Attention: You are using an outdated browser, device or you do not have the latest version of JavaScript downloaded and so this website may not work as expected. Please download the latest software or switch device to avoid further issues.

News > DP Education > ADE Spotlight | Matthew McCarty

ADE Spotlight | Matthew McCarty

“Design without the consideration of cultural heritage and individual identity, is not responsible design”

Matthew McCarty’s love for giving back to his community and design found a space to shine within our ADE program. As a preservation designer for Voith & Mactavish Architects, he has spent the past three years on several projects including the ongoing renovation of a historic campus building that will house high-level administrative offices. Matthew’s goal is to share with students the joy that comes from creating and preserving the built environment. 

Q: As an interior designer, you brought immense creativity and new ideas into these classrooms. Did you always know you were passionate about interior design? 
A: “I always knew I wanted to be an interior designer. I grew up in rural Iowa in a historic Queen Anne Victorian house. My entire childhood was an active construction site. We spent years renovating, restoring, and preserving our home. The joy and magic that the before and after construction brought to me is hard to define. You have to really love design to want to stick with it. Once I graduated high school, I pursued interior design and later historic preservation and never looked back.” 

Q: How do your personal values or experiences inform your approach to fostering inclusivity and diversity in design education? 
A: “For those who follow me on Instagram, you may notice that my bio says: “Design without the consideration of cultural heritage and individual identity, is not responsible design”. You cannot have a responsible design without the consideration and inclusion of the people whom you are designing for. In my opinion, the best designs come from firms that have a diverse staff and set of opinions, values, and backgrounds. It is the considerations of many different people and opinions that create a thoughtful design. I feel very lucky that throughout my career, I have had the opportunity to work in some incredibly diverse firms all over the U.S. Despite this, people of color are vastly underrepresented in the field. As these industries directly focus on creating a more diverse staff, I feel confident that we will see designs unlike anything we’ve seen before.”  

Q: Upon visiting, we saw a multi-dimensional lesson with mood boards for a country. In what ways did you encourage creativity and critical thinking in your ADE classroom while helping students explore their unique design perspectives? 
A: "It’s important that students understand that all design is based on people, culture, and the environment. They saw what makes different communities unique is a combination of considerations such as geographic region, fashion, cuisine, architecture, and values. These considerations allow students to think about design in both a tangible and contextual way. When the students presented their mood boards, they saw just how diverse the world is and why the built environment is different throughout the world. They can relate this diversity to buildings within their own community. Different buildings look, feel, and serve different purposes based on people, culture and the environment."

Q: What unique skills and experiences do you bring into your classes that make you particularly effective in communicating design concepts and principles to a diverse group of students? 
A: "The goal is to learn but also have fun! Design is fun! It’s amazing! Everything we do, everything we touch or eat is largely designed in some way or another. Students are bright and can scope out a fraud. If we weren’t passionate about what we do, they would sniff us out. It’s relatively easy to teach students about design when we are so passionate about it. Students can see how much we love what we do and that ignites excitement in them. Passion, humor, and a few pieces of candy for those who go the extra mile goes a long way. 😊 "

Q: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges in promoting design education, and how do you address them through your volunteering with ADE? 
A: "We wanted students to think about architecture and design in both a literal and specific way as well as an abstract and contextual way. This can be challenging to teach in such a short time. However, there were several moments when I witnessed the light bulb going off in kids’ heads when we had them design their site plan and construct a cabin. They understood that the environment impacts their design and that the environment and culture of a region can provide them with resources to construct their cabin (i.e. Mud, wood, stone, etc). Though there may be a desire for some educators to jump into the minutiae of design, I think students can better grasp creativity, abstraction, and context better than hyper specifics.  Our goal was to give them a taste of design so that perhaps a passionate spark might develop a craving for wanting to learn more in the future."


Interested in volunteering with CFAD's Architecture and Design Education program?  Please reach out to Michael Spain ([email protected]), Liza Niles ([email protected]), or Carly Clifford ([email protected]) for more information.

Similar stories


The HOK Futures Design Challenge returns in 2024 inviting Philadelphia architecture and interior design students to register using the link provided and save the date! More...

"It’s important to learn to acknowledge the diversity in ideas and experiences Latinx and BIPOC bring to the table." More...

The Hydroculus is a prototype for building cooling in desert climates designed by Dorit Aviv

Firms can now perform early sustainability analysis without the time and cost as in the past More...

Volunteers are opening doors and creating magic moments of self-efficacy in Philadelphia classes. More...

Most read

This website is powered by