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Oct. 17, 2002

What: U receives $1.5 million for Digital Design Consortium
Who: Linda and Ted Johnson, U of M alumni
Contacts: Martha Douglas, U of M Foundation, (612) 626-9712
Steve Linders, University News Service, (612) 626-7701

Alumni Linda and Ted Johnson Give $1.5 Million for New Research in Digital Design

Minneapolis/St.Paul - Alumni Linda and Ted Johnson have given the university $1.5 million for start-up funding for research devoted to developing a new generation of design tools for architects, engineers and other practitioners. Their gift will help launch a new Digital Design Consortium to facilitate collaboration among faculty in architecture, computer science and other fields. The gift will also be used to purchase cutting-edge digital tools for research and to support graduate students.

By combining digital technology and design, researchers hope to expand the boundaries of how complex design modeling is represented and create new ways for architects and other practitioners to work with their clients in visualizing the design process.

"Linda and Ted Johnson's gift will link the fields of design and digital technology, in which the University has already invested, and create a new focus on developing tools that architects and designers will use in the future," said Tom Fisher, dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. "Their gift will help researchers produce tools that better approximate the way designers think and that will facilitate their communication with clients and communities."

"Today's so-called computer-aided design tools generally automate the back-end production aspects of bringing a design to reality, but fail to truly assist in the early stages of design," said Ted Johnson. "Our dream for the Digital Design Consortium is to pioneer technologies and techniques that will enable digital tools to play a larger role in up-front design process, and, ultimately, to improve the quality of our built environment."

Linda and Ted Johnson, who live in Seattle, met at the University as students in the late 1970s. Ted studied architecture and later graduated with a degree in computer science. Linda earned both her bachelor of arts and master's of business administration degrees from the university..

"We are grateful to Linda and Ted for their generous gift and for inspiring the collaborative efforts of our faculty," said H. Ted Davis, dean of the Institute of Technology. "No other university has as much potential as Minnesota does to expand research in this area."

University of Minnesota faculty are already conducting research in fields such as computer graphics, scientific visualization, 3D representation, computer-aided geometric modeling and design, architectural drawing, and the relationships among human behavior, perception and design. Opportunities also exist for collaboration among faculty connected to the Digital Technology Center and the Design Institute, two academic initiatives created by university President Mark Yudof and supported by legislative funding and private gifts.

Ted Johnson is vice president of Microsoft's Business Tools Division. He was previously co-founder of Visio Corp. and joined Microsoft when it purchased Visio. Visio's flagship product of the same name was introduced in November 1992 and became the world's best-selling drawing and diagramming software by the time it was sold to Microsoft in January 2000. Prior to founding Visio, Johnson was with Aldus Corp. and led the development of the IBM PC version of Aldus's PageMaker desktop publishing software.

The Johnsons' gift counts toward Campaign Minnesota, the university's $1.3 billion fund-raising campaign. As of August 2001, $1.180 billion has been raised for the campaign.

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