Design Science Celebrates our 29th Anniversary

Founded in 1991, Design Science has been combining scientific research and design to improve products and medical devices around the world. For 29 years as of today, we've been able to make a great impact on the lives of users by creating safer and more user-friendly products with real people in mind.

Although we cannot be together in person to celebrate our 29th anniversary this year, we sat down virtually with Design Science founders and principals Stephen B. Wilcox and Li Yue. They told us the story of how Design Science came to be, and how they built a company to address the industry's needs.

Watch the virtual interview, or read the transcript below!


How did Design Science come to be? 

Stephen B. Wilcox: I had the idea that psychology would apply to product design. So, I started talking to designers about that and eventually talked to designer Walter Herbst into hiring me at Herbst LaZar Bell. I did that for about 8 years and then I thought, “Well… this thing is kind of working pretty well." So, I thought, that there would possibly be a need for a dedicated firm that just did design research. Which is kind of a practice I developed within Herbst LaZar.

What aspect are you most proud of? 

Stephen B. Wilcox: So, here I am (laughs) here I am trapped, stranded in Ghana, under difficult circumstances and the business is running fine. I think that’s the hardest, most people like me or many people like me, you know they run a business and they get to a certain age and then the business just folds because it’s all about them.  

We’ve collectively finally built it to a point where I’m not so necessary anymore. If I look around at the other business that kind of started with my peers, I can say that it is a pretty small percentage that have achieved that. 

How did you meet Steve? 

Li Yue: I got a letter from the department chairman of Industrial Design in Philadelphia University of the Arts and he was asking me whether I wanted to come back and join the graduate program as a staff member. I said yes and went back to Philadelphia and met Steve in that program. He was also teaching there. 

How did you get involved with Design Science? 

Li Yue: It’s in line with my personal interest and also my personal development. My graduate study is a combination in fine art education and also industrial design specialized in interface. I completed that in a joint-venture program between industrial system engineering and industrial design. 

What aspect are you most proud of? 

Li Yue: There are several things I am proud of what Design Science is doing. One is to offer a unique service that the other companies don’t offer. The client can’t get that kind of service anywhere else. We are able to develop it, based on the clients needs and just basically help them to improve their product in the most effective way. The second thing is to provide high quality service and deliverables. The other thing is to improve people’s quality of life. 

Where do you see Design Science in 15 years? 

Stephen B. Wilcox: I’ll tell you the truth, I don’t really have an answer to that. I think that what Li and I have done over the years and now the other senior people as well, is, we’ve really kept our ear to the ground. You never know what’s going to happen. I mean, who would have predicted, at least when we’ve started, we were tied to industrial design and the design of physical objects. Who would have predicted that we’d be working on so much software today? So, our feeling, I think I’m speaking for Li too, is that you really can’t plan these things so much. It’s to just keep your eyes open and be flexible enough to be able to adapt to what the real needs are. 

Li Yue: That goes back to “Design Science”. Art and Science; we can’t separate them. In the future I think we need to keep those two together and keep refining or finding the synergy between the two based on the current technology. 

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