Art Alumna Receives International Recognition for Design

Following the death of her fiance’s father, NMU School of Art & Design alumna Mia Cinelli (BFA in Graphic Communications in 2011) was searching for a way to deal with her grief. In missing his physical presence, she sewed hands to hold and became interested in the weight of these objects against her body. Researching weighted blankets and their use in therapeutic practices to treat anxiety and inability to focus, she designed “The Weight” A six-pound weighted blanket used to soothe the grieving. Reminiscent of a hug from behind, the object is both practical and poetic, lessening anxiety while becoming a metaphor for the heaviness of grief.

the weight 1 the weight 2

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Art Student wins Design Competetion

Human Centered Design major Hannah Kangas recently won the first prize award in the “What if you could change shape?” national competition sponsored by PolyOne GLS Thermoplastic Elastomers. The contest required competitors to design ideas for using their Shape Memory product, which when exposed to thermal stimulus will reshape to a preset form. Hannah developed an innovative housewares item, cookie cutters, that took full advantage of the material.

Link to Human Centered Design Major:

More about the competetion:

Heather Kangas "Cookie Contour Shaper"
Heather Kangas “Cookie Contour Shaper”
Heather Kangas "Cookie Contour Shaper"
Heather Kangas “Cookie Contour Shaper”
Heather Kangas "Cookie Contour Shaper"
Heather Kangas “Cookie Contour Shaper”

Professor Pless Invited to Exhibit at the Salon Satellite and Neocon

In April of 2012 Associate Professor Peter Pless was invited back to Milan, Italy for and exhibition of new designs at the Salone Satellite. The “Link Series” consisted of three new modular designs that articulate amongst each other allowing for a range of sculptural configurations specific to the need and function. The international exhibition showcased the work of young designers from all continents and attracted close to 50,000 visitors to this year’s fair.

Following the Salone Satellite, Professor Pless was invited to exhibit the “Link Series” in Chicago, Illinois at the Merchandise Mart for North America’s largest design exposition and conference for commercial interiors, “NeoCon.” Professor Pless’s designs were displayed in the “Materials Pavilion” curated by Interiors and Sources magazine. BTD Powder Coating, Material Intelligence and Interiors and Sources Magazine sponsored this showcase. (photograph by Christine Flavin)

Salon Satellite Catalogue 2012

Peter Pless

Human Centered Design


HCD Students Invited to Exhibit at the Salone Satellite in Milan, Italy

Seventeen junior and senior Human-Centered Design students exhibited their prototypes in Milan, Italy as part of the prestigious Salone Satellite, an international exhibition of young, noteworthy designers. Northern Michigan University was invited to participate as one of seventeen design schools from around the world to exhibit their works to an audience of approximately 400,000 designers, architects, gallery owners, manufacturers and press. The themed project “Transiessence”, developed by Professor Peter Pless, challenged students to reconsider the definition of sustainability within the domestic context. The students involved were responsible for not only developing the concept and design, but also producing a show quality prototype that would be on display in Milan for six days. Aside from developing their own designs, the group collaborated throughout the winter semester to plan the layout of the 24′ x 12′ exhibition space, construct three large shipping crates, and design the graphics for promotional materials and a website. Throughout their participation in the exhibition, Human-Centered Design students were very impressed with the compliments and praise they received for their high quality production, as international press and manufacturers approached them for further discussions regarding their designs. Upon arrival back in the United States, the prototypes will be on display at the Devos Art Museum beginning June 3. (Photograph by NMU News Director Kristi Evans )

Human Centered Design Transiessence Portfolio

Exhibiting in Milan Videos

NMU in Milan Salone Satellite


The Salone Satellite in Milan, Italy Features New Work by Professor Pless

Professor of Human-Centered Design, Peter Pless exhibited eight new prototypes at the Salone Satellite in Milan, Italy. The Salone Satellite is a showcase of select young international designers that are given the opportunity to exhibit to a large audience of manufacturers, press and design professionals. The six day exhibition took place in mid April during Milan’s Design Week and the surrounding events of the renowned Salone Internationale del Mobile (Milan Furniture Fair).

