May 06, 2016

Designmatters at ArtCenter College of Design Leads Conversation About Vital Role of Design in Addressing Most Pressing Societal Challenges

First book about new careers in field of design for social innovation, presents compelling case studies, first-hand accounts, 360-degree view of rapidly shifting landscape

LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways in Design for Social Innovation hits bookstores in fall 2016

Designers are improving our lives and the world through the emergent field of design for social innovation. With increasing force, corporations and nonprofits alike have begun to recognize the extraordinary value designers bring to problem solving and the creation of human-centered products, services, environments and systems. The pioneering Designmatters department at ArtCenter College of Design, which has been an international leader in shaping design for social impact education for 15 years, has published the collective wisdom of 84 game changers in the field in a new book. LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways in Design for Social Innovation is the first publication of its kind to present a comprehensive overview of new professional pathways to successful and meaningful careers as experienced first-hand by a who’s who of respected thought leaders (practitioners, researchers and educators) who are making seminal contributions to the field.

“Our goal was to create a provocative and engaging framework to capture this influential shift in our practices and the impact it’s having on the positioning of design overall in organizations. The objective was to deliver complex content in an informative and accessible way that does justice to the compelling impact of the field,” said Dr. Mariana Amatullo, lead editor of LEAP Dialogues and co-founder and vice president of ArtCenter's award-winning Designmatters department.

“The book truly reflects the day-to-day opportunities as well as the challenges faced by the real pioneers of design in social innovation. Riveting personal experiences and reflective perspectives contrasted with dramatic case studies create a multilayered story of how design is making a positive difference on society,” continued Amatullo.

LEAP Dialogues looks at the changing role of design in the marketplace and examines why these changes are occurring, what skills are needed to stay relevant and how effective new practices are emerging. The book offers tangible insights for designers as well as professionals outside the field of design who are looking for new ways to harness innovation. LEAP Dialogues is also a practical guide for designers who want to pursue emerging career pathways.

“The book is a manifestation of the state of the arts through a lens of social innovation. It offers readers a potent cross section of case studies and career trajectories of successful people in the practice. The book demonstrates how design matters in social change and how an education in design allows a professional to move throughout their career making contributions to the world,” said Amatullo.

In 2014, Amatullo recruited a powerhouse group of leaders in design and social innovation for the first-ever LEAP symposium on the campus of ArtCenter College of Design. More than 100 practitioners and educators gathered for a series of lively conversations exploring career pathways for designers in the emerging field of social innovation. The inspiration for the book, a stand-alone publication, grew out of the LEAP symposium.

LEAP Dialogues includes case studies from IBM, MASS Design Group, Proximity Designs and frog among others.

Evidence of the importance of design in society and to the economy

· IBM, a case study in LEAP Dialogues, invested $100 million and hired 1,000 designers to reboot the company and shift the corporate culture to prioritize design and empower product teams to create innovation.

· Design is not an option but a necessity: Contributor Suzi Sosa is CEO at Verb, a company that connects global brands to thousands of social entrepreneurs around the world focused on a key issue, such as water, health or education. “These brands come to us because they want global social impact and they want to enhance their brand. I don’t believe we could help them do that if we didn’t deeply understand design,” she said.

“A well-designed experience is critical to delivering value to clients,” said Tommy Lynn, formerly the global creative director of brand for Dell and now chief creative officer at Verb.

UNICEF’s Innovation Lab is focused on using design to improve the quality of people’s daily lives. In Kampala, Uganda for example, the lab tackles challenges of designing technology in a developing world context. Innovation Lead Chris Fabian outlines the issues in his Stanford Social Innovation Review post on The Ethics of Innovation—exploring such thorny questions as: “How do we design in an inclusive and participatory manner, when resource and power dynamics are so unequal?”

Yale School of Management and other top-ranked business schools are adapting curriculum to emphasize the importance of design thinking to create innovation, remain competitive.

The Gates Foundation relies on design methods to effectively implement solutions around the globe as they fund initiatives to improve healthcare and education. “I know that through the many social innovation programs in design schools around the country there’s a pipeline full of social creatives who are trained and ready to go. It’s up to us and the others intimately involved in dialogues like these, to find new opportunities and open doors to them” said Tracy Pilar Johnson, senior program officer, User Experience and Innovation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Design as a game changer, quotes from LEAP Dialogues thought leaders

“The stakes are simply too high for us to go about with business as usual, designing seductive gadgets and appealing interfaces.” – Barry Katz, professor, Industrial and Interaction Design, California College of the Arts

“Designers have matured in understanding our right and responsibility to engage in that higher-order thinking
precisely because we can literally shape the world through our craft.” – Valerie Casey, chief product officer, Samsung Global Innovation Center

“Folks are catching on to the fact that design is not just cosmetic, it is strategic.” –
Jessica Teal, Designer, U.S. Digital Service, The White House

