“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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Elisa Ruffino Blog_feat image

In Celebration of Wide Open Skies

July 14, 2015

In this short blog post, former Designmatters Director, Elisa Ruffino shares candid memories and insight on over a decade of experiences working with the Designmatters Department.


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DM in the News

girl effect_Flo

Girl Effect Project “Flo” Selected as a Finalist in James Dyson Awards

An outcome from the 2014 Girl Effect studio; “Flo” has been selected as one of the top four finalists for US James Dyson Award!

Congratulations to  Mariko Higaki Iwai (PROD), Sohyun Kim (ENV) and Tatijana Vasily (PHOTO).

Read more here.

calitentamigos team

Team Calientamigos Accepted into the 2015 Village Capital Water Accelerator Program

Calientamigos, a project outcome of the award winning Safe Agua Colombia studio has been selected to participate in the 2015 Village Capital Accelerator Program.  Team Calientamigos (Mariana Somma, Della Tosin, Kevin Chang and Tianyi Sun) will attend three intensive, four-day workshops over three months, during which Village Capital will provide the entrepreneurs with business development training to develop their financials, pitch and sales pipeline.

The Calientamigos system allows impoverished families living without hot running water to heat and pressurize water for bathing, cooking and cleaning.

Village Capital puts entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and stakeholders side-by-side, so they can solve problems together.


Icsid Announces Review Panel For The Third Cycle Of The World Design Impact Prize

June, 2015

The International Council of Societies of Industrial Design recently announced the review panel for the 2015-2016 iteration of the World Design Impact Prize.  Designmatters Vice President, Mariana Amatullo, along with 4 other international experts from various fields will determine the shortlist on which Icsid Members  vote in order to select the winner

The World Design Impact Prize recognizes and encourages industrial design driven projects that benefit society and reflect the expanded field of industrial design.