The University of Utah
College of Architecture + Planning

Designing with the US Forest Service

Designing with the US Forest Service

University of Utah student, Brian Tillman, transformed his capstone design project into an internship with the US Forest Service. He proposed a redesigned USFS interface, aimed at directly engaging the public in the management and care of local forests. He generated and refined the concept for a mobile app called USFS Connect in a design studio course, Fall of 2015, led by assistant professor Jonathan Mills of the Multi-disciplinary Design department.

Brian adds that “[Design studio] gave me a taste of how much work is put into solving problems in a real world business setting.”

Students worked in collaboration with the US Forest Service to identify a problem, generate a concept and design an intervention. Brian’s work focused on creating an interface that would directly connect users with information concerning forests in their immediate area. The proposed app included an interactive dimension, enabling users to contribute pictures, reserve a campsite, or post updates on the condition of trails and then share this data with each other.

After Brian had finalized his concept,  he received a call from the head of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache Forest inviting him to the USFS leadership conference. There he met the executive staff responsible for region four of the USFS and gave a presentation detailing his design.

“I gave my speech and immediately after[ward] I was offered an internship [to] work on furthering the project.” he said of the event. For Brian, “Designing a project to solve a problem was the goal”. He reflected on his experience of design studio calling the course “One the most eye opening classes of my college career.”

The US Forest Service hired Brian to redesign and prototype their mobile interface, continuing the work he began as his capstone project. His job expanded to include redesigning the USFS website and he is currently at work on a second app called the Mobile Travelers App.

Brian’s work with the US Forest Service illustrates an approach to design education characteristic of the Multi-disciplinary Design department. The MDD program works with community partners, grounding pedagogy in life experience and providing students with real opportunities.

Author:  Sayde Price
Image:  Brian Tillman