Kristin Hughes

Kristin is an assistant professor in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon. She teaches a range of courses including first year, junior, and senior level studios, expressive typography. Recurring themes in her research and professional work focus on design as a catalyst for community and civic engagement. This area of interest has allowed her to continue to pursue design-research that impacts communities and shows the unique contribution that design brings to solving social and community problems. Kristin’s research focuses on improving the well-being and education of children and their families, specifically in the areas of health services and health communications.

A recent project, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, is Fitwits, a series of games designed to educate and encourage smart choices in nutrition, portion, and physical activity. Fitwits is a set of hands-on, kid-centered health lessons for 9- to 12-year-old children and their caregivers. Fitwits are used in school, the doctors’ office, and community domains. The lessons, activities, and games are led by a series of characters called the Fitwits and Nitwits. Kids in Pittsburgh invented these food-inspired characters and the portion hand guide with help from designers, doctors, researchers, and members of the community.

“I left design practice at age 28 to be a full time graduate student, acutely aware of a desire to deepen my understanding of design and its potential to improve the lives of people. This time afforded me the opportunity to question, reflect and better understand why I wanted to become a designer. The VCU community (family) taught me to look at the world in a new way, ask questions, and most importantly to not be afraid to fail. I am very grateful for the education I received at VCU, the friendships I developed, and continued mentoring and support that was offered. It was and is truly a wonderful, unique place.”