“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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HyunJu_global service jam_feat image

Los Angeles Global Service Jam

April 6, 2015

In this blog post, HyunJu Chappell (MDP+Field MFA ’14) reflects on what happened when Angelenos gathered for 48 hours of human-centered design at the Los Angeles Service Design Jam. They were among thousands “jamming” simultaneously during the 2015 Global Service Jam taking place in at least 95 cities.

HyunJu graduated from Media Design Practice’s new Field program, which combines design with social engagement. For her thesis studies, she lived twice in Uganda, where she employed design and collaboration to explore youth political agency. Before coming to Art Center, HyunJu was a visual journalist working in news and features design at The Washington Post. Her latest thrills have included programming servo motors, printing on a showbill letterpress, and savoring a mochi-lato. Check out her thesis, follow her Tweets or say “hello.”


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DM in the News

Image from Sinoy Mirror Inc.

Mirrors and Glass: The Role of Design in a Time of Change

May, 2015
By Frances Coppola

Designmatters VP, Mariana Amatullo contributes a quote to this article on the changing role of today’s designer.



community learning garden mosaic

Project Update: Safe Agua Colombia

The Community Learning Garden created by Stefanie Dhillon was implemented in Altos del Pino, in Bogota, Colombia a few months ago, and the garden is now flourishing with ripe tomatoes.


carolina rodriguez

Spotlight: Designmatters Concentration Student, Carolina Rodriguez

In this short interview, Product Design + Designmatters Concentration student, Carolina Rodriguez speaks candidly about her life as an Art Center student and social impact designer.