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Designmatters, Art Center College of Design

By Monica Racic

DESIGNMATTERS INTEGRATES design and social activism to focus on humanitarian causes in an interdisciplinary initiative that pairs students and faculty with various nonprofit organizations throughout the world. It was the first school program to be declared a non-governmental organization by the U.N., in 2003. Offering new school-wide challenges each term, Designmatters’ projects have focused on the environment, food shortages, access to health care and education, and urban congestion. Recently, Designmatters’ original proposal for Integrated Mobile Health Clinics for Remote Communities in Kenya was sponsored by the World Bank; this project exemplifies the program’s commitment to research. Designmatters alumni traveled to Kenya to learn about the community’s needs and reported back to designers in California, who created educational materials, a visual campaign, and camel-based mobile refrigeration units (developed with Princeton University) to help

make health care more accessible. Many of the people who would be using the clinics could neither read nor write, and designs had to be both utilitarian and sensitive to the needs of the nomadic community. Mariana Amatullo, the International Initiatives director, says that coordinators strive to make sure that work does not come across as “patronizing or have any cultural missteps. Our hope and goal is to teach students to design with the community and not for the community.”

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