Designmatters Announces Mariana Amatullo’s Departure

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Jennifer May, Director, Designmatters August 7, 2017

After 16 years, Designmatters co-founder and Vice President has stepped down from her role at the helm of the department. As of August 2017, she has joined the full-time faculty of The New School, with the rank of Associate Professor, Strategic Design and Management School of Design Strategies.

At The New School, Mariana will be dedicating herself to teaching, her research in design for social innovation and its impact on organizational practice and will be furthering university-wide initiatives with colleagues.

At ArtCenter, Mariana’s tenure has been characterized by an impressive record of growth, entrepreneurship and excellence.

Mariana joined the College in February 2001 during the tenure of ArtCenter President Richard Koshalek to identify new opportunities for international educational programming. Her early work with Designmatters co-founder Erica Clark (ArtCenter’s former Senior VP) and a college-wide task force led to the development of Designmatters’ mission, core principles and initial educational projects. By 2003 her strategic outreach to the United Nations secured the college’s pioneering non-governmental organization status with the UN — a formal affiliation that remains distinctive among art and design colleges in the US.

To strengthen the mechanisms for ArtCenter students and alumni to build career pathways in international development organizations as well as the social and public sectors, Mariana conceived the Designmatters Fellowship program in 2006. In 2008, she became the Vice President of Designmatters and oversaw its transition from a college-wide satellite program into a horizontal, non-degree granting educational department at the College.

In 2010, working with the department chairs, Designmatters launched the Designmatters Concentration, a course of study in art and design and social innovation for undergraduate students that has recently evolved into the Designmatters Minor, a fully-integrated transcripted specialization in social innovation. Mariana initiated long-lasting partnerships with organizations locally, nationally and internationally, and nurtured an extensive portfolio of trans-disciplinary courses, special initiatives, symposia and award-winning publications that have engaged faculty, students and alumni across ArtCenter. Her work with educational partners such as UNICEF and funders such as VentureWell, the Autodesk Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies and many others continue to amplify and inform the college’s educational offerings. In recognition for her thought-leadership, she was awarded the 2012 inaugural Dell Social Innovation award for outstanding social innovation education.

Since 2013, her service as a board member of Cumulus, the international Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media, has supported ArtCenter’s study away program and led to several new agreements for student exchange with respected institutions around the world. In 2015 Mariana completed a PhD in Management and Sustainable Systems from Case Western Reserve University. Her current scholarship activities include teaching, international lectures, academic writing and the recent Designmatters publication LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways in Design for Social Innovation, an edited volume that includes 84 of the most prominent contributors in the field of social innovation working in the US today.


Reflecting on her time at ArtCenter, Mariana states: 

“Serving as a steward for Designmatters has represented so much more than a professional journey for me. I have lived these past sixteen years as a transformative educational experience. Helping shape this body of work in design for social innovation that we have created at ArtCenter has allowed me to find a niche for purposeful learning and contribution that I will always look back on as foundational and deeply generative. It has been my privilege and joy to be part of this community. I am grateful for the generous mentors that have guided me here, and for the inspiring colleagues, faculty and alumni with whom I have collaborated with in projects near and far from our campuses in Pasadena. But I will always remain most indebted to those at the center of it all: our students. They have made this journey immensely rewarding through their sheer talent, creative confidence and commitment to make a positive impact in the world. As I prepare to follow the next pathway that awaits me in NY, I am energized by our collective accomplishments and inspired by the greater things that I know are yet to come via the educational platform of Designmatters and the dedicated team of colleagues and faculty who will help transition the department to new heights.”

ArtCenter will be conducting a search for a new leader of Designmatters. In the meantime, if you have questions regarding Designmatters projects and programs, please contact the Designmatters team.

The ArtCenter community put together a special farewell gift in the form of an 8 minute video with testimonials from over 30 students, faculty and staff. The video was directed by ArtCenter alumnus and Designmatters Media Coordinator, Steven J. Butler. View the video here.