September 25, 2020

Students Apply Design Thinking to Los Angeles Nonprofits

DesignJam Matches South L.A. Youth to Teams to Discover Innovative Solutions to Real-World Challenges

Students at ArtCenter College of Design are rallying to be the change they want to see. A one-week SoLA DesignJam will match student teams with local nonprofit organizations and government agencies to discover innovative solutions to design challenges and present them to a panel of judges on Saturday, October 3 during the TEDx Crenshaw event.

During the course of the week beginning September 26 through October 3, South Los Angeles (SoLA) High School students and ArtCenter students will develop projects to address the design briefs submitted by the L.A. Mayor's Office of Economic Development, Homeboy Industries, The Ezrach Brain Trust Association and others.

The event is the brainchild of ArtCenter Interaction Design students, Susie Moon and Dillon Chi, who proposed the DesignJam concept to Designmatters, the College’s social innovation and humanitarian department. Moon and Chi, mentored by Interaction Design Associate Professor Julian Scaff, are passionate about the goal to generate more representation of people of color in the design-thinking world across all disciplines. SoLA DesignJam is intended to address the cyclical nature of representation and serve as a bridge into the design world.

“I’m overjoyed and proud to see student leaders organize an event engaging underrepresented communities around design,” said Kimberly Velazco, program manager, Designmatters. “Our plan is to continue these kinds of hands on events over the long term to see these design challenges through to completion as well as continue to inspire youth about art and design educational and career pathways.”

SoLA DesignJam is one of several initiatives at ArtCenter to connect to diverse communities through design. Examples include: the College’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department is presenting a series of STEM-themed workshops about sneaker and skateboard design for middle and high school kids to expose them to careers in art and design, and a 14-week Community Studio Project is collaborating as a design consultancy with Sole Folks, a nonprofit retail store and incubator in the heart of Leimert Park.

The nonprofit partners for the SoLA DesignJam areThe Ezrach Brain Trust Association, Homeboy Industries and the Los Angeles Mayor's Office of Economic Development.

Student teams will create prototypes to address Design Briefs including:

  • The Ezrach Brain Trust Association plans to prepare local churches and religious organizations in Leimert Park to respond to natural disasters due to climate change and power outages. With the goal of developing an infrastructure to enable churches to become a source of energy, Ezrach needs help to produce a design/blueprint plan on how churches would look with solar panels, EV charging stations and battery storage. In an empty parking lot, Ezrach envisions having a solar farm to produce enough energy to supply Leimert Park for grid optimization.
  • Homeboy Industries is asking students to develop systems that will lead to better recruitment of more diverse mental health professionals serving the Homeboy community.
  • Mayor's Office of Economic Development is seeking the design of a signage system that will benefit the small business owners of Leimert Park. For example: no parking, no loitering, keep distance 6 feet apart, no vending on sidewalks, wear a masks, dress code: shoes, clothes, parking in rear, etc.

The SoLA DesignJam industry speakers, mentors and judges include:

  • Kevin Bethune, founder and chief creative officer, Dreams.Design + Life
  • Krystal Cooper, Unity Technologies
  • Dr. Syreeta Greene, Ed.D., educator and historian
  • Rob McClinton, CEO, Designing Nation and vice president Board of Directors, Innovate Pasadena
  • Iddris Sandu, architectural technologist (He created the world's first smart retail store experience along with Nipsey Hussle – The Marathon Store)

To attend the TEDxCrenshaw event, visit To become involved in future Designmatters initiatives, please contact

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 in recognition of its commitment to social impact design through Designmatters. 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.

Teri Bond
Media Relations Director
ArtCenter College of Design
626 396.2385

Photo of Susie Moon.
ArtCenter Interaction Design student Susie Moon, who, with Dillon Chi proposed the SoLA DesignJam concept to Designmatters, the College’s social innovation and humanitarian department.
Photo of Dillon Chi.
Student leader, Dillon Chi, Interaction Designer and Designmatters Fellow, came up with the SoLA DesignJam idea with fellow student Susie Moon.
Photo of Julian Scaff.
ArtCenter Interaction Design Associate Professor Julian Scaff mentors student leaders Susie Moon and Dillon Chi as they work to generate more representation of people of color in the design-thinking world.
Photo of TEDxCrenshaw speakers October 3.
TEDxCrenshaw speakers will take the stage October 3 following the reveal of SoLA DesignJam winning concepts.