Wilhelmina (Willa) Crolius grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, where she was first introduced to art and design through her work on collections management for the Yale University Art Gallery. After a year at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, studying politics pertaining to political activism and photography, she transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) where she earned her BFA in Industrial Design. While studying in Chicago, Willa worked with a variety of community organizations in her first experiences with human centered design practices.
During her time at the Institute for Human Centered Design, Wilhelmina (Willa) Crolius worked on projects ranging from the analysis of community programs, historic sites, public parks, as well as on a mix of products ranging from medical equipment, to watches and pens, to technology from websites, to apps. She worked with the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s UP Innovation and Learning Networks conducting contextual inquiry design reviews of ten cultural organizations with the greater goal of making inclusive cultural practices a staple of the cultural experience in Massachusetts. She designed and led training programs on how to build capacity through the engagement of user/experts with Perspectiva, an NGO in Russia and traveled to Moscow and St. Petersburg several times to consult on inclusive culture and education practices. In 2013, she presented a user/expert analysis of medical equipment to the US Access Board, a federal agency in Washington, D.C., that promotes equality for people with disabilities.
Ms. Crolius received a double master’s degree from the Royal College of Art (Ma) and the Imperial College of London (MSc) in Innovation Design Engineering spring 2018. Her most recent projects include a product and system to bring tactility to the learning of tonal based languages, such as Mandarin; using real time tonal analysis to translate what you say into physical movement, offering direct and meaningful feedback to the learner’s hand. She was awarded the KI Design Prize 2018 for her smart lighting system, which responds to real time weather data to address the psychological and physiological effects poor lighting has on users. Her smart lighting system was featured at the London Design week and in Boston’s Hub Week 2018.