Dawn Keene
MA in Sustainable Design
Owner of Studio Change

What is your favorite thing about your work?

Mentoring young designers. I have been working as a mentor with High Performance Healthy Schools, US Green Building Council, Georgia, engaging design students in sustainable design practices and helping them understand that every decision they make has a much larger impact on the whole system and it starts with them.

How do you find inspiration when you are feeling stuck?

I read a book, take a walk, and visit unexpected places. I also set aside Fridays every week for my artist day to create anything I like.

Current obsession?

Stamping, journal design, and card making.

Why did you choose to study sustainable design?

I would say sustainable design chose me! MCAD’s sustainable design program had been featured in one of my design annuals several years ago and I decided to take a class in printing, inks, and paper. After reading an article about the Tennessee Tree Massacre for a class assignment, I was hooked and never looked back!

What was the online educational experience like? What would you say to people who are hesitant to try an online curriculum?

I loved it! First, it gave me the opportunity to have access to a variety of faculty with diverse backgrounds and experiences to learn from. I liked having a subject matter expert for each of my classes. Second, having students in my class from the US and abroad enriched my learning experience because it gave me the opportunity to have a global perspective on sustainability and see the world from their eyes and experiences. Finally, the group and independent projects that allowed me to apply sustainable themes and practices gave me the confidence and ability to take my skills to the "real world” successfully. For those who are hesitant, I think I have just given a lot of great reasons on why not to be; jump in with both feet and get ready to change the world.

What was your relationship to sustainable thinking prior to the program? And now?

I was very familiar with sustainable design as it pertained to “paper” as a graphic designer. I attended many events sponsored by Neenah Paper about the advancements in paper sourcing, FSC certified, chlorine-free paper, etc. It was more about materials and processes. And now, I know that materials are just a small fraction of the “bigger picture” and there is a larger connected system at play that has to be considered if what we are creating is truly going to be sustainable for all stakeholders involved.

Has your work evolved since leaving MCAD?

Yes it has, by getting involved. I have participated in panel discussions and given lectures on various topics focused on the subject of driving social sustainability. The launch of my new company, Studio Change, has allowed me the wonderful opportunity to partner with small businesses interested in sustainability principles and practices. Also, continuing to educate myself and learning new skills has been a major influence in advancing my personal and professional goals. Sustainability is a moving target and you have to be ready for that.

Do you incorporate sustainable thinking into your current practice?

Yes, by finding ways to help my clients select better materials and processes that have a positive social and environmental impact on the whole system.

Where did you earn your undergraduate degree and what was it in?

I attended Georgia State University and earned a BFA in graphic design.

What first made you interested in sustainability?

My experience in sustainability began with the AT&T Recycling Center in the mid-1990s where I worked with the director of recycling on implementing various waste-reduction strategies throughout the company. That experience piqued my interest and gave me the ability to infuse sustainability into my work as a graphic designer in the areas of printing, inks, and paper. 

What advice do you have for art and design students?

Stay engaged, use your work to make the world a better place, and be a voice for others who are often silenced, forgotten, or shut out.