Mariana Amatullo founded the college-wide initiative Designmatters at Art Center College of Design, based in Pasadena, California in 2001 with a task force of faculty, chairs, staff and students. In her capacity as the lead of the Department, she develops strategic educational partnerships and a portfolio of research collaborations, communication campaigns, exhibitions and publications that enhance Art Center’s commitment to be at the forefront of international art and design education and contribute solutions to humanitarian issues of critical urgency.
Through Amatullo’s leadership, Art Center is the first design institution to be formally affiliated with the Department of Public Information at the United Nations as a non-governmental organization (NGO); and a civil society organization member with the Organization of American States (OAS/OEA). The award-winning and tangible outcomes of the curriculum and student projects that are developed under the mantle of Designmatters have established the program as an exemplary effort within the landscape of social impact design–uniting educational objectives with highly effective advocacy and action-oriented outcomes. In the past two years, the Designmatters platform has grown to include two complementary undergraduate Concentrations, the Designmatters and Artmatters Concentrations in art and design for social engagement and innovation, and “Media Design Practices: Field,” an innovative MFA track that brings design and new communication technologies into areas such as international development, public policy and economic innovation, where students and faculty delve deep into systemic issues with a consortium of partner organizations.
Amatullo is the recipient of the 2012 inaugural DELL Award for Outstanding Leadership in Social Innovation Education; her work at the intersection of design education and social innovation was most recently highlighted in the October 2012 Fast Company Magazine’s annual list of the “50 designers shaping the future.”
An active essayist and international lecturer, Amatullo also serves on a variety of advisory boards and networks engaged in the arts, design education and social activism, including IDEO.org, the Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Journal Tassmeem: Design-Research-Connect, Design 21 (in partnership with UNESCO), Intelligent Mobility International (IMI), the University of Southern California International Museum Institute and the Executive Board of Cumulus (the International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media).
Amatullo is currently a Non-Profit Research Fellow with the Doctorate of Management Program, Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University. Her doctoral research focuses on the shifting role of the designer in the social sector. She holds an M.A. in Art History and Museum Studies from the University of Southern California (1994) and a Licence en Lettres Degree from the Sorbonne University, Paris (1990). Her undergraduate studies included two years at l’Ecole du Louvre, Paris. Amatullo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and brought up internationally through the Argentine diplomatic corps.
Elisa Ruffino is the Director of Designmatters at Art Center College of Design, where she is responsible for overseeing management of the Designmatters’ portfolio of ongoing projects, and leading the program’s operations. Elisa is the project development liaison between Art Center creative teams and Designmatters’ collaborators in the nonprofit, government, global development, academic and business sectors, to yield the program’s trademark real-world outcomes. Since joining Art Center in 2002, Elisa has worked closely with students, faculty and alumni at the College to produce several award-winning awareness campaigns, publications, and documentary films.
In 2010, in response to the release of USGS scientific data foretelling a plausible catastrophic winter storm that would devastate economic and emergency management systems across California, she convened a top team of faculty, students and alumni on the multi-faceted USGS ARkStorm project. Under Elisa’s leadership, the initiative produced two short films, an identity system, and a key role for Art Center in the USGS-hosted ARkStorm Summit in Sacramento in January 2011. There, the team conceived the Summit’s programmatic activities and immersive working sessions, which resulted in catalyzed discussion and consensus among more than 200 participants including emergency managers, structural engineers, meteorologists, business leaders and policy makers at the local, state and federal levels.
In 2012/2013, Elisa provided strategic project development to the pilot implementation of the award-winning “Where’s Daryl?” education toolkit, and its rollout across several schools in the LA Unified School District.
An avid music, food and nature lover, Elisa spends her favorite Sundays cooking and gardening to vintage records played at high volume.
Helen Cahng is the Coordinator for the Designmatters Department at Art Center College of Design and manages logistics for Designmatters’ daily operations, as well as operations for Media Design Practices/Field track. The Field track is a graduate program in collaboration between Designmatters and Media Design Practices. Students work in a real-world context where social issues, media infrastructure, and communication technology intersect. Helen works closely with faculty and students to facilitate educational initiatives with local, national, and global partner organizations. Student research and outcomes are implemented by these partners and are widely disseminated within the community. In 2013, Helen curated a series of children’s creative workshops, in collaboration with the Pasadena Public Library, with the educational objective to raise anti-gun awareness in young children without raising fear.
In addition to her work with Designmatters, Helen is a practicing artist and holds an M.F.A from Otis College of Art and Design and a B.F.A from The University of the Arts. Her projects have been exhibited locally and internationally at Sea and Space Explorations, Telic Arts Exchange, Artillerie gallery (Berlin), and Koh-I-noor (Copenhagen).