learning that is transformative and will last you a lifetime. This simply does not exist everywhere.”
Photos courtesy of J. Carpenter, R. Decker, and Stephanie Grey