In preparation for this opportunity, Professor Pless developed the design concepts, details and manufacturing of the eight pieces that were on display in Milan. A majority of the the work was completed within the School of Art and Design’s facilities while other components were fabricated throughout the Midwest. The conceptually themed project, “Spaces,” explored new values found within common household objects. For additional photos, please visit:

Peter J Pless Design


Human Centered Design at NMU


Study Abroad Course Features European Design Culture

The School of Art and Design offered the first short term study abroad course in the winter semester of 2009 in order for students to gain a broader understanding of the business of design. The special topics course “European Design Culture” organized by Professor Peter Pless, provided eight students with a rigorous ten-day tour through the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. The tour featured visits to Marcel Wanders Studio, The Design Academy Eindhoven, Vitra Design Museum (including an exclusive tour of the archives), a one on one meeting with the renowned Maarten Baas, the Milan Furniture Fair and numerous other design museums. The students found the trip to be of great value to their education not only in respect to their experiences but also to realize their potential as entrepreneurs functioning at a global level. The picture at right features Professor Pless and his class at the Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany.

Vitra Design Museum

Salone Internazionale del Mobile,2,67,71,75

Human Centered Design


Students from HCD Program Receive Awards from International Design Competition

Three students from Professor Peter Pless’ course AD 311 Human-Centered Design: Concept and Technology received awards from the web-based magazine, Yanko Design, Form Beyond Function. The competition, open to designers from around the world, emphasized solutions to different aspects of poverty that were judged based on concept, cost to implement, and deployment. Receiving the Silver award was Sara Melvinson, for her project “Hidden City”. The Special Recognition award was presented to Adam Trebel for his project “Red Cross”. In addition Ethan Przekaza received an Honorable Mention award for his design project “H20ME”. HCD student Jessica Rick was also a finalist in the competition with her “Table Tent” concept. Professor Pless has stated about the competition, “We are raised as designers with a notion that design needs to have an elitist component embedded into the artifact that we create. However, this four-week concept exploration forced us to examine the real issue of need versus want from a very unfamiliar and sometimes uncomfortable perspective. Through the research and development of this project, I saw a profound change in attitudes and awareness develop within the class. The four selected students in this competition exemplify the quality and thoughtfulness that I attempt to convey within all Human-Centered Design courses”

Yanko Design

Human-Centered Design


The New Studio for Experimental and Eco-Design (SEED) Opens at NMU

The new Studio for Experimental and Eco-Design (SEED), inaugurated at the beginning of the fall semester, provides a focal point for students, faculty and the community with a broad spectrum of information and exposure to current practices in design (e.g. technology, ethics) and economic and manufacturing strategies from a global perspective including the offering of lectures, symposia, joint ventures and international travel. The center incorporates an interdisciplinary approach that includes Design, Business and Sustainability. Entrepreneurs interested in developing prototypes of products can contact professor Peter Pless, the director of SEED at 906-227-2194 or Pictured at right is student Zachery Luhellier’s prototype for a snowplow resistant mailbox developed for a SEED client. The studio is located in room 173 of Art and Design building on the campus of Northern Michigan University. See the links below for additional information about SEED.

NMU Communications and Marketing

Marquette Mining Journal

Human-Centered Design


HCD Student Recognized in International Design Competition

Human Centered Design major, Amanda Leppi was recently recognized in an international design competition hosted by Her design, “Landscape Plate,” was short listed out of 4843 designers from 98 countries and was displayed in Milan, Italy at Macef International Home Show. Amanda’s design combines research of geographic information systems (GIS) in conjunction with behavioral rituals encompassed within the dining experience. For more information please see the link below.


Human Centered Design


Pless Prototype Featured in Cologne Exhibit

A chaise lounge prototype by Professor Peter Pless (Human-Centered Design) was featured in the “Fabulous 50” exhibit at the 2008 International Furnishing Show in Cologne, Germany. The annual weeklong event, attended by Professor Pless, showcases the work of established design stars and creative newcomers whose creations, ranging from production-ready designs to blue-sky speculative concepts, represent the “interiors of tomorrow”. Pless was one of only two Americans selected for the exhibit. For additional information about Professor Pless’ furniture design see the link below to Kristi Evans’ feature story in Campus.


Human-Centered Design

Peter Pless Home Page