“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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Smart Image + Social Impact

March 3, 2015

In this short blog post, Art Center Faculty and Alumna, Esther Pearl Watson, reflects on her Fall 2014 Smart Image Social Impact class in which students were encouraged to broaden their problem-solving skills beyond visual language, while building a better understanding of ethical issues in design.


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DM in the News


Mariana Amatullo On 5 Things We Know About Social Innovation

February, 2015
By Allan Chochinov

“As part of an ongoing interview series on the Autodesk Foundation’s new blog, ImpactDesignHub.org, Allan Chochinov, Editor at Large of Core77  discusses Impact Design with Mariana Amatullo…”

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Design Matters in Social Innovation: Interview with Mariana Amatullo

Impact Design Hub
February, 2015
By Allan Chochinov

Allan Chochinov, Editor of Core 77, interviews Designmatters Vice President, Mariana Amatullo for Impact Design Hub.

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Idyllwild Town Crier

Idyllwild Arts Panel Explores the Artist as Social Activist


The Idyllwild Town Crier
February, 2015
By Marshall Smith

Mariana Amatullo recently participated in the inaugural Art in Society panel discussion at Idyllwild Arts Academy with esteemed colleagues from the literary, visual and performing arts world.

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