“Program officers, policy people, legislators, clerks: everybody in government is a designer of the experience that people have interacting with government.” –
Dana Chisnell, generalist problem solver, U.S. Digital Service, The White House

“The technical challenges in government are nothing to be sneezed at, but the design challenges are the kind that people build careers on.” –
Cyd Harrell, senior director, Product, Code for America

“There is a new crop of philanthropists who are not content with doing business as usual, and there is a move toward more engaged philanthropy.” –
Tara Roth, president, Goldhirsh Foundation/LA2050

“I think we’re going to convince donors and investors to support design-driven social enterprises not because they are design driven, but because they are impact driven.” –
Lee Davis, co-director, Center for Social Design, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA)

“Growing disillusionment and the complexities of our cities’ problems are making governments reconsider their approach to governance, and the need for new forms of collaboration and partnerships.” –
Eduardo Stazowski, director, Parsons DESIS Lab at the New School

“Within business environments, I think the time is ripe for design to evolve from a delineated department to a more distributed sensibility.” –
Manoj Fenelon, First Mover Fellow, The Aspen Institute & Faculty, Design for Social Innovation, School of Visual Arts (SVA)

“There is evidence all around us that it’s possible to build sustainable businesses based on doing good things for the people who most need it.” –
Paul Polak, author

“This new generation of designers is well positioned to address many of our immediate problems: they see the urgency, and do not recognize barriers.” –
Cynthia E. Smith, Curator of Socially Responsible Design, Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

“We have seen designers working on almost every issue, from agriculture to public health, to water infrastructure, to community development, to government.” –
Jason Schupbach, director, Design Programs, NEA

“More and more, NGOs and importantly, the organizations that fund NGOs, are looking for inspiration from fast-iteration methodologies including human-centered design and agile management.” –
Jeff Wishnie, senior director, Program Technology, Mercy Corps

Additional information can be found at

Editorial Leadership

LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways in Design for Social Innovation was edited by Amatullo, an internationally recognized practitioner-scholar in the field of design for social innovation, with Bryan Boyer, co-founder and partner, Dash Marshall; Liz Danzico, creative director, NPR and founding chair, MFA Interaction Design, School of Visual Arts; and Andrew Shea, founder and principal of MANY.


The impressive list of contributors to LEAP Dialogues includes John Cary, strategist, TED; Jan Chipchase, founder, Studio D Radiodurans; Allan Chochinov, chair, MFA Products of Design, School of Visual Arts and partner, Core 77; Christopher Fabian, senior advisor to the executive director and co-lead, UNICEF Innovation; Robert Fabricant, partner, Dalberg Design Impact Group; Dan Formosa, founder, Brainpool & 4B; Cyd Harrell, senior director, Product, Code for America; Tracy Pilar Johnson, senior program officer, User Experience and Innovation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; Paul Polak, author; Tara Roth, president, Goldhirsh Foundation/LA2050; Jason Schupbach, director, Design Programs, NEA; Cynthia E. Smith, curator of Socially Responsible Design, Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Jocelyn Wyatt, executive director and co-lead,

Book Credits:

Lead Editor: Mariana Amatullo

Editors: Bryan Boyer, Liz Danzico, Andrew Shea

Managing Editor: Jennifer May

Designers: TwoPoints.Net

Publisher: Designmatters at ArtCenter College of Design

Printer: AGPOGRAF Impressors

Distributor: DAP/Distributed Art Publishers

Content Editor: Alex Carswell

Research Assistant: Erika Katrina Barbosa

LEAP Dialogues was made possible with support from the Autodesk Foundation and VentureWell.

About Designmatters

Founded in 2001, Designmatters is a groundbreaking, college-wide program that serves all academic disciplines at ArtCenter College of Design. The department sets a global standard for art and design education in social innovation. Designmatters advances art and design as a force for innovation and social change through research, advocacy and action. Designmatters collaborates with nonprofit organizations, industry, and national and international development agencies on immersive, outcome-oriented research and projects. ArtCenter students, alumni and faculty participate in cross-disciplinary design studios, workshops, independent studies, fellowships and internships that yield high impact results which are widely disseminated. In recognition of Designmatters’ leadership, Art Center was the first design school to receive Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status at the United Nations.

About ArtCenter

Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California, ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in a wide variety of industrial design disciplines as well as visual and applied arts. In addition to its top-ranked academic programs, the College also serves members of the Greater Los Angeles region through a highly regarded series of year-round educational programs for all ages and levels of experience. Renowned for both its ties to industry and its social impact initiatives, ArtCenter is the first design school to receive the United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status. Throughout the College’s long and storied history, ArtCenter alumni have had a profound impact on popular culture, the way we live and important issues in our society.


@artcenteredu @designmattersCA
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Teri Bond
Media Relations Director
ArtCenter College of Design
626 396-2385