“Designmatters allows us to look at the world as a classroom with an eye toward changing it for the better. We aspire to redefine and expand the role of the artist and designer into one who is a catalyst for social change and innovation.”

Mariana Amatullo, Vice President, Designmatters Department

Designmatters at Art Center is where art and design education meets social change.


An engaged mode of art and design education that forms creative leaders, Designmatters provides the know-how and aspiration to shape the futures we truly desire for a more sustainable and equitable world.


Through research, advocacy and action, Designmatters engages, empowers and leads an ongoing exploration of art and design as a positive force in society.


Designmatters is integrated across all the educational departments at Art Center College of Design. Activities are organized at 3 key levels:

As an educational magnet and research division for the college, we conceive of projects for the curriculum, oversee the DM Concentration at the undergraduate level, and partner with Graduate Media Design Practices in the MDP/Field Track;

As an agent for social impact educational projects, we are a guarantor for implementation and assessment of projects led by students, faculty and alumni;

As an external relations center for strategic partnership building, we leverage art and design education as tool for positive change in the world.


As Art Center’s social impact department, Designmatters is where local, national and global issues are encountered head-on. Participants are in the world, with the world.

Values that are embedded into the department are filtered into the curriculum, programs and projects. These values represent the spirit of Designmatters, and consist of:

Commitment: We are dedicated to looking at, confronting, researching and addressing real-world issues, and we endeavor to innovate through art and design.

Relevance: We strive to be a model for relevancy in education. We open doors for organizations to engage with artists and designers and see them as key contributors to their mission.

Engagement: We look at the world as our classroom, with an eye toward changing it for the better. Our students engage in experiential learning, giving them an insider’s awareness of the challenges confronting communities around the block or around the world.

Collaboration: We view art and design as a space that invites collaboration with other disciplines, such as: development, science, business, engineering, and anthropology. It is in the intersection between distinct areas of inquiry that we often find the most opportunity for innovation.

Empathy: We believe that artists and designers can be uniquely compassionate as how they relate to the lives of others, and with that comes great responsibility.

Action-led outcomes: We see art and design students as having the gift of creativity and the skills to execute a vision, and when immersed in a real-world context, they can be empowered to become changemakers.


“Turning outward is key to the future of higher education in art and design. Designmatters provides the platform where that can happen.”

Lorne M. Buchman, President, Art Center College of Design

OUR FOUR THEMESThe Designmatters portfolio of projects, and the learning outcomes of the DM Concentration, focus on the following areas of inquiry as they intersect with art and design:

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From Austin to Bogota, Updates from Team Calientamigos™

September 16, 2014

Team Calientamigos™ had a very busy summer.  Team members Mariana Somma, Della Tosin and Safe Agua Assistant Instructor  Stella Hernandez, returned to Bogota, Colombia for another informative field research trip.  Around the same time, Tianyi Sun and Kevin Chang visited Austin, TX to attend The Exchange, IDSA International Conference  and also accept a Gold Award for Calientamigos™

The following 3 part post was written by Mariana Somma (GRAD ID), Stella Hernandez (Asst. Faculty) and Kevin Chang (PROD), on behalf of the entire Safe Agua Colombia Calientamigos™ Team.


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DM in the News


Pasadena Repurposes Parking Meters to Collect Change for Homeless

Los Angeles Times
September 13, 2014
by Frank Shyong

Across Pasadena, fourteen repurposed parking meters will collect change for nonprofits that serve the homeless.

Read Article

UNICEF annual report

UNICEF Innovation Annual Report 2014

UNICEF released its annual Innovation Unit report created by Zoe Padgett, 2014 UNICEF Innovation Designmatters Fellow and Media Design Practices graduate student.

Click here to download a copy of the report


Es Tiempo Team Gearing Up for Campaign Rollout in 2015

In the Summer of 2009 a group of dedicated Art Center students and faculty, in partnership with the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Keck School of Medicine and Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism,  created a multi-faceted campaign to raise awareness and support for prevention and treatment of cervical cancer.  Some five years later, The Es Tiempo Cancer Control Team led by USC Patient Education and Community Outreach Center with support from the California Community Foundation, are conducting culturally diverse focus groups, in preparation for implementation of the  Es Tiempo educational campaign to several clinics around Los Angeles next year.

To learn more about the Es Tiempo Project click here.