Partner Engagement



Valuable partnerships, meaningful collaborations  

Designmatters is proud to work closely with external partners to bring vibrant and meaningful social innovation challenges to ArtCenter students and alumni. In turn, our partners benefit from the power of design and the dedication, passion and talent of ArtCenter’s community.  

Designmatters has partnered with organizations across sectors at the local, national and international levels, including UN agencies, NGOs, non-profits, social enterprises, and for-profit companies.

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Why Collaborate With Designmatters


Creative solutions to real-world challenges  

Designmatters collaborates closely with partners, faculty, and students to use the power of design to address tough challenges in the areas of Sustainable Development, Public Policy, Global Health and Social Entrepreneurship. Designmatters facilitates an exploratory, lab-like environment where the expertise of faculty guides the fresh perspectives of students to uncover nuanced insights that lead to unexpected, creative and viable solutions.  

Since Designmatters was founded in 2001, our team has produced over 100 social innovation design projects, with briefs built around advocacy and awareness, branding, strategic communication, product development, and sustainability. Outcomes of these projects have included print and multi-media campaigns, documentaries, PSAs, educational toolkits, products, installations, strategic recommendations and more. Over 90% of these projects have moved forward to “real-world” implementation by our partners.

How to collaborate with Designmatters


Unique, curriculum-based studios, projects and fellowships  

Designmatters has three windows for engagement with partners, which coincide with ArtCenter’s academic terms:

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Designmatters requires a project confirmation from partners three to six months prior to the academic term of engagement to ensure ample time to build the project into the curriculum and recruit top faculty and students.


Designmatters collaborates with partners in the following ways:

In recognition of Designmatters’ service to society, in 2003 ArtCenter became the first design school to receive Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status by the United Nations.


Designmatters Partner Studios

Designmatters collaborates with partners on Designmatters Partner Studios, rigorous trans-disciplinary courses that are embedded in the curriculum at Art Center. Partners bring a social innovation challenge to Designmatters. Designmatters works with top faculty and the partner to refine the challenge into a detailed Project Brief with defined goals for the studio.
The faculty team and a select group of upper-term undergraduate and graduate students from across design disciplines work together over a carefully planned 14-weeks to address the project brief through thorough research and ideation, with several key touch points for partner insight and feedback.

Typical 14-Week Studio Timeline

  • Week 1: Kick Off*
  • Weeks 2-4: Research
  • Weeks 5-6: Concept Development
  • Week 7: Mid Term Presentation*
  • Weeks 8-13: Refinement and Production
  • Week 14: Final Presentation*
  • Post Week 14: Delivery of Assets and Outcomes

*Partners are invited to Pasadena for these key sessions.  Additional research or feedback sessions may be added to the schedule, depending on the nature of the project brief.
At the end of the studio, partners are given all assets and outcomes generated during the studio sessions. And Designmatters continues to support our partners as they move the studio outcomes forward for further refinement and implementation.
Designmatters is dedicated to thorough documentation and storytelling, resulting in Case Studies for every project and a library of publications and videos for many of our studios.

Designmatters Fellowships

Designmatters partners with organizations to host Designmatters Fellows, top ArtCenter students who are embedded in a host organization for one full academic term to work on strategic design projects. To learn more about the Designmatters Fellowship Program, please visit the Fellowship Page or contact us.


DesignStorms are ArtCenter’s signature intensive 2 or 3 day workshops facilitated by the office of Educational Partnerships that allow partners to engage with a multi-disciplinary team of faculty and students to do an in-depth exploration of a challenge or topic. To learn more about social innovation-focused opportunities, please contact us.

Special Projects

Designmatters will occasionally collaborate with partners on special curricular or extracurricular projects, including special events like screenings and panel discussions. To learn more, please contact us.

Contact us

1700 Lida Street Pasadena, CA 91103
Phone: 626-396-2310