Megan Neese (MIIPS '05)
Driving the Future of Mobility & Industrial Design
It's not everyday that the first corporate project you work on turns into the International Truck of the Year. But that's what happened for Megan Neese as a student of the Integrated Innovation Institute.
More than 10 years after MIIPS, Neese continues to drive innovation within the auto industry as Senior Manager of Nissan Motor Company's cross-disciplinary Future Lab. And now, after being named Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA)'s Board of Directors Chair, Neese will be envisioning the future of industrial design as a whole.
At Nissan's Future Lab, Neese is charged with finding new business opportunities for the Nissan, Infiniti and Datsun brands. The lab functions like an incubator and research team, identifying opportunities that will define the auto manufacturer's stake in the burgeoning global services economy. The team is made up of social scientists, engineers, technologists, business people and industrial designers.
"There aren't enough companies taking people completely out of their silos to actually bring them together. Nissan's Future Lab is doing just that, which allows us to build an institutional knowledge and excitement around new opportunities for Nissan and the auto industry."
A recent project coming out of the Future Lab is the Nissan New Mobility Concept (NNMC), an ultra-compact 100% electric vehicle that was developed in response to increasing use of automobiles for short-distance trips by up to two people. Neese explains, "It is an experiment in new mobility that is testing a combination of hardware, software, service, and system. We call these types of tests 'Living Labs' where we demonstrate future contexts and ideas with users to understand behavior change."
The Integrated Innovation Experience
"My master's degree experience gave me ability to work cross-functionally," Neese explains. "In design school, everyone is a designer; which is great because you learn how to think as a designer. But in the work place, at least in my experience, every project is done by multiple departments through a complex process. Being able to collaborate, negotiate and work in that way is a business skill that I don't know I would have gotten if it weren't for the program."
This lesson in cross-disciplinary teamwork culiminated with the degree's Integrated Product Development (IPD) capstone. Neese and her classmates were tasked with the challenge of creating a home-like experience for the long haul truck driver. Their proposed designs were integrated into an interior concept which provided the basis for the LoneStar truck introduced by Navistar. Travelling the roads today, this paradigm-shifting truck won the 2009 American Truck Drivers Truck of the Year Award. Neese has patented four designs and features related to her work on this project.