“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

flo wins at IDSA

Girl Effect Project “Flo Kit” Wins Big at the 2015 IDSA Awards

The “Flo Kit” (an outcome of the 2014 Girl Effect Studio) walked away with a Gold Award as well as the prestigious Design for Equality award from IDSA. The award ceremony was held in Seattle over the weekend and Flo’s lead student designer, Mariko Higaki Iwai (PROD) was on hand to accept the awards, on behalf of the entire team.

The project has been garnering a lot of attention over the last couple weeks, with press coverage by the Business Insider, Fast Company and the Huffington Post.   Check back for more updates as the project moves forward!

The Flo Kit was designed by;  Mariko Higaki Iwai (PROD), Sohyun Kim (ENV) and Tatijana Vasily (PHOTO)


A Group of Students Have Figured Out a Way to Disrupt the Period Industry in Low-Income Countries

The business Insider
August, 2015
By Shivam Saini

Flo, an outcome from the 2014 Girl Effect studio, featured in the Business Insider​.


Read article

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.