Carla Diana is a hybrid designer keenly focused on realizing new visions for smart objects and the Internet of Things. In her studio she works on future-specting projects in areas such as domestic robots, wearable devices and sentient kitchen appliances, combining experience in industrial and interaction design to create solutions that bridge the gap between the physical and the digital. Her designs have appeared on the covers of Popular Science, Technology Review and the New York Times Sunday Review.
Carla has had a long-standing working relationship with the product innovation firm Smart Design and has received the honor of being named the firm’s first Smart Fellow. In this role, she oversaw the Smart Interaction Lab, an initiative focused on design explorations in the form of tinkering and hands-on experimentation around topics such as expressive objects, digital making, and presence and awareness. She was also Advisor for the group Tomorrow-Lab, a young design firm that creates electro-mechanical solutions for smart devices.
Carla has been granted the honor of creating the 4D Design program at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, serving as its first Designer in Residence; it will begin accepting students in Fall 2019.
Previously, she was Assistant Professor of Product and Industrial Design at Parsons the New School. She maintains strategic alliances with a number of academic research groups such as the Socially Intelligent Machines Lab at the University of Texas, Austin, where advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning are manifest in expressive robots.
Carla’s role as creative lead for research robots allows her to maintain an independent practice where she is often called upon as a consultant to provide client insight by describing and illustrating future visions. She was industrial designer for the iconic humanoid robots, Simon and Curi, and currently serves as Head of Design for Diligent Robotics.
Prior to Smart Design, Carla was a Senior Design Technologist at frog design, Creative Director at Planetii, and Designer at Karim Rashid’s studio. Early in her career, she led a product design research lab within the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI), where she published a series of product review articles and presented her work on national television programs. She was at GHRI for five years before leaving to pursue her MFA.
Carla holds an MFA in 3D Design from the Cranbrook Academy of Art and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from The Cooper Union. From 2002 to 2007 she was Professor of Interactive Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she co-wrote the institution’s first Interactive Design program, and developed Physical Computing courses. From 2007 to 2008 she was Visiting Assistant Professor of Industrial Design at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In 2013, Carla launched some of the world’s first “Smart Objects” courses as part of University of Pennsylvania’s Integrated Product Design Program, as well as for the Products of Design and Interaction Design programs at the School of Visual Arts in New York and at Parsons School of Design. She has written for several publications including the New York Times, Popular Science, The Atlantic, Fast Company’s Co. Design, Interactions, and Core77. Carla is a frequent speaker and panelist at industry events and workshops around the world, including for TEDYouth, TEDxBangalore, TEDxBrussels, Creative Mornings, MakerCon, museums, online series and design conferences.
She is a coauthor of a forthcoming book on smart object design to be published by Harvard Business Review Press and currently cohosts the Robopsych Podcast, a biweekly discussion around design and the psychological impact of human-robot interaction.
Carla’s creations are often open for public exhibition throughout the year, including a recent show at Detroit’s 1301 Broadway gallery space. Previously, she held an Open Studios Residency at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. Other awards include a Museum of Fine Arts Houston Brown Foundation Fellowship (a residency at the prestigious Dora Maar House in Ménerbes, France), several Art Director’s Club Distinctive Merit Awards, a PRINT Interaction Award and the Flash Forward Film Festival 2004 Experimental Award. In 2001 Carla was named an Art Director’s Club “Young Gun”.research statement