Terry Irwin

Terry Irwin

Professor and Director of the Transition Design Institute


Terry Irwin is a Professor in the School of Design and Director of the Transition Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. From 2009 - 2019, she served as Head of School, leading a multi-year process to place ‘design for society and the environment’ at the heart of all programs and curricula. Along with Gideon Kossoff and Cameron Tonkinwise, she is one of the co-originators of Transition Design, a transdisciplinary approach for addressing the many complex, wicked problems confronting 21st century societies.  

Terry has been teaching design at the university level since 1986 and has held faculty positions at Otis Parsons College of Art and Design, Los Angeles (1986-1989), California College of Arts, San Francisco (1989-2003) and, The University of Dundee, Scotland (2007-2009). She has also been a practicing designer for more than 50 years and was one of the founding partners of MetaDesign, an international design firm with offices in Berlin, London, San Francisco and Zurich. She served as the Creative Director of the San Francisco office from 1992 to 2002, working with Fortune 500 clients such as Nike, Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Barclay's Bank, Ernst and Young (EY), Nissan, Sony, and Berlin's Transport company, BVG. 

Terry holds an MFA in design from the Basel Allgemeine Kunstgewerbeschule, Switzerland (1986), an MSc in Holistic Science from Schumacher College/Plymouth University (2004), England, and completed 5 years of doctoral research at The University of Dundee, Scotland. In 2019 she was awarded with an Honorary Doctorate in Design from Emily Carr University, Canada, in 2021 with the American Institute of Graphic Arts Medal, and in September, 2023 was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Arts, London. 

She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and collaborator Gideon Kossoff.