Carnegie Mellon University

Joseph Ballay

Joseph Ballay

2023 Founders Medal for Outstanding Service and Exceptional Achievement

The art-science axis has been a persistent theme in the professional life of Emeritus Professor of Design Joseph Ballay, the 2023 Founders Medal recipient. An international advocate for the importance of design in everyday life, Joe has spent more than six decades developing his interdisciplinary vision of design as a fundamental human activity. Every aspect of Joe’s academic and professional career is motivated by the idea that design rises on a foundation built of many creative, problem-solving traditions from the arts, science, technology and humanities.

Joe stepped out into the world and onto the path of becoming a design leader as a 1960 Carnegie Tech bachelor of science graduate. He went on to earn an industrial design bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and then joined the faculty of the University of Cincinnati. Ultimately, his journey would lead him back to Carnegie Mellon University where he would immerse himself in a unique graduate program composed of equal parts graphic design, cognitive psychology and computer science. In 1970, Joe assumed the helm of the new College of Fine Arts Department of Design, ultimately developing and elevating it to the status of school within the college, which it still holds today. In the mid-1980s, he helped to establish the college’s Center for Art and Technology, further solidifying its success.

Recognizing the need for practical applications of design, Joe joined two CMU colleagues to form MAYA Design in 1989. MAYA made strides as a renowned interdisciplinary design consultancy that applies theory and practice to complex contemporary problems, marrying technology and human use.

Following his retirement from CMU as full professor in 2001, MAYA became the focus of Joe’s professional practice. He was instrumental in transforming it into a “technology design lab,” cultivating four additional companies and growing to employ more than 50 people.

Today, Joe continues to teach on a visiting basis, and his courses and workshops have been incorporated in design programs at Lund University in Sweden, Samsung in South Korea, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

In 2022, Joe and his wife, Sue, established the Joseph Ballay Center for Design Fusion in Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design through a generous $10 million gift. The center, a culmination of his life’s work, establishes a formal presence of design expertise and outreach at CMU. It serves as a central hub for design courses for the campus community, executive education, sponsored projects and collaborations, and design research.