Heidrun Mumper-Drumm brings energy and expertise to the Summits
Heidrun Mumper-Drumm’s careers as an environmental engineer and graphic designer might seem widely divergent, but they come together in the work she does as an adjunct faculty member at Art Center. Mumper-Drumm is an organizer of the Sustainability Summits, and she teaches a course called Designing for Sustainability in Art Center’s undergraduate program.
In her first career as an environmental engineer, Mumper-Drumm worked with Bechtel and Parsons Engineering. “My focus was always on energy sources and their environmental impacts,” she says. These included work on nuclear, wind and geothermal power. The projects she worked on were as varied as planning and engineering a large wind farm on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, and doing environmental impact studies on Native American burial grounds in preparation for the building of the space shuttle’s launch pad.
By the late 1980’s, however, Mumper-Drumm was looking for a career change. She turned to Art Center, where she’d taken classes as a high-school student in the Saturday High program, and as an adult at Art Center at Night. It was in an Art Center at Night letterpress class that she “fell in love with typography.” She entered Art Center’s undergraduate program and finished with a degree in Graphic Design. Soon after, she left environmental engineering behind and began teaching at Archetype Press.
Still, her interest in energy and the environment did not wane. “Six or seven years into my time at Art Center,” she says, “the Faculty Council asked what instructors would like to see change on campus. I said I’d like to see more campus greening.” One result of that request was that Mumper-Drumm was asked to teach a course called Designing for Sustainability. The course is an academic one in which students evaluate and propose ways for design to take a central role in sustainability. Mumper-Drumm’s commitment to incorporating the principles of sustainability into design and design education has grown since. She is the faculty advisor for the student EcoCouncil, and she has played an important role in developing the Sustainability Summits.
In addition to advising on many aspects of the Summits, Mumper-Drumm organizes the pre-Summit, a daylong educational event held at the College. She invites faculty, alumni and others to present their work and “get everyone up to speed on the state-of- the-art research,” she says. The pre-Summit “brings a lot of dense, rich subject matter to campus, and there’s tons of student involvement, both as attendees and volunteers.” Mumper-Drumm also encourages alumni to take part. Alumni speakers have included Andy Ogden TRAN ’83, who is Chair of the Industrial Design Department at Art Center; Rob Thompson TK, a senior member of technical staff at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena; and artist Claude Willey TK. “I like to showcase people from the Art Center community and then bring in outside people to give the bigger picture beyond design,” she says.
While the Summit is limited to 100 participants, many more can attend the pre-Summit. It is open to all students and faculty, and scholarships are available, which some faculty have used to bring an entire class to the day’s events.
Mumper-Drumm sees the direct impact that the Summits and pre-Summits have had on the Art Center community and its influence on the curriculum. Designing for Sustainability II is another class that has grown out of the Summits. This class, which she will co-teach with Fridolin Beisert, brings the question of sustainability into the studio, looking at how the design process needs to change. “How do you conduct the process all the way from source to output with sustainability as a focus?” she asks. “You have to design out the negative impacts and design in positive ones. That’s what this course is about.”
Like all of those involved in the Summits, Mumper-Drumm sees tremendous changes on the horizon. “There’s a much greater role in the world for designers,” she says. As her experience shows, designers are being asked to collaborate and to bring expertise from other disciplines to their work. That type of collaboration and merging of fields, says Mumper-Drumm, will go a long way to creating more sustainable products and a more sustainable future.
Past Summit Participants
Art Center Alumni
Christopher Bangle, TRAN ’77