Nancy Richardson Design Center opens, aims to foster creativity

Meagan Stackpool

After years of conversation and planning, the Nancy Richardson Design Center celebrated its opening Friday, allowing students to explore new design opportunities. 


Nancy Richardson and her husband, Curt, donated 8.1 million dollars to the development of the center. Nancy was instrumental throughout the entire process of building the center, as reported by Source.

Nancy Richardson, a 1982 graduate of the Colorado State University Interior Design program, along with her husband are co-founders of OtterBox and Blue Ocean Enterprises. In an interview with Collegian Television, she explained how plans for the design center began six years ago.

“The design center is a dream come true for me,” Nancy said. “It started with conversations back in 2013 with Dean Jeff McCubbin and kind of brainstorming about what could a world class design center look like, what purpose would it serve and how would we elevate the programs in design and in design thinking.”

Student members of the Design and Merchandising Leadership Team attended the ceremony to help guide students and visitors throughout the new building.

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  • Nancy Richardson giving a speech at the grand opening of the Nancy Richardson Design Center (Skyler Pradhan | Collegian)

  • A classroom at the Nancy Richardson Design Center (Skyler Pradhan | Collegian)

  • An upstairs lobby at the Nancy Richardson Design Center (Skyler Pradhan | Collegian)

  • An upstairs view of the Nancy Richardson Design Center (Skyler Pradhan | Collegian)

  • Student Nicole Jackson working in one of the Nancy Richardson Design Center’s new computer labs (Skyler Pradhan | Collegian)

  • The grand opening ceremony of the Nancy Richardson Design Center. On the top right of the photo, faculty talks to the audience (Skyler Pradhan | Collegian)

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Student member Kelsie Gordon, a sophomore in the interior architecture and design program, expressed how significant the new center is to the students.

“It’s a huge step for our campus and for design in general because a lot of people don’t take design seriously,” Gordon said, adding that the University is taking steps to create something that everyone can do their best work in.

Totaling 19.5 million dollars, the building was designed by OZ Architecture with assistance from Salt Design and built by Saunders Construction. The 45,000 square foot building features open student spaces with collaboration and creating in mind. 

Julia Lyons, a graduate of the CSU design program and member of the Salt Design team who designed the building, explained some of the intent behind the design of the building.

Lyons explained that this building in particular is going to bring different creatives together to collaborate more, to hopefully create a better understanding of design as a whole, regardless of major. Which she hopes will bring more creativity.

The building also features three design labs filled with new technology available to students. Paul Callahan, fabrication labs coordinator to the design center, expressed the versatility the labs give the students.


“There’s really not much that you couldn’t make with the tools in these three labs if you’re interested in building something three dimensional,” Callahan said. He went on to describe the various machinery and technology within the textile, woodworking and metal labs.

The center’s design emphasizes the creative process, as Laura Malinin, inaugural director of the RDC and assistant professor in the Interior Architecture and Design program, explained.

Malinin said the building was designed around the different steps of the creative process and organized around thinking about the different processes and activities of creativity.

“The cool thing about the design center is that it’s open to all students from CSU,” Malinin said. “It’s for any student who wants to come in and learn about prototyping and making and being creative.”

Malinin added that other universities had already begun contacting her about the journey and success of the program.  

Sera Radovich, academic success coordinator for the Department of Design and Merchandising, explained how the design center will contribute to future growth within the university.

“One of the goals of one of the majors, Interior Architecture and Design, is to see double growth within the next couple of years here, so obtaining that goal is going to be possible because of the different technology that’s provided with this building,” Radovich said. She added that the computer will be virtual reality capable, an important tool for design students.

Diane Sparks, faculty member in the Department of Design and Merchandising, described the significance behind some of the design choices within the building.

“There’s light coming in from all directions,” Sparks said. “There’s an optimism that comes with light.”

Sparks continued to explain that the center was an outgrowth of the design program at Stanford and the red throughout the building pays homage to their school.

Faculty and staff wished to publicly express how grateful they are to donors and supporters of the center, specifically Nancy Richardson, Dean Jeff McCubbin and President Tony Frank.

In her speech welcoming the public to the building, Nancy Richardson explained the intent behind the center itself.

“It’s really meant to be a hub for design thinking, and it was done with you, the students, in mind,” Richardson said. “That you would be inspired every time you walk in here, that you would collaborate with fellow students and students in other majors and really begin the process of design thinking and problem solving and becoming the best designers and thought leaders they can be.”

Meagan Stackpool can be reached at or on Twitter @MeaganStackpool.