Sheila Danko
Sheila Danko
Professor Emeritus
Human Centered Design


Professor  Danko’s  multi-disciplinary design background includes formal training in architecture, industrial, graphic, and interior design. This first-hand insight into designing across disciplines enables her to emphasize problem seeking - ie creative exploration of needs and opportunities -- coupled with a wide range of design methods to tailor process to problem space.

Her scholarship focuses on the intersection of design and leadership. Her goal is to expand the everyday concept of design beyond material artifact to include an understanding of how design process and product can be a tool for transformational leadership and social change across a variety of disciplines.

(Note: Not accepting new students retiring December 2017)

Professor Danko speaks and writes internationally on design as a tool for leadership and social change. Understanding design as a transformational tool (vs material artifact) is key to leadership. She is currently working on several interrelated research projects including: 

The Designing Change Dialogues. A series of strategic stories based on entrepreneurial insights to design leadership and social change.

Redesigning Business: Strategic Stories of Leadership, Creative Problem-Solving and Social Change
Design is of great relevance to a new generation of entrepreneurs who are merging social activism with business. Their stories of aspiration -  both as entrepreneurs and activists - weave together creativity and leadership from a whole systems view. Their stories, taken from on-site interviews, transcribed and constructed into narratives, allow the reader to get "inside their designing minds" to see creative problem-solving at its best. Rich with goals, constraits, risk and opportunity, these storied collections of innovative business practices help redefine the concept of design from a business perspective and explore the potential of design thinking to transform business into a social change agent.

Making a Difference by Design utilizes a case study approach to understanding design in daily life. The cases combine leadership theory with product  and process innovation across a wide range of disciplines including business, human development, education, community, and global sustainability to illustrate how design can support and enrich human experience.

My teaching merges theories of transformational leadership  and leadership development with an understanding of creative design process. My goal is to empower students to lead change. Utilizing case study comparison and analysis, students learn critical thinking and creative problem solving methods. I believe in experiential, hands-on learning combined with reflective writing to give students a greater understanding of themselves and an inside-out look at the process of designing change. 

DEA 1110: Making a Difference by Design

DEA 4402: Design Studio VIII: Design & Strategic Business Planning

DEA 6450: Dancing Mind/Thinking Heart: Creative Problem-Solving Theory and Practice

NBA 6110: Creative Design for Affordability

Danko, S. and Shepley, M. (in press). "Design as Caring: Serving Special Populations", Journal of Interior Design, 42(2).

Shepley, M. and Danko, S.(2017) "Design as Healing: The Next Generation of Research Informed Practice." Journal of Interior Design, 42(1).

Danko, S.(2015). Chapter 8: "Designing Emotional Connection into the Workplace: A story of authentic leadership," In J. Thompson and N. Blossom (Eds.), The Handbook of Interior Design, pp 128-147; West SussexUK: Wiley Blackwell.

Danko, S. (2010). "Perspective: On designing change," Journal of Interior Design, 36(1), v-ix.

Danko, S. (2010). "The Designing Change Project: Lessons in Design Leadership from Activist Entrepreneurs." Presentation at the Stanford Technology Ventures Roundtable on Entrepreneurship Education, University of Edinburgh, UK.

Meneely, J., and Danko, S., (2007). "Motive, mind and media: Digital sketching in the creative culture of design," Journal of Interior Design, 32 (3), pp 69-90.

Danko, S., Meneely, J., and Portillo, M. (2006). "Humanizing design through narrative inquiry." Journal of Interior Design, 31(2), 10-28.

Danko, S. (2005). "Crossing boundaries: Reframing entrepreneurship as a social change agent." Proceedings of the Internationalizing Entrepreneurship Education Conference, Guildford, UK.

Danko, S. (2003). "Nurturing whole person development and leadership through narrative." Journal of Interior Design, 29(1&2), 82-96.

Vithayathawornwong, S., Danko, S., and Tolbert, P. (2003). "The role of the physical environment in promoting creativity in organizational settings." Journal of Interior Design, 29(1&2), 1-16.

Danko, S. and Portillo, M. (2001). "Reaching out: The common language of strategic stories." Interiors & Sources, J/A, 94-99.

Danko, S. (2000). "Beneath the Surface: A Story of Leadership, Recruitment and Retention and the Hidden Dimensions of Interior Design” Journal of Interior Design, 26/2, 1-24.

Portillo, M. and Danko, S. et al. (1999). "FIDER’s Latest Research Directive: Strategic Stories," Interiors and Sources, J/A 98: 90-91.

Danko, S. (1992). Section III: "The Project: Project Control Book", In J. Thompson (Ed.), American Society of Interior Designers Professional Practice Manual (pp. 109-166). New York: Whitney Library of Design

Danko, S. (1989). "Inside the creative design process: Five firms/Five profiles", In J. Dohr (Ed.), The Polsky papers, pp. 1-9. Grand Rapids, MI: FIDER

  • Guest Editor, Journal of Interior Design 2017 special issue on Healthcare Design, w/Mardelle Shepley
  • J. Thomas Clark Professor of Entrepreneurship
  • Member, International Leadership Association
  • Member, Interior Design Educators Council
  • Ad Hoc Reviewer, Journal of Interior Design
  • Editorial Board, Research Design Connections 
  • Refereed Instructor, Interior Design Educators Council Academy
  • Fellow Atkinson Center for Sustainable Futures

Chair , D+EA, 2009- present Design + Environmental Analysis

Advisory Board Member, Atkinson Center for Sustainable Futures

Faculty Fellow, Atkinson Center for Sustainable Futures

Member, FSAD Graduate Field

Member, Fine Arts Graduate Field

1983, M.I.D. , Industrial Design, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI

1982, Graphic Design & Commercial Arts, College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI

1978, B.S., Architecture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

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