Kaitlyn Schwalje (b.1987) is a Brooklyn based artist. In 2010, she received her Bachelors of Science degree in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University before completing her postgraduate studies in Interaction Design at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design in 2014. Kaitlyn has served as research associate at Walt Disney Imagineering as well as contributing producer for WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show. Her work appears in Wired, The Creators Project, and Fast Company.
As the daughter of a safety engineer, Kaitlyn received an early education in disaster. Airplane crashes, assassination attempts, poisonings, and space shuttle malfunctions were all fodder for research. Breaking down cataclysmic events was a family activity. The tsunami that hit Sri Lanka in 2004, for example, was both a study in geophysics as well as risk management. And the explosion of nitrous oxide tankers in Florida that caused a nationwide shortage of whipped cream was an illustration of the intricate commodity chain of consumer goods.
Kaitlyn examines disasters not as isolated events but as products of human systems, believing that the way we fail and the way we react to failure speaks to a culture's values and fears. The exercise of breaking down an event into its respective parts became a lens through which to better understand the world. Kaitlyn’s work focuses on the mechanisms that govern how everything works and fails, from physical architectures to people and their behaviors.