15 Years and Counting… Learning from Designmatters

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Mariana Amatullo May 10, 2016

All learning is dynamic, continuous and messy.

Mariana_headshot-682x1024Investigating how we acquire any kind of knowledge in its truest and most generative form begins with our ability to commit to a certain level of intentional curiosity, along with harnessing the capacity to make no assumptions and finding the openness to view all things in their full interdependencies.

My 15 years of Designmatters have represented an extraordinary journey of learning and self-discovery, one guided by a handful of principles that I have learned to trust as a “true north.” In many ways, these constitute personal values that I strive for every day, even if only with varied degrees of success. I offer them here with the sincere hope they may prove resonant in future-learning journeys of design for social impact projects:

1) Evolve your practice with drive and discipline to give and gain trust.

2) Be purposeful, be patient, and persevere in your actions.

3) Fail with grace, and only dwell on that failure enough to fail better next.

4) Celebrate dialogue, collaboration and reflection.

5) Know when to work within, against and beyond boundaries to innovate.

mariana closing piece 3

In the 2007 MPALA Illustration studio, ArtCenter students designed culturally appropriate Information, Education & Communication (IEC) health materials that were implemented by The Community Health Africa Trust (CHAT) in remote areas of Kenya.

One of the most influential American philosophers of education (and design), John Dewey, reminds us that inquiry is emancipated: “it is encouraged to attend to every fact that is relevant to defining the problem or need, and to follow every suggestion that promises a clue.” *

It has been a joy to celebrate Designmatters and 15 years of educational practice with this storytelling campaign that highlights the voices of many individuals who have shaped this body of work. They have taught me the creative confidence and freedom to chase after many a promising clue. Here’s to the learning that lies ahead!

*Dewey, J. 1938. The theory of inquiry. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Wiston.


A practitioner-scholar, Dr. Amatullo oversees the award-winning portfolio of Designmatters educational and research collaborations in art and design education and social innovation. Amatullo is the recipient of the inaugural 2012 DELL Social Innovation Education award, was named to Fast Company’s Co. Design 50 Designers Shaping the Future, and the Public Interest Design 100. Amatullo holds a PhD in Management from the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, where she is a Scholar-in-Residence. Her research focuses on the impact of design in social innovation and organizational practice. She holds an M.A. in Art History and Museum Studies from USC and a Licence en Lettres Degree from the Sorbonne University, Paris. Amatullo conceived and hosted in 2013 the now biennial LEAP symposium  series investigating emerging career pathways in design for social innovation and is the lead editor of LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways in Design for Social Innovation published by Designmatters and available through Distributed Arts Publisher in 2016.

Help us celebrate 15 Years of Designmatters by using the hashtag #DM15Yrs

Catch up on the entire campaign at  designmattersatartcenter.org/category/dm15 

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#DM15yrs campaign designed by Vina Rostomyan