Student Spotlight: Grace Haynes


“Design is a great tool to elevate the level of empathy we have in society, especially in this political climate.”

Why ArtCenter? Why Designmatters?

I felt that that ArtCenter’s appreciation for design causes it to stand out from other art schools. I wanted to know how to make impactful images that were beautifully designed, and I knew ArtCenter would be a great fit for that. I consider myself not only an artist, but also an activist that strives to create a more empathetic, progressive society through art and design.

I have always had a passion for design that has a social impact so I naturally gravitated towards Designmatters after taking a few courses. Designmatters is great at giving students a platform to make a large-scale impact. I am grateful to have many design connections and opportunities that have happened through Designmatters that expanded my portfolio and network.

Describe your design aesthetic. What makes your work unique?

My work is inspired by illustrative journalism and design. I love to combine image with informational text. I love doing work that requires on location interaction and research, which I find, creates a more impactful and empathetic design. Images can be used as a very powerful tool that creates social dialogue and action. I believe in the impact of subtlety in my work. Subtlety is a tool I use to illustrate deep, complex or taboo subjects to get the audience comfortable with the uncomfortable.

What does social impact design mean to you? And why is it important to your overall design work?

Social impact design means creating with a purpose to make a change. It is important to my overall work because I want to be a artist that creates work that has a lasting impact on society. My goal is to make work that makes people think from a different perspective, or open their minds to a certain cause or group that is marginalized. Social impact design teaches me the importance of having empathy, and walking in someone else’s shoes. Design is a great tool to elevate the level of empathy we have in society, especially in this political climate.

Designmatters TDS courses, which have you taken? And what was the biggest takeaway from those experiences? Has your design process changed since participating in a TDS studio?

I have taken Playtime, a class that collaborated with Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles to re-design their social impact department. This class essentially gave me my first hands on experience designing for a major company. I learned so many important skills when it comes to interacting with a client and how to pitch your ideas and make yourself presentable. The biggest lesson that I took away from that TDS was the importance of hands on research before you design. Through this TDS I’ve developed a relationship with Center Theatre Group that still is lasting to this day.

Besides your ArtCenter class work, have you been involved with any Social impact projects outside of the educational arena? If so, describe the work and how your social impact design education has helped you along the way.

Last Summer I curated a workshop at ArtCenter that centered on the diversity at school. This was an independent workshop I created through my club CHROMA, This workshop had a great impact on not only the students, but also the faculty providing an empathetic experience between the various groups within the school.

I am also in the process of designing and illustrating a series of children’s book for special education kids. My mother teaches special education children, and is constantly disappointed at the lack of books that the kids can relate to. I wanted to bridge that gap by creating a series of books that reach these children and teach them that they are valued as well.

The Safe Agua Project tackled the issue of water safety, The Uncool Project was about gun violence awareness, what other issues would you like see Designmatters’ classes address? What organizations do you think we should partner up with to provide a unique TDS experience?

I think creating a class centered on police brutality and power. Power plays an important role in the U.S system; how do we create a society that creates people who don’t abuse their power and how do we effectively fight against it? Also a class on diversity and race and how this affects what and how we design would be interesting. I’d also love to see a course about the power of the feminine, and how we as women can navigate the design world successfully and powerfully.

It would be interesting to have a course specifically focused on designing for women’s issues. Serious issues that women all over the world face such as assault, body issue disorders, illegal prostitution, wage gap, self esteem, and race and how that intersects with feminism would create meaningful dialogue and powerful design.

There are organizations such as Black Lives Matter that tackle issues with police violence. There is the National Diversity Council that strives to increase diversity in institutions and the workplace. There is also the Women’s Center based in LA that addresses women’s issues. It would be interesting to bring in modern day feminists who are utilizing their platform for impact such as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Zadie Smith etc.

If you wanted to inspire a new ArtCenter student to become involved with Designmatters, what are the top 3 reasons you would give him or her?

Designmatters provides you with rare opportunities such as conferences, travel, workshops and classes that expand your network and allow you to make a larger impact. It’s also nice to have a support system that helps you throughout your ArtCenter journey. If you are serious about social impact design and take enough Designmatters courses, you will have a social impact design minor attached to your degree that states that you have experience in this field making you more hirable.

How do you imagine Designmatters impacting your career post-ArtCenter?

The experience I’ve had through Designmatters at ArtCenter will be utilized in my future endeavors. The skills that I’ve learned from the courses that I’ve taken and the connections that I have made will still be very useful to continue to grow as a social impact designer. Even when I graduate, I still hope to continue to grow my relationship with Designmatters.

To learn more about Grace and her work, please visit —>