Iain is a west coast kid who grew up in a very different Vancouver in an era of visionaries and dreamers. He remembers the sailing of Greenpeace boats and summers swimming in the harbor. He spent years climbing mountains and this deep immersion in the wilderness led him to research philosophy, ecology, complexity science, and evolutionary theory and convince him of the radical power of being generalist for innovation and creativity.
Those formative years led Iain to become a designer working at the intersection of creativity, ecology, and emergent systems — always with the goal: to make novel worlds possible. His unique approach evolves from over twenty plus years of experimenting across and beyond the zones of Architecture, Design, Ecology, Art, Creativity Studies, Ethnobotany, Food Studies, Systems Thinking, Social Entrepreneurship, Commons Studies and Philosophy. His focus when working as an innovation consultant is on designing novel collective processes to transform seemingly intractable problems into, as he put it “problems worth having for worlds worth making”.
Like Jason, Iain was brought into start a new entrepreneurship program at Montclair State University, where together they are Co-Director’s of the MIX Lab (Making and Innovating for X). The MIX Lab's mission is to foster innovation at all scales.
In addition to co-directing the MIX Lab, Iain is a co-founder of the boundary-blurring design consultancy SPURSE and the Emergent Futures Lab.
SPURSE has been at the forefront of ecological research, experimental design, and innovation leadership for the last 15 years. While developing ground-breaking ways to probe, catalyze, disrupt and re-imagine systems both large and small, they have collaborated with communities, organizations, and individuals from the high arctic to inner cities neighborhoods in Bolivia. Their award-winning projects reveal an astonishing range of creative solutions to effecting real change: from restaurants, wetlands, wayfinding apps, urban renewal programs, microbiology laboratories, cookbooks, buildings, everyday tools and more.
When asked about the essential elements to his generalist approach and research Iain says: “You gotta break things. Seriously – you have to purposefully break everything to reinvent it.” … as he stands before a class full of students shattering and exploring their 3D or ceramic design homework, to the gasp of the room.
In 2018 Iain and Jason Frasca founded Emergent Futures Lab as a platform for the rethinking of creativity, invention, and change — what they are, how they are realized, and how they can be taught. The Emergent Futures Lab has developed a number of new tools including the Innovation Design Approach.
Iain regularly works as a consultant, lecturer and workshop leader on creativity, innovation, and design (MIT, Harvard University, Columbia University, Parsons, Yale, CCA, and RISDI). His most recent research is on developing new models of Innovation that are collective, enactive, materially engaged forms of novel worldmaking: Innovation Design. His and SPURSE's work has been discussed in books and journals from the NYTimes, ID, and Surface to The International Encyclopedia of Human Geography.
Now as Iain looks back from his early days hanging off a cliffs ledge to exploring the coasts of British Columbia he finds the similar adventure and joy in carrying out the work of Emergent Futures Lab internationally.