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Assistant Professor of Applied Design

Donna Cohn

applied design
Hampshire College Instructor Donna Cohn
Donna Cohn
Assistant Professor of Applied Design
Interdisciplinary Arts
Mail Code LM
Donna Cohn
Lemelson Center for Design 106
Donna Cohn, assistant professor of applied design, holds a B.S. from the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, and a master's in industrial design from the Rhode Island School of Design. She has worked with the Boston Center for Independent Living as a designer and builder of devices for people with physical disabilities. Her design process emphasized collaboration with the end user and the use of low-cost tools and materials. This way of working continues to inform her current design practice and teaching.

A member of the Hampshire faculty since 2002, her courses emphasize consideration of practical problems that directly impact communities, paired with hands-on iterative design. Her professional work, personal life and teaching are deeply intertwined. She builds curriculum around design challenges on the Hampshire College campus as well as local community groups. She works with Hampshire Youth Connect, planning and effecting programming to introduce underserved youth to the college experience. 

In 2013, she received a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and field test prototypes of a low-cost pearl millet thresher for use in sub-Saharan Africa. This project evolved out of discussions with a former student then working in Namibia. Cohn brought the project to the 2008 International Design for Development Summit (IDDS) held at M.I.T. and has continued design work over numerous semesters of her Appropriate Technology classes. Documentation of the thresher can be viewed at   

Her other interests include rearranging and putting things into and onto soil, ecologically sustainable technologies, dogs, cats, and other animals.

Recent and Upcoming Courses