You can browse my essays for RethinkED, which focus on learning, creativity, mindset, and making. In the meantime, here's an excerpt of a recent piece on fear and growth.

Let's Talk About Fear

Given our culture’s infatuation with perfect performances — evidenced all around us in Olympics and film-awards coverage — I really love it when successful people talk about struggles they face in their work.

Dazzling achievements — whether a great work of art, a gold-medal performance, or a scientific breakthrough — tend to do just that: they dazzle us with their perfection, blinding us to how they came to be. Candid conversations that reveal the inevitable blood, sweat, and tears behind those achievements are a service to all of us, especially students. And with creative people as with students, the “blood, sweat, and tears” often takes shape as fear.

In a recent joint interview in the New York Times, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg and film director David O. Russell were refreshingly candid about facing fear in their creative work. While Russell talked about the more familiar “fear of failure,” von Furstenberg claimed that “fear of failure” wasn’t fear because it emerged from the commitment to create something — and therefore was far preferable to true fear. True fear comes “when you don’t do the thing” — in other words, it comes from not creating at all.

Read the entire post at RethinkEd.

mfa thesis

Metaprocessing, Or How I Learned to Embrace the Unknown

Metaprocessing is the reflective awareness of one's design process in action. It describes a mindset and a strategy that deepens creativity, builds confidence, and promotes continuous learning. It is the subject of this thesis.

Spend time with a very young child and you will witness a constant state of learning. At every moment, she is building new skills — feeding herself, manipulating objects, crawling, walking, talking. And in an average child, this process culminates in success 100 percent of the time.

Yet it’s difficult to imagine a fifth grader, or a high school student — or the average adult for that matter — as fiercely dedicated to learning as a toddler. But why does learning become more complicated as we develop? On one hand, learning is inherently complicated at any age because it depends on the coordination of highly complex neurological and psychological systems. Furthermore, learning is susceptible to interference by any number of competing factors, be they environmental, social, biological, cognitive, or emotional.

On the other hand, a toddler’s learning seems straightforward for one very significant reason: Her motivation is extreme. Her hunger for new skills gives her a strong stomach for the effort she will need to master those skills. With motivation as strong as hers, the learning apparatus works pretty flawlessly.

But for the rest of us, the proposition of learning is less straightforward, even when we are voluntarily committed to learning.

So what accounts for the difference between the toddler and everyone else? And what can we do about it? Moreover, what does any of this have to do with design?

Take a look at my complete thesis book, including eight experimental design projects that explore the parallel processes of learning and creativity.


Karin Storm Wood

...is a graphic designer, an educator, a writer, a reflective practitioner, and a constant learner.

....would have been a cognitive psychologist in another life.

.....recently read Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies and found her neck tingling.

......is a native New Yorker who lives by the first rule of Manhattan foot travel: East/West first.

.......loves the game Celebrities. Human celebrities not so much.

.........thinks Twitter isn't so bad.

..........loves to decant things.

...........thinks that how people achieve things is as interesting as what they achieve.

............hopes that you'll pronounce it like Car Insurance.

.............thinks making is underrated by society at large.

..............thinks that maybe, just maybe, critical thinking is overrated. Or that creativity is underrated.

...............subscribes to this brilliant observation by Richard Saul Wurman:

When you approach a problem, you must go backward to find the beginning before going forward to find the solution. Seldom, if ever, is the problem correctly stated. The classic, pervasive seduction to designers has been to find a solution instead of the truth. You must be a few steps behind where others usually start when solving a problem if you want to discover the forces behind the problem. Only then can you ask yourself the questions that will lead to productive solutions.


|| Education

Pratt Institute | School of Art and Design | New York, NY

MFA Communications Design, 2013

Honors: Master of Fine Arts with distinction, Outstanding Merit, Merit Scholarship Recipient, 2011-2013

Thesis: Metaprocessing, Or How I Learned to Embrace the Unknown

Both learning and creativity require an embrace of the unknown. But engaging with unfamiliar ideas, skills, and activities — particularly in high-stakes or involuntary contexts — can provoke anxiety, inhibiting the ability to learn and create. Informed by research on the psychology of engagement, self-determination, motivation, and flow, I explore how low-stakes strategies based in play enhance both learning and creativity.

