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Thomas Fisher
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Thomas Fisher is a professor and dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota. Educated at Cornell University in architecture and Case Western Reserve University in intellectual history, Fisher has been a leader in the public-interest design movement, and a long-time researcher and advocate for using design to tackle the major economic, environmental, and societal challenges facing the world.

Fisher previously served as the regional preservation officer at the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, the historical architect of the Connecticut State Historical Commission in Hartford, and the editorial director of Progressive Architecture magazine in Stamford, Connecticut.

Recognized as one of the most published academics in his field, Fisher is the author of six books, 45 book chapters and over 250 major articles. His new book, Designing to Avoid Disaster: The Nature of Fracture-Critical Design, is published by Routledge.

Fisher’s current work revolves around how design can solve problems in areas ranging from public health and childhood obesity, to sustainability, education and government.

More information on Fisher and the College of Design can be found at www.design.umn.edu, or on Twitter at @UofMDesign and @MNDesignDean.

Entries by Thomas Fisher

The New Space Race

(0) Comments | Posted May 29, 2014 | 9:03 AM

The Obama administration's ConnectED Initiative, which began in 2013 with the goal of bringing every American student into the digital age, has just gotten a whole lot more robust with its announcement of a pledge from ESRI to provide a free ArcGIS...

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Cities in the Third Industrial Revolution

(0) Comments | Posted March 6, 2014 | 11:36 AM

The Great Recession may well represent the start of what the economist, Jeremy Rifkin, has called "The Third Industrial Revolution." If the first industrial revolution of the 19th century ushered in the mechanization of hand labor, with the steam engine as its iconic technology, and the...

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Our Gutenberg Moment

(0) Comments | Posted July 23, 2013 | 5:10 PM

The librarian T. Scott Plutchak has called this "our Gutenberg moment," referring to the impact that digital technology has already had on libraries. But if things happen as they did after Gutenberg's invention of the printing press, the impact of the digital revolution will go far...

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Why We Need Public Boarding Schools

(2) Comments | Posted May 7, 2013 | 7:12 PM

My daughter went to elementary school with a boy named Jerome, one of the brightest kids in the class and now, some 15 years later, sitting in prison serving a long sentence for some sort of violent crime. Jerome lived in a tough neighborhood, had an unstable home, and saw...

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Our Political Battle of the Brands

(0) Comments | Posted April 24, 2013 | 12:17 PM

I recently attended a gathering of diverse leaders in the Twin Cities to envision how we would respond to some of big challenges headed our way: climate change, disruptive technologies, the obesity epidemic, an aging population and so on. Hosted by the Urban Land...

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The Public Health of Higher Education

(1) Comments | Posted February 26, 2013 | 4:40 PM

The health of higher education has received a lot of public discussion of late. The symptoms of the system's ill health have included tuition increases far exceeding the rate of inflation, administrative bloat expanding the waistline of many institutions, declining levels of...

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Our Political Metaphor Problem

(1) Comments | Posted January 31, 2013 | 2:36 PM

We don't have a political problem in the U.S.; we have a metaphor problem. The two dominant political parties have so much difficulty agreeing because each uses a different metaphor, which in turn affects how they see the world and how they want to change it.

Republicans tend to use...

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The Rigor of Creativity

(8) Comments | Posted December 14, 2012 | 9:31 AM

Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

We have so mystified, romanticized, and idealized creativity, so convinced ourselves that it remains primarily the purview of artists or "geniuses," that far too many people believe that they are not creative. In fact, they have not been allowed,...

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Teach to Each Child's Intelligence

(35) Comments | Posted December 6, 2012 | 5:09 PM

Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

Colleges and universities teach to their students' intelligence. Those students who have musical intelligence gravitate to the music school, bodily-kinesthetic intelligence to the dance department or intercollegiate sports, spatial intelligence to the art school or design college, and so...

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Are Hurricanes Our Next Dust Bowl?

(2) Comments | Posted December 5, 2012 | 11:16 AM

Two nearly simultaneous events -- Hurricane Sandy's devastation along the eastern seaboard and the public broadcast of Ken Burns's documentary on the Dust Bowl of the 1930s -- couldn't seem more different. The Hurricane involved too much water, after all, and the Dust Bowl too little....

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The End of the Academic Exercise

(0) Comments | Posted November 14, 2012 | 10:52 AM

The term "academic exercise" has long had a pejorative meaning, as something with little or no relevance to the world beyond academe. But the current generation of students -- the millennials -- seem to view the academic exercise with even greater disdain, not even worthy of their attention,...

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An Education in Creative Courage

(1) Comments | Posted October 2, 2012 | 11:26 AM

Most conferences have a topic or theme, but the WWW conference, held a couple of weeks ago at the ESRI headquarters in Redlands, California, focused on something else: what it takes to become an "outlier," to use Malcolm Gladwell's term, and have a transformative...

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Mapping Our Future

(1) Comments | Posted August 2, 2012 | 11:26 AM

Why, with more information available to us than ever before, do those in positions of power seem so unconcerned about the facts when making statements or decisions? Has the sheer quantity of information and the increasing pace of life so overwhelmed us that we no longer have the time or...

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They're Paving Paradise

(4) Comments | Posted June 14, 2012 | 11:06 AM

The old Joni Mitchell line, "You don't know what you've got till it's gone" applies to public higher education these days. Most states have dramatically cut financial support of their research universities over the last several decades to the point where public funding, as a percentage of most...

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SEEDing a New Kind of STEM

(1) Comments | Posted May 8, 2012 | 2:54 PM

Most agree that the U.S. needs more students studying the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math. As U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, has stated, "Inspiring all our students to be capable in math and science will help them contribute in an increasingly technology-based economy,...

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Our Political Bridges to Nowhere

(4) Comments | Posted April 4, 2012 | 10:15 AM

Not everything in Washington ends up in gridlock, especially when it comes to expanding roads and bridges in order to, well, prevent gridlock. A case in point: President Obama recently signed a bill authorizing the construction of a large $690 million highway bridge over the scenic St. Croix...

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The Next Economy and the 'Next Politics'

(9) Comments | Posted February 1, 2012 | 5:16 PM

To understand how the next economy differs from the one we have known, consider just one statistic: analysts following small businesses see the number of "contingent" workers -- the self-employed, free-lancers, or "accidental entrepreneurs" laid off from full-time positions -- growing to 40 to 45 percent of the...

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Guns Don't Kill People, Bullets Do

(68) Comments | Posted January 11, 2012 | 10:27 AM

On the Monday after Christmas a bullet left a firearm, traveled across two streets, a front yard, and a vacant lot before striking a house and hitting the head of a three-year-old Minneapolis boy, Terrell Mayes, who was climbing the stairs with his three other brothers to hide...

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Cutting Health Care Costs Through Design

(0) Comments | Posted November 18, 2011 | 5:00 PM

The need to cut the cost of health care in the U.S. has become obvious to almost everyone, as Ezekiel Emanuel discussed the "Billions Wasted on Billing" in the New York Times last weekend. But we may never achieve the necessary savings if we leave it up to...

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The Real Innovation of Steve Jobs

(2) Comments | Posted October 11, 2011 | 11:22 AM

With the untimely death of Steve Jobs has come an outpouring of commentary about the role design played in the success of Apple's products. In a country that sometimes seems blind to the value of design, Jobs recognized that humans respond to what good design brings to our...

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