Mark Guarraia

Mark Guarraia considers himself to be a Rhode Islander and, coming from East Lyme, Conn., that shouldn’t be much of a stretch. More

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Posted 8/15/11

Mark Guarraia considers himself to be a Rhode Islander and, coming from East Lyme, Conn., that shouldn’t be much of a stretch.

Does purchasing his first home in Rhode Island, like Guarraia did recently, make him a true local?

“Well, what does being a Rhode Islander mean? Upon moving to Providence, I was told it means you have one degree of separation to everyone and can’t escape anyone; you reference outdated local landmarks; and that any trip over 20 minutes needs to be planned at least a day in advance,” he wrote in the 40 Under Forty application.

But Guarraia, 28, thinks there’s more to it than that.

He credits Rhode Islanders’ one degree of separation as the key to his success. Fresh out of the Rhode Island School of Design, he had job waiting for him with a design consultancy firm, then called Item Group. Six years later, he has grown and evolved with the firm, which is now known as Ximedica, a medical-device maker that has tripled its work force in that time. He serves as the company’s human-factors industrial designer.

That one degree of separation has also led to his appointments as an adjunct professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and the Rhode Island School of Design.

“I found being a Rhode Islander means … your accessibility to people can be immediate and meaningful,” he said. “I have found it means that when you take time to appreciate someone else’s story, it helps shape your own.”

Helping to shape Guarraia’s own story are his volunteer efforts at Amos House, where he volunteers his design talents.

He also helped organize this year’s Northeast Regional Industrial Designers Society of America’s conference in Providence. •

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