New IDer: Matt Gardner

by New Idiom


Please quickly introduce yourself in a quick sentence. Major, age, etc.

I, Matthew Gardner, have entered intent on mastering design planning at ID and mastering business administration at Stuart. I am 27 for the next few days.

Married? Happily…to my wife, Alissa.

Children? Hopefully some day.

Politics? Apolitical, but I know I should be more engaged.


Mormon. I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I love it. I try to take steps every day to strengthen my relationship with God. If you have questions, I am open.

How did you end up at ID? What were your motivations for coming? Where were you before?

August 2006 I attended UXWeek, hosted by Adaptive Path. There I learned two things: I learned that there was more to design besides the finish, and that there were schools out there that taught this kind of design. I was currently working as a graphic designer and I had previously concluded that some of my most interesting assignments were creating forms. I loved considering how the form would be used and engaging with the many constraints involved. Dorky, I know.

I heard a lot of good about ID, namely from Brandon Schauer at Adaptive Path, and of course Business Week. I believe that user-centered design thinking can lead to not only viable business opportunities and growth, but also to solving some of the deepest rooted problems humanity faces. I loved sharing the article by Patrick Whitney and Anjali Kelkar “Designing for the Bottom of the Pyramid” with the people I was trying to explain the ID program to. Not only did it illustrate the design process taught here, but it also suggested the great good design can bring to the table in world problems.

What are your first impressions about ID?

I developed my first impressions when I attended the Open house in February:

  • Jacqui is really nice to leave the building and walk into the February cold just to point me in the right direction to get lunch.
  • Rachel seems so young to be Director of Admissions.
  • Jeremy Alexis seems too young and jovial to be a professor.
  • The students are engaged, interesting and very helpful. A shout out to David McGaw, Ido Mor, David Ofori-Amoah, Lise Lynam, and John Elkholm, each of whom spent a few minutes helping me to understand a little of what the school is about.
  • These metal triangles on the floor (of the Steelcase Room) are odd but cool, I guess.
  • This place looks very industrial.

What do you think you could bring to the people here at ID? (culturally, socially, etc.)

In my first few weeks of classes I didn’t think that I would really be able to add anything. All the other students seemed to have so much better experience than I have and are so much smarter. While I continue to be impressed I have learned that I do have a place here. My job is to ask questions.

Is there anything from your home that you think people should not miss?

If home is the Logan Square apartment: Alissa’s fresh corn enchiladas and apple cake with butter sauce.

If home is Northern Virginia, where we lived last: the Renwick Gallery, the Smithsonian Art Gallery for Arts and Crafts. It displays the epitome of furniture making and craft sculpture, and recently hosted a Grant Wood (American Gothic) exhibit that was so fabulous. Also, don’t miss the Dairy Godmother, a mom and pop frozen custard place that sells three flavors of custard per day (chocolate, vanilla, and the flavor of the day), several versions of custom made sherbet, and fabulous baked goods. It operates on the “third place” philosophy and thus has scrabble and puzzles out on the tables to play while eating your custard.

If home is Utah, where my parents live: Zion National Park, the mountains to the east of Salt Lake City. Whatever you do, go out of your way to miss I-15 through southern Utah. It is the most unattractive part of the state and the predominant reason non-Utahns think Utah is unattractive. I recommend Highway 89 as a much more beautiful route. And go for the clam chowder at the Market Street Grill in Salt Lake City. It’s the best I have had, despite being hundreds of miles away from the ocean.

Which designers/thinkers have impressed you the most lately or you are following now?

I was very impressed, fascinated, and engaged by Steve Knox’s presentation at DRC. For those who were not there, he presented on Tremor’s word of mouth advertising and the theories on which it is built. One of the theories was how disruptive innovation occurs: through slightly shifting schemas. I would like to investigate more on how those schemas are developed and how they can be purposefully manipulated in design.

What are the websites you could not live without?

Big fan of Gmail and Google Docs. I also really like my online banking website. I don’t really know how to balance a checkbook and my wife has no interest in keeping track of spending, so it is really helpful to be able to just check online. I guess I identify with work and productivity. Each of these sites enable me to work more efficiently.

What kinds of activities are you planning to do in your free time (in case you have any) while at ID?

Reading. I have just realized (but I am not surprised) that with grad school comes exposure to a whole field of very interesting books. On the reading list: A Whole New Mind, Emotional Design, Brand Jam, Discovery of Grounded Theory and The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. I have also considered getting a book on Chicago architecture and learning about all the buildings between ID and Stuart.

This blank space is for you to tell people whatever you want about you. Thanks!

I have a sweet tooth. I could probably eat a batch of cookies by myself if there were no one around to scold me. I really have to hold back when Pip brings in one of his wife’s stellar cakes to Large Systems Design. I love crock pot cooking and I have a bread maker, which I also love. I have made my own bread for years. I like to look at handmade furniture and hope to have a woodshop when I grow up so I can make furniture. I don’t watch a lot of TV, so I don’t catch references to Seinfeld, Friends, ER, or whatever.