Carnegie Mellon University

Zain Islam-Hashmi, Design Strategist

Amplifying Voices Through Design

As an architecture student at Carnegie Mellon University in the interdisciplinary IDeATe program, Zain Islam-Hashmi (CFA 2019) found he was more intrigued by design elements related to humans than the buildings they occupy.

Now as a human-centered designer, he’s a bridge. His focus is leading projects that deeply consider the end user. He’s their representative in the design process, and for projects serving the communities that have been overlooked in the past, that’s tremendously valuable.

“I leverage my skills in community engagement and design thinking to amplify the voices of communities that have historically been left out of the equations and decision-making processes,” Zain says.

In Appalachia, Zain used human-centered design practices to rehab a church to better serve Black community members. Rather than patch and paint, Zain started with the building’s potential for social, cultural and economic impact and derived renovation plans from the needs and insights he uncovered.

Another project focused on using AI technology to reduce wait times in an emergency room. The initial brief called for patient education resources with the idea that having those resources would save time for physicians. Zain evolved the process to focus on expediting information to help clinicians make better decisions, which was the true delay causing long wait times.

Zain is also the U.S. chair for Hidayah, a nonprofit organization offering events, education and campaigns for social justice to LGBTQI+ Muslims.

Across all of his projects, Zain connects people with the concept being designed and adds a dose of social impact.

“The future for me is product design and strategy, looking at how experiences and products are designed, and making sure community stakeholders have a say in development earlier on,” Zain says. “I want what’s being designed to actually speak to all the groups being impacted throughout the process.”

Story by Elizabeth Speed