LESLIE GREENE

Design can be extremely challenging. So when Leslie Greene feels stuck, she reminds herself to “just keep building stuff.”

It’s a simple mantra that challenges the 2014 Bill Moggridge Award winner to continue working with her hands and channel her thinking. Greene and fellow California College of the Arts (CCA) student, Sam Bertain, created the “Air Kinetic Knee-Brace,” inspired by a wearable technology project assignment in an industrial design class. The duo, who turned the project around in two weeks, were the first to ever receive the Bill Moggridge Award.

Like other winners that followed her, Greene described the win as “validating.” It also reassured her that it pays to push the boundaries of what’s typically accepted in design. For designers like Greene that includes re-thinking how products are manufactured and emphasizing quality, rather than quantity.

“There’s an assumption that everything needs to done as fast and cheap as possible,” she said. “We’re starting to see a little bit of backlash from that where we are seeing value in the craft and in the human touch of something.”

Greene and Bertain’s decision to focus their CCA project on the knee, for example, was driven by a desire to innovate around one of the body’s most complicated and injury-prone joints. They also wanted to blend new materials to see how they would work together. To produce the brace, Greene and Bertain used 3-D printed molds, silicon elastomers, soft robotics and pneumatic-powered air padding, among other materials.

“Winning something that was not based on luck was, personally, really big for me,” said Greene, who was first exposed to industrial design while attending Foothill College.

Since then, she’s had other key moments in which her industrial design path has clicked. Her CCA senior thesis project, “Vibe” fits in that category of challenging materials to work in new and different ways. It’s a tactile speaker made of layered felt panels designed to encourage touch and interaction. Music vibrations can be felt through the soft panels, creating a multi-sensory experience, Greene described on her CCA Gallery web site. The product was featured at Milan Design Week in spring 2016.

Since graduating CCA in 2015, Greene held internships at both IDEO and Google, where she now works full-time as an industrial designer on the wearables team.

The internship at IDEO was one of several moments along her educational path in which Bill Moggridge’s design influence and inspirations kept “popping up,” she said. “Throughout school, he was this idol.”

For Greene’s part, she said her mission as a designer is evolving. She values lessons gleaned from not getting it right on the first try and not being afraid to fail because that’s where you learn the most.

To learn more about Leslie and her work or to contact her directly, please visit her website