Esther Kang

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service

Esther Y. Kang is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Service of NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. She is also an independent human-centered design strategist and researcher. In this capacity, she partners with teams across sectors to design people-centered policies and user-friendly services. Esther recently kicked-off the first, ever human-centered design project in Congress with a team of four design researchers as part of a new effort under The OpenGov Foundation. Now, she is advising a municipality in the midwest as they aim to embed an evidence-based and people-centered policy-making process, and lightly advises decision makers at the state-level in the U.S. Past collaborators include U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, and Repurpose for Results—a program under the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities Initiative.

Prior to a full-time freelance pathway, Esther served a one-year term as the inaugural Designer-in-Residence at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) under the Obama administration. As part of her role, she applied human-centered design to several internal projects focusing on organizational and programmatic design and implementation. Esther has also worked in philanthropy, public administration, and arts management creating community-centric programs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. She has served on advisory councils and steering committees of national and regional nonprofit organizations, in addition to being Adjunct Faculty at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. Esther received her M.A. in social design from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and her B.F.A. in photography from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Esther is currently based in Brooklyn, NY, and has spent time in California, Texas, Illinois, and Maryland along with a gap year overseas.

The word "design" has traditionally been used to describe the visual aesthetics of objects such as books, websites, products, interiors, architecture, and fashion. But increasingly, the definition of design has expanded to include not just artifacts but strategic services and systems. As the challenges and opportunities facing businesses, organizations, and society grow more complex, and as stakeholders grow more diverse; an approach known as "design thinking" is playing a greater role in finding meaningful paths forward. Design thinking is an iterative problem-solving process of discovery, ideation, and experimentation that employs various design-based techniques to gain insight and yield innovative solutions for virtually any type of organizational or business challenge, prominently including those within public service. At the heart of this approach is a deep sensitivity to the needs of people, whether they are consumers, clients, or everyday citizens. In "Design Thinking: A Creative Approach to Problem Solving and Creating Impact," we will unpack each step of the design thinking process and become familiar with the design thinker's toolkit. Students will develop skills as ethnographers, visual thinkers, strategists, service designers, and storytellers through a hybrid of seminar discussions and collaborative projects. Over the course of seven weeks, students will directly apply what they have learned to a public service issue that they are passionate about, by untangling the complexities of related policy and exploring innovative ways to create real impact.

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