Karen Nichols Provides Closing Remarks for “Thinking Creatively Conference”

Karen Nichols Provides Closing Remarks for “Thinking Creatively Conference”

Thinking Creatively Conference

On April 1, 2016 Karen Nichols, FAIA addressed a standing room only audience at Kean University’s Michael Graves College, introducing the “Design with Dignity Exhibition,” which features products and projects related to healthcare design, expanding the idea of design for all and broadening the social responsibility of any project, specifically human-centered design, in a dignified way.

The talk concluded two days of charrettes and conversations at the Thinking Creatively Conference and its emphasis on socially responsible design in partnership with the Human Rights Institute at Kean University.

Ms. Nichols shared that “Michael’s own career – and the work of our firm — spans many of the disciplines that form the foundations in the teaching and learning environment at Kean: Public architecture and the allied discipline of planning, Interior design, Industrial design and Graphic design.”

Ms. Nichols, a partner in the firm, worked with Michael for over 38 years, and like the rest of the team at the firm’s Princeton offices, shared his vision and, like the Michael Graves College, are part of his legacy.

Her comments focused not only on Michael Graves, his life and legacy, but also addressed the historical, social and intellectual context in which he worked.

Karen explains: “When others might have faltered as a result of the paralysis, he resolved to make a difference.  He challenged himself, his partners (there are 7 of us) and staff (altogether around 70) to apply our skills and talents to take on aspects of healthcare design and design for the disabled. As much as he disliked the phrase universal design, he recognized that good design is good for everyone.”

The social consciousness and ethics of designing for all was not a trend, but fundamental to Michael and the firm’s work.


The closing address illustrated the work of Michael Graves Architecture & Design through multiple lenses, taking the audience on a thematic journey through the work of the firm:

  • Social consciousness and empathy for the less fortunate through architecture in Trenton and the Better Community Housing of Trenton initiative, designing affordable housing in Trenton.
  • The Democratization of design with products for Target Stores.
  • Teaching, learning and critical discourse at Princeton University, international fellowship learning at Notre Dame and curriculum development at Kean University
  • Principles of humanism in design in projects such as the San Juan Capistrano, California Library, the Newark Museum, U.S. Prettyman Courthouse in Washington DC and St. Coletta of Greater Washington.
  • Evidence Based design and design-thinking in projects such as the Stryker Prime TC and Patient Furniture and the Wounded Warrior Homes at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Ms. Nichols concluded her remarks by saying “The social consciousness and ethics of designing for all was not a trend, but fundamental to Michael and the firm’s work.”

The “Design with Dignity” exhibit is currently on display through the end of April.

Tags: conference, Kean University, Thinking Creatively
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