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Designing for people

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Danna Xue
(Photo courtesy of Danna Xue)

Danna Xue

MS ‘21
Sustainability Science and Practice (SUST)

May 5, 2021

“As scientists, it’s important for us to constantly stay engaged with and amplify the voices of the people we serve. Art has always helped me find creative ways to do that,” said Danna Xue, MS ‘21.

Artistic inclination runs in Xue’s family, but it was up to her to apply those teachings toward science. Xue’s mother and father immigrated from China to pursue their dreams of becoming classical musicians, a history that helped inspire Xue to take a variety of courses and extracurriculars in the arts and sciences at Stanford. “Soon, I realized that there was a place for people like me to grow as a designer, creator, and engineer.”

After earning her BS in mechanical engineering with a minor in music, Xue turned her eye toward sustainable design. In parallel with her MS in sustainability science and practice (SUST), she pursued several creative projects, including writing music and producing videos with cultural and environmental messaging, working on sustainable fashion shoots, and producing content for organizations like Engineering for Change and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Currently, Xue works as a technical program manager for TESLA.“While program management is often viewed as a role tied to deadlines, schedules, and checklists, there is actually a lot of room to be creative and create innovative, sustainable structures within an organization,” she said. “If we make an effort to challenge the familiar, embrace complexity, and embrace marginalized voices, we can become better designers and better people in the process.”

Whether she’s in the classroom or the workplace, Xue is committed to designing with people in mind. “We need to consider what really affects people. For myself lately, it has been especially difficult to see the terrifying rise of anti-Asian hate crime in the news. While these hate crimes have always existed, there is finally increasing media attention and I really hope this horrible period will be a catalyst for meaningful change in the systems that affect my community.”