Yale University | New Haven, CT

BA English, 1994

Honors: Distinction in the major, Cum Laude

|| Experience

Writer | RethinkED | New York, NY | 2014-present

Blogger and consultant on learning and creativity for RethinkED, a New York-based consulting group that applies cognitive psychology and design principles to education.

Adjunct Professor | St. John’s University | Queens, NY | 2013–present

Instructor of an elective in introductory web design for graphic design majors.

Designer | New York University School of Law | New York, NY | 2007–2011

Lead designer of NYU Law’s web and print magazines. Collaborated with faculty and administrators on event promotion and marketing materials. Commissioned and art-directed photographers and illustrators.

Designer | Point Five Design | New York, NY | 2005–2006

Designed brand identities, websites, and print magazines, at a small design studio specializing in nonprofits in the arts and education. Clients included Harvard University, Princeton University, The Paris Review, and Legal Affairs.

Freelance Editor and Designer | New York, NY | 2003–2005

Wrote and designed educational and informational materials for a variety of clients, including New Visions for Public Schools and Columbia University.

Teacher | Riverdale Country School | Bronx, New York | 1996–2002

Taught middle- and high-school English. Collaborated on the design of the inaugural curriculum for a junior-year interdisciplinary course in American Studies. Served as Student Academic Advisor (1996-2002), English Department Chair (Interim, 2001)
, and Commencement Speaker (2002)

|| Publications

Transfor(m)action | Contributor | 2013

“Play Phone,” my interactive public art installation and resulting documentation, was selected for inclusion in an anthology of public art and design pieces. I created the project in Transformation Design Studio, under the instruction of Pratt design professor Jean Brennan. (Skyler Balbus, Transfor(m)action. New York: Pratt Institute, 2013.)

Conversations on Creative Writing and Graphic Design | Contributor | 2012

The authors published a short story I wrote in an MFA studio course at Pratt and printed an interview with me about the utility of creative writing for graphic designers. (Maura Frana, Leigh Mignogna, and Liz Seibert, Conversations on Writing and Graphic Design. New York: Pratt Institute, 2012.)

|| Conferences

Design Educators Meeting | AIGA Annual Design Conference | Presenter | October 2013

I presented “Why Constraints Work: Adventures in Enhancing Creative Confidence,” a PechaKucha on my thesis research at Head Heart Hand in October 2013.

|| Outreach

K-12 Workshop | NYU Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies | Designer | 2012

Co-designer and producer of "Designing Voice: Expression," one of three units in an arts-based curriculum designed to develop cultural awareness among high school students. A co-collaboration with NYU CLACS, NYC public school teachers, and several fellow graduate students, my unit included a teacher’s guide, lesson plans, and a 10-minute video that I filmed, edited, and narrated. (Via Public Project, a pro-bono design initiative of the graduate Communications Design program at Pratt Institute.)

Saturday Career Workshops | Art Directors Club of New York | 2006

Directed NYC public high-school students chosen to participate in a series of design projects in a hands-on studio environment at the ADC.

|| Skills

Design for Learning
  • Curriculum Design
  • Lesson Planning
  • Systems Thinking
  • Visual Presentations
  • Writing + Editing
  • Public Speaking
Design Thinking
  • Ideation + Prototyping
  • Co-creation Methodologies
  • Qualitative Research
  • Problem Seeking
  • Human-Centered Design
  • Experience Mapping
  • Empathy + Role Play
Media | Software | Code
  • Print, Digital + Motion Design
  • HTML5, CSS3 + Javascript
  • InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, AfterEffects, Premiere Pro + more
  • Video Production + Editing
  • PowerPoint + Keynote
  • Microsoft Office
contact me

Don't be a stranger.

Read me at rethinkED. Let me know what you think.

Email me at karin at karinstormwood dot com.

Find me on Twitter.

Wander around Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, and look for me. [This might take you a while.]