May SunMin Hwang

Assistant Professor, Interior Design

SunMin (May) Hwang is a designer, researcher, and educator with a background in arts, ergonomics, and architecture.

May's research interests center around human-centered design, environmental sustainability, and promoting social equity and justice.

One of her primary projects is called "The Salt House Project: Designing for Death." This project aims to challenge the conventional approach to sustainability in the built environment. It questions the idea of reducing building obsolescence over time by mandating a building's lifecycle to be transient rather than perpetual. In another environmental and social project, she investigates the aesthetic perception of produce from the consumer's point of view to combat food waste caused by cosmetic imperfections for Hmong farmers. Before pursuing her academic career, she worked at interior design and architecture firms in Jakarta, Seoul, Boston, and the New York City.


Ph.D., Human Factors and Ergonomics, University of Minnesota 

M.Arch., Massachusetts Institute of Technology 

B.S., Housing and Interior Design, Yonsei University 

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Selected Scholarship

  • Hwang, S.M. & Kudrowitz, B. When is a potato too ugly?: Understanding the complexity of aesthetics in produce towards the reduction of food waste, IASDR Conference Proceedings, December 5-9, 2021, Hong Kong 

  • Hwang, S.M., Alfalah, S., Kwon, J.M., & Kudrowitz, B. (2020). Familiarity trumps playfulness: Exploring children’s preferences for playful design of vegetables. International Journal of Food Design, 5(1-2), 43-64. 

  • Hwang, S. M., & Clifford, B. (2021). Project 10- The salt material house project: Designing for death. In O. Pedgley, V. Rognoli, & E. Karana (Eds.), Materials Experience 2 (pp. 153–158). Butterworth-Heinemann. 3.00023-5 

Selected Honors and Awards

College of Design Environmental Action Award, University of Minnesota (2021)

College of Design Graduate Student Collaboration Grant, University of Minnesota (2020)

SSRC DPD Fellow (Social Science Research Council-Dissertation Proposal Development), University of Minnesota (2019)

Mass Challenge Accelerator, Recoplatic, Semi-Finalist, Boston MA (2014)

GSEC (Global Societal Entrepreneurship Competition) semi-finalist, Recoplastic, Foster School of Business, University of Washington, Seattle, WA

MISTI-Spain Fellow (MIT International Science and Technology Initiative), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2014)

MIT School of Architecture - Thesis Archive, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2014)

MIT Merit-Based Half-Tuition Scholarship, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2013)

May SunMin Hwang

May SunMin Hwang

Specialties & Expertise:

Human-Centered Design, Systems Design Thinking, Social Design, Sustainable Design Process, Health & Well-Being


Rapson Hall
89 Church St SE
Minneapolis , MN 55455
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