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Designing the Difference: Kevin Shinn Talks Human-Centered Design, its Relationship with Technology, and his IDSA Fellowship

Altair Product Design's Industrial Design team, led by Vice President of Design, Kevin Shinn, looks to design products for people in real life situations. Their goal is to improve the user experience, make life easier, more beautiful, and a little more fun. Kevin was recently recognized by the IDSA for his contributions to the industrial design (ID) community over the last two decades. At the IDSA Conference 2016 in Detroit, MI, Kevin was inducted into the Society's Academy of Fellows, one of the design community's most prestigious honors.

This recent achievement has inspired us to dig deeper into ID and explore how it affects our everyday life. Kevin shares his opinions on the emerging trends in design and technology while humbly enlightening us on the importance of IDSA and what the fellowship means to him in our Q&A below:
Q: What is the significance of IDSA in the design world?
KS: IDSA provides a venue for the design community to gather and share best practices. The face-to-face opportunities to interact with others is extremely valuable especially opportunities for students and young professionals to interact with seasoned veterans – this information exchange goes both ways and is very powerful.
Q: Can you give an introduction to yourself and the industrial design group within Altair?
KS: I head up the global Design group within Altair. I have been with the company since 2013, and had the opportunity to work with them as a client prior to that. Our industrial design group here at Altair is very talented and well equipped. We have the resources to handle projects from concept to reality, so we work on a wide variety of designs, ranging from commodity to high tech. The team believes in a human centered approach to design.
Q: Explain your association and history with IDSA.
KS: I have been an active member with IDSA for almost 20 years. I did not get as involved as a student and young professional, but wish I had. As an active member today, I’m currently the membership chair for the society and approve all professional new member applications. In the past I have held various board positions, and other volunteer positions throughout the years as well.
Q: How has your experience with IDSA shaped your career as a designer?
KS: IDSA has given me direct access to many peers and mentors throughout the years, which has really helped me grow professionally. While my network is very good, I am most proud of the true friendships I have formed over the years around the world.  Not just contacts, but genuine friends, family!
Q: Explain the criteria to be inducted into the society and what it means to you as a designer.
KS: To be inducted into the Fellowship, a recommendation from a member is required. They must submit a detailed letter stating why someone is qualified and what makes them a good choice. Then they need to get several other letters from other members supporting the recommendation. It is very special to me to know my peers recommended me. The references are reviewed by an IDSA committee and the board, and then decisions are made to either induct or not.
IDSA Conference 2016 in Detroit, MI
Q: How do you see the convergence of design and engineering technology progressing?
KS: I think the two disciplines are progressing well. I see fewer walls between the two functions, and companies are starting to better understand the need for both in the development and manufacturing process. More multi-disciplinary teams are being formed early in the development process, which is also a huge plus.
Q: What are the most exciting design trends you’ve observed lately and what are you most looking forward to seeing materialize in the next few years?
KS: Well, there are many exciting trends, but three really stand out to me. I think it is going to be extremely exciting to see how autonomous vehicles progress. The infrastructure needed to merge autonomous with current manned vehicles will open up all types of design challenges and new product opportunities. Additive manufacturing is continuously advancing and changing the way we approach certain markets – I am looking forward to seeing all the new material choices and markets that will follow. Smart devices and the internet of things is advancing at an incredible pace and really changing the way we interact with simple everyday products. It is a full time job keeping up with the trends, but what a great time to be a designer!