Prior to joining Arizona State University as Director of Design Integration and Professor of Practice in Innovation Design, Dr. Heller founded the first MFA program in Social Design at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). As a result of a research project at SVA, she launched MeasureD, a design lab that evaluates ways to measure the difference a design approach can make to efforts to improve health equity. Today, the lab focuses on supporting youth in the Foster Care System as they age out, helping them become independent, healthy adults. Dr. Heller is also working on a digital learning module to teach Communities of Care to use design to help youth understand the foster system, define success from their own point of view, and create solutions together. The module will be free to all who want to integrate design into their practices.
As a strategist, Dr. Heller has led transformational initiatives for corporations of every size and industry. In 1999, she created the Ideas that Matter program for Sappi Global, resulting in over $14 million given to designers working for the public good. Additional clients of hers have included Reebok, Kodak Professional, BlackRock, Marriott Corporation, The Girl Scouts of America, Ford Motor Company, Seagrams, Discovery Networks International, and Seventh Generation.
In 2014, she earned the AIGA Lifetime Medal. She is also the recipient of a Matrix Award for Women in Communication and has been nominated twice for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards for Communication Design. In 2017, she was awarded the Rockefeller Bellagio Fellowship, which she spent working on her book, The Intergalactic Design Guide.
In addition to the recent completion of her Ph.D. dissertation which explores how language either supports or prevents social equity, Dr. Heller is developing a program for Babson College, where she will teach next year, integrating design and business. She has also recently accepted the title of Chief Design Officer for a zero-carbon energy company called Viridi, which makes distributed storage using only renewable energy without any investment in infrastructure. It is the only company to create batteries that are safety approved to use in occupied buildings.
We had a chance to speak with Cheryl on our podcast Social Design Insights. Have a listen below.