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Designer, entrepreneur and social advocate John Bielenberg to speak Nov. 18 at ISU

November 09, 2015


John Bielenberg

AMES, Iowa — Graphic designer, social advocate and entrepreneur John Bielenberg will talk about using creativity and ingenuity to make a better world in a lecture at Iowa State University.

Bielenberg's presentation, "Thinking Wrong, Doing Right," will begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, in 1213 Hoover Hall. Part of the 2015-16 Graphic Design Speaker Series, his talk is free and open to the public.

Bielenberg has built a distinguished career as a leader in innovative applications of design, "design for good" and human-centered design. He is a partner and co-founder of the brand strategy firm C2 Group, where he first developed the concept of "Think Wrong"—a creative exercise that asks participants to move beyond traditional assumptions and approach design from a fresh perspective.

He also is the founder of Project M, an intensive immersion program meant to inspire young designers, writers, filmmakers and photographers to use their work to make a positive impact in communities.

"Human-centered designers are persistently focused on what could be, not the countless obstacles that may get in the way," Bielenberg said. "Constraints are inevitable, and often they push designers toward unexpected solutions. But it's our core animating belief that shows just how deeply optimistic human-centered designers are: Every problem is solvable."

Bielenberg runs Future Partners, an innovation studio that offers "Think Wrong Blitzes" to teach members of corporations, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and other groups to find ingenious solutions to challenges that matter to them. Clients have included Starbucks, J.P. Morgan, Microsoft, Guidewire, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, College for Creative Studies, Detroit; and Rochester Institute of Technology, among many others.

He also is a partner in mach49, a Silicon Valley business incubator and accelerator. Most recently, he launched Secret Project—a new "Center for Rapid Ingenuity" at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he has taught since 1991—and cofounded Common "to support, connect and celebrate those designing a new era of socially minded enterprise."

Bielenberg's more than 250 design awards include the Washington University Skandalaris Award for Design Entrepreneurship (2009); NASAD Citation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design for outstanding work and overall impact in the fields of art and design as an author, educator, social activist and designer (2011); and AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Gold Medal for lifetime achievement (2013). He holds an honorary doctorate from Maryland Institute College of Art and is a Fellow of the AIGA.

Bernard Canniffe, Chair, Graphic Design, (515) 294-6743,
Patrick Budding, Design Communications,
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289,