“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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Aware And Awake: Creatively Transforming Behaviors and the World! Bringing Mindfulness and Social Engagement to K-12 Education

January 8, 2015

Alumna, Gala Narezo’s (Photography and Imaging ’01) exhibit  Aware and Awake: Creatively Transforming Behaviors and the World! Bringing Mindfulness and Social Engagement to K-12 Education can be seen at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York until January 11, 2015.  In the following blog post, Gala talks about the exhibit and how it was inspired by her Graduate students at Pratt Institute and their desire to have been exposed to social impact design principles at a much earlier stage in their education.

Currently Gala works as a multidisciplinary art director. Her recent projects have included social awareness campaigns, urban interventions and curricula development for topics as varied as immigration, sustainability and mindful education.


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Ground Broken on Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial

Pasadena Star-News
January, 2015
By Brian Day

On January 25, 2015, ground was broken on the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial designed by Alumna Catherine Menard (Env ’14).

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Wild & Scenic Film Fest

Garden in the Sea Documentary at Wild & Scenic Film Festival

The  National Tropical Botanical Gardens Documentary “Garden in the Sea” directed by Olaolu Jegede (Grad Broadcast Cinema ’12) was recently screened at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, CA

Garden in the Sea was commissioned by the NTBG and produced in partnership with the Acacia Foundation as part of a 2012 Designmatters Fellowship.  The documentary follows a team of researchers and scientists working to stem the tide of extinction that plagues indigenous plant species in Hawaii.

The Wild and Scenic Film Festival showcases environmental and adventure films that illustrate the Earth’s beauty, and the work communities are doing to protect the environment.

View the 2015 Wild & Scenic Film Festival Program here.


GiraDora: A Washing Machine for Those Without Running Water

January, 2015

VentureWell profiles Designmatters and the award winning Safe Agua Initiative.

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