About Us




Designmatters is an educational Department at ArtCenter College of Design (non-degree granting) that engages all majors taught at the College with a dynamic, entrepreneurial and experiential approach to design education. Designmatters serves as a vibrant hub for strategic collaborations near and far from ArtCenter’s campuses in Pasadena. In 2002, Designmatters established the significant and pioneering affiliation of the College as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) with the United Nations. For more than a decade, the department has built a broad network of innovative collaborations with social, public and private sector organizations that are striving to design a better and more humane future for all.

Designmatters is at the helm of a diverse set of educational initiatives, special projects and publications that demonstrate the power of design for social innovation: an emergent field of design inquiry and practice that is oriented toward new possibilities for action and human progress.

The Department helps conceive an average of three original transdisciplinary elective courses (the signature Designmatters projects) every academic term; manages the Designmatters Fellowship program; oversees the Designmatters Minor for undergraduate students who choose to specialize in social impact design; and collaborates with the Graduate Media Design Practices Field Track in managing the UNICEF Innovation partnership that informs the field experience offered within this MFA curriculum.

Designmatters is equally committed to offering students a unique set of learning outcomes that come from the constraints of working collaboratively at multifaceted levels of complexity and community, as well as to acting as a guarantor with organizational partners for project implementation.




Designmatters projects have a unique quality that emphasizes real-world, real-time educational experiences. Students encounter situations that push them to problem solve as much as problem-seek, and act as human beings within the diversity of a global community context that celebrates common problems and common values, as well as the freeing possibilities that come from engaging with different perspectives and stakeholders.

All Designmatters projects are characterized by principles of collaboration, empathy and a human-centered and participatory approach to designing where the goal is always to bridge knowledge with agency in order to innovate with purpose and impact.

Thematic Pillars



The four broad themes of Social Entrepreneurship, Public Policy, Global Health and Sustainable Development provide key organizational lenses for the portfolio of Designmatters trans-disciplinary projects and research initiatives.

Core Team

Jennifer May

Interim Executive Director, Designmatters Department

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Sherry Hoffman

Faculty Director, Designmatters Department

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Susannah Ramshaw

Associate Director, Designmatters Department

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Garret Scullin

Senior Coordinator, Designmatters Department

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Steven Butler

Media Coordinator, Designmatters Department

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Schuyler Walter

Department Assistant, Designmatters

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Dr. Mariana Amatullo

Co-Founder and Former Vice President, Designmatters Department

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Networks & Partnerships

Current partnerships
AEDAmerican Cancer SocietyAmerican Red CrossANSPEAquarium of the PacificArt Division
Arthritis FoundationAshokaAutodesk FoundationBarbieBerkeley Graduate School of JournalismBloomberg
CAL EMACal TechCenter Theatre GroupChildrens Hospital LACity of LACity of Long Beach
City of PasadenaCity of Santa Monica Office of Civic WellbeingCoaniquemCalifornia Common CauseCedar-Sinai Center for Health Equity ResearchCompartamos Con Colombia
Covenant HouseDalbergDoctors Withouth BordersEast West BankEMDRIAFEMA
Flintridge CenterFood ForwardGE HealthcareGirl EffectGoodwillHomeboy
Homeboy Electronics Recycling  Housing WorksHUB Bogota Instituto de Diseño (ISDi)International Medical CorpInternational Organization for Migration
International Rescue CommKyoto Seika UniversityLA County Dept. mental healthLAUSDLegacy LALong Beach Police Department
Mary Pickford FoundationMattelMayoMayor’s Fund Los AngelesNAKFINathan Cummings
NEANike FoundationNOAANorth East TreesOASOutward Bound Adventures
Packard FoundationPAHOParticipant Pasadena Public LibraryPathPlanned Parenthood
PrincetonProject 51Project Concern IntProximityRancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation CenterRonald McDonald House
RubbermaidSappi: Ideas that MatterSCECSilicon Valley Community FoundationState of California Seismic SafetySurdna
SHESocialabUS dept of InteriorTAMA Art UniversityTECHOTongji University College of Design and Innovation
UNIFEMUnited We StayUNOPSUSC AnnenbergUSC NorrisUSGS
VANSVentureWellWHOWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution World BankWomen Deliver
designmatters networks
AIGACumulus AssociationDesign Ignites ChangeDesigners AccordDesis NetworkIDSA

Contact us

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