About Eric Benson
Eric Benson was born in Arizona and raised in Mid-Michigan where he later received his BFA in graphic and industrial design from the University of Michigan in 1998. He worked professionally as a UI/UX designer at Razorfish and Texas Instruments before he received his MFA in design from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006. His MFA thesis became the internationally recognized and award-winning sustainable design website www.re-nourish.org. His work with Re-nourish translated into an academic career where he currently is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research asks how life-centered systems thinking informs the way designers think, critique existing work, create responsible solutions, and craft engaging stories of climate action within the profession and in the classroom. This research is most notably seen at his agri-fiber paper lab Fresh Press and his climate action podcast, Climify.
Benson has published and lectured internationally on the importance of sustainable design. His work has also garnered numerous design awards and has been seen in notable venues like The Walker Art Center, the Smithsonian Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, the Hammer Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and RISD.
BFA Graphic and Industrial Design, University of Michigan, 1998
MFA Design, University of Texas, 2006
Research and publications
Ongoing and upcoming research
- Fresh Press – exploring and enacting the potential of regional sustainable agricultural fiber waste as paper and paper products.
- Re-nourish – nonprofit organization that provides online tools and advocates for awareness and action for sustainable systems thinking in the visual communication design community.
- Climify Podcast – connecting climate scientists and design educators together so that we can bring climate-related projects into our classrooms
- Life-Centered Systems Thinking (LCST) – creating an effective and easy-to-use life-centered systems thinking syllabus for the design educator
- Climate Fiction Storytelling – can telling hopepunk stories of our future on this planet inspire positive social and environmental action today?
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Sustainable Design – will AI become smart enough to help change the way we make things?
- Benson, Eric, “The Serenity Logo: Otherness and Inauthenticity.” Slayage (December 2022): pp. 1-32.
- Benson, Eric, “Fresh Press Agri-Fiber Lab.” Ground Works: Vibrant Ecologies of Research (2022).
- Benson Eric and Perullo, Yvette, Design to Renourish: Sustainable Graphic Design in Practice, (New York, NY: Focal Press, 2016).
- Benson, Eric, Jennings, John, & Gibson, Michael, "Dezombies and the Coming Design Apocalypse: Confronting the Urgent Need to Increase Racial Diversity and Environmental Awareness in University-Level American Communication Design Programs," Dialectic, 1, Issue 2. (Fall 2017).
- Benson, Eric and Napier, Pamela, "Connecting Values: Teaching Sustainability to Communication Designers," Design and Culture: The Journal of a Design Studies Forum. (Spring 2012).
- Benson, Eric and Fine, Peter, "Sustainable Design Education Rethought: The Case for Eco-Modernism," Design Principles & Practices: An International Journal, 4, Issue 6, pp. 163-176. (Spring 2011).
Teaching and advising
- FAA 110 Art, Creativity and Diversity
- FAA 431 Sustainable Design Capstone
- ARTD 222 Type Practice
- ARTD 251 GD Toolbox
- ARTD 270 Design Methods
- ARTD 318 Interaction Design
- ARTD 326 Sustainability and Manufacturing (Industrial Design)
- ARTD 333 Text & Image
- ARTD 351 Design Inquiry
- ARTD 371 Graphic Design Practicum
- ARTD 444 Typographic Systems
- ARTD 445 Industrial Design Professional Practice (Industrial Design)
- ARTD 451 Ethics of a Designer in a Global Economy (EDGE)
- ARTD 471 Graphic Design Capstone
- ARTD 551 Design Research Impact
- ARTD 595 Design for Responsible Innovation Studio