Past IDer: Jennifer Joos

by New Idiom


Where are you now?

I recently moved to Auburn, Alabama where I continue to work as a freelance Design Researcher. Currently, I am employed on a project for Ethnographic Insight studying customer experience for a major US department store chain.

What program and when did you graduate from ID?

I received my Master of Design degree with a concentration in Human-Centered Design Planning in 2002.

In which ways and dimensions do you think ID changed your career?

My ID education gave me the gift of flexibility. This year alone I have been fortunate enough to work on a study of environments and how a technology device needs to adapt to be relevant in different spaces, to provide research to inform a food company’s website redesign, to help shape a new product development strategy for a consumer healthcare company, and now I am examining the retail customer’s experience. The diversity of project foci and research approaches is exciting and challenging. I have also been able to keep working from all the crazy places I have been living in over the past few years: I moved from Chicago to rural Montana, then to the far west coast in Washington, back across the country to Maine, and now I’m in the deep south.

Can you imagine what you would be doing if you had not attended ID?

No, but I’m sure it wouldn’t be as much fun as what I do now. What are the skills learned at ID that you use the most in your current practice? ID taught me how to be articulate about research, analysis, and synthesis methods. While at ID I worked on an interdisciplinary Structured Planning project with law students from Chicago-Kent Law School (Access to Justice: Serving the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants). Chuck Owen’s systems design process and the experience of having to work with and present to lawyers made me comfortable talking to diverse audiences about the work I do, how I do it, and why it matters. This is helpful because I work with anthropologists, business strategists, marketers, architects, and product designers, not other ID-trained design planners.

What hard times did you have at ID while a student, and what got you through them?

Giving every project its full due was what I struggled with most at ID and I tried to overcome that through time management. I kept a fairly rigid schedule of working at school from 7 AM until 7 PM Monday through Saturday and from noon until 5 PM on Sundays. In retrospect that sounds awfully stringent, but it allowed me to have a balanced and normal life in addition to giving me enough time for schoolwork. I went to the gym every day, was almost always home in time to cook and eat dinner with my husband, and occasionally watched a little television. Routine was good for me.

If you could have changed one thing about your time at ID, what would it have been?

I would have taken more communication design classes. Some of my fellow classmates were truly gifted communication designers and I would have loved to work more closely with them. Perhaps their skills would have rubbed off on me!

How many nights did you sleep at school?

I never slept at ID. I did, however, pull three wide-awake, hard-working all-nighters in my three years there.

What is the last book that has impressed you the most?

Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency: When I learned I was moving to Auburn I was excited to get a chance to see some of the Rural Studio projects in person and not just in the pages of Metropolis magazine. I’m planning to visit the Studio later this year and have been reading in preparation for the trip. Talk about user-centered design… the late Samuel Mockbee, his colleagues, and students exemplify how architecture can truly serve the needs of a community. Their innovative, inexpensive buildings and houses are enriching the lives of an often overlooked population - the southern, rural poor.