Partner Engagement



Valuable partnerships, meaningful collaborations  

Designmatters is proud to work closely with external partners to bring vibrant and meaningful social innovation challenges to ArtCenter students and alumni. In turn, our partners benefit from the power of design and the dedication, passion and talent of ArtCenter’s community.  

Designmatters has partnered with organizations across sectors at the local, national and international levels, including UN agencies, NGOs, non-profits, social enterprises, academic institutions and for-profit companies.

Featured Partners

Aquarium of the PacificAutodesk FoundationCedar-Sinai Center for Health Equity ResearchCity of Long BeachCoaniquemLong Beach Police Department
Mayor’s Fund Los AngelesNAKFISappi: Ideas that Matter

The Designmatters Prospectus

The Designmatters Prospectus

This prospectus documents and celebrates 15 years of social impact design projects with a small cross section of case studies and testimonials that illustrate the breadth and impact of the Designmatters initiative.

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Why Collaborate With Designmatters


Creative solutions to real-world challenges  

Designmatters collaborates closely with partners, faculty and students to use the power of design to address challenges in the areas of Sustainable Development, Public Policy, Global Health and Social Entrepreneurship. Designmatters facilitates an exploratory, lab-like environment where the expertise of faculty guides the fresh perspectives of students to uncover nuanced insights that lead to unexpected, creative and viable solutions.

Since Designmatters was founded in 2001, our team has produced over 150 social innovation design projects, with briefs built around advocacy and awareness, branding, strategic communication, product development and sustainability. Outcomes of these projects have included print and multi-media campaigns, documentaries, public service announcements (PSAs), educational toolkits, products, installations, strategic recommendations and more. Over 80% of these projects have had student work move forward to “real-world” implementation by our partners. Over half of our partners collaborate with Designmatters on multiple projects.

Criteria for Partners

Designmatters partners with organizations across sectors, including academic institutions, non-profits and NGOs, government agencies, and corporations. Prospective partners must meet the following criteria in order to collaborate with Designmatters:

  • Academic, private and public sector organizations must show evidence of a social, purpose-driven mandate, be nondenominational in scope and have the capability to incubate and/or implement project outcomes that aspire to further social innovation aims.
  • Partners must fully embrace ArtCenter’s educational mission, and be willing to work collaboratively with the Designmatters team and faculty. Project briefs that are integrated in the Designmatters curriculum include tangible deliverables that stem from design briefs that champion a rigorous and experiential design process grounded by research and real-world constraints as well as by openness to experimentation and unexpected and innovative outcomes.

How to collaborate with Designmatters


Unique, curriculum-based studios, projects and fellowships  

Academic Calendar

Designmatters has three windows for engagement with partners, which coincide with ArtCenter’s academic terms:


Designmatters requires a signed project agreement from partners three to six months prior to the academic term of engagement to ensure ample time to build the project into the curriculum and recruit faculty and students.


Although Designmatters receives educational budgets from ArtCenter to support faculty and other school resources for projects, Designmatters projects do require external funding to cover the direct costs of projects. Designmatters is always open to working with partners to secure funding.

In recognition of Designmatters’ service to society, in 2003 ArtCenter became the first design school to receive Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status by the United Nations.


Designmatters collaborates with partners in the following ways:


Designmatters Partner Studios

Designmatters collaborates with partners on Designmatters Partner Studios, rigorous trans-disciplinary courses that are embedded in the curriculum at ArtCenter. Partners bring a social innovation challenge to Designmatters. Designmatters then works with ArtCenter’s multidisciplinary faculty and the partner to refine the challenge into a detailed Project Brief with defined goals for the studio.
The faculty team and a select group of upper-term undergraduate and graduate students from across design disciplines work together over a carefully planned 14-weeks to address the project brief through thorough research and ideation, with several key touch points for partner insight and feedback.

Typical 14-Week Studio Timeline

  • Week 1: Kick Off*
  • Weeks 2-4: Research
  • Weeks 5-6: Concept Development
  • Week 7: Mid Term Presentation*
  • Weeks 8-13: Refinement and Production
  • Week 14: Final Presentation*
  • Post Week 14: Delivery of Assets and Outcomes

*Partners are invited to Pasadena for these key sessions.  Additional research or feedback sessions may be added to the schedule, depending on the nature of the project brief.
At the end of the studio, partners are given all assets and outcomes generated during the studio sessions. And Designmatters continues to support our partners as they move the studio outcomes forward for further refinement and implementation.
Designmatters is dedicated to thorough documentation and storytelling, resulting in Case Studies for every project and a library of publications and videos for many of our studios.

To learn more, contact us.

Designmatters Fellowships

Designmatters partners with organizations to host Designmatters Fellows, ArtCenter students who are embedded in a host organization for one full academic term to work on strategic design projects. To learn more about the Designmatters Fellowship Program, please visit the Fellowship Page or contact us.


DesignStorms are ArtCenter’s signature intensive 2 or 3 day workshops facilitated by the office of Educational Partnerships that allow partners to engage with a multi-disciplinary team of faculty and students to do an in-depth exploration of a challenge or topic. To learn more about social innovation-focused opportunities, please contact us.

Special Projects

Designmatters will occasionally collaborate with partners on special curricular or extracurricular projects, including special events like screenings and panel discussions. To learn more, please contact us.

Contact us

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