Where art and design education meet social change.

ArtCenter recognizes the power of design to change the world. Through research, advocacy and action, the College’s social innovation department, Designmatters, engages, empowers and leads an ongoing exploration of art and design as a positive force in society. Designmatters courses vary from term to term, but include academic, discipline-specific and studio-based offerings that engage students across all majors, taught with a dynamic, entrepreneurial and experiential approach to design education.

Through Designmatters, the College offers a minor in social innovation, providing a transcripted specialization for undergraduate students who want to master a toolkit of design skills and strategies to navigate the complex dynamics of working with communities and designing for social impact. Offered in six disciplines, the minor is comprised of 18-21 units of study and can be completed concurrently with a student’s major degree program. Additionally, Designmatters is a key partner of ArtCenter’s Media Design Practices/Field Track, offering graduate students the chance to design for social innovation in a real-world context where social issues, media infrastructure and communication technology intersect.

The Designmatters Fellowship Program embeds the most talented ArtCenter students in social enterprises, government, international development and non-profit organizations for one full 14-week academic term to work on strategic projects that enhance the design capability of the and explore the mission, model and meaning of the host organization’s work.

The Fellowships are a highly competitive form of scholarship, awarded on the basis of merit and typically funded by host organizations.

Through Designmatters’ programming, students tackle local, national and global issues head-on, from preventing homelessness and youth gun violence in the U.S., to empowering adolescent girls living in poverty and developing clean water solutions internationally.

The values of sustainable development, global health, public policy and social entrepreneurship are core to the curriculum, programs and projects, with the outcomes of students’ work widely disseminated beyond the studio’s walls.

Vice President

Mariana Amatullo

Mariana co-founded Designmatters in 2001, and later expanded it into a graduate and undergraduate department.

We aspire to redefine and expand the role of an artist and designer into one who is a catalyst for social change and innovation.

Dr. Mariana AmatulloVice President, Designmatters

Student Gallery

Notable alumni working in the social innovation design field.


Lester Ng (BFA 85 Graphic Design)

Visual Experience Designer, Medic Mobile

Tina Park (MFA 06 Media Design Practices) and Miya Osaki (MFA 07 Media Design Practices)

Diagram Founders

Mari Nakano (MFA 09 Media Design Practices)

Visual Strategy Lead, UNICEF Innovation Unit