An online resource for designing a better world.

Feature Series Collections

Original content by the Impact Design Team

Racial Inequity in Social Impact Design

The Racial Equity in Social Impact Design series is curated by Christopher Scott, director of the Rose Architectural Fellowship, and founder of the Centennial Parkside Community Development Corporation in Philadelphia. In this series, IDH explores the role structural racism and implicit biases play in the impact design field.

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The Twin Cities

The first in the CITYSeries, this inaugural collection features the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. In this series we uncover, explore, and feature a diverse selection of design impact work in the Twin Cities as well as the issues these practitioners and organizations face in making the world a better place through design.

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The Twin Cities Wheel: An Infographic of Impact Design

April 6, 2017
It’s our distinct honor to not only officially launch the first piece of the inaugural CITYSeries, but also to introduce these 40 movers and shakers in the impact design space in the Twin Cities. Spanning... Read More

Introducing the CITYSeries: A Letter from the Editor

April 5, 2017
As our fearless leader (aka Editor in Chief), David Dewane, outlined in the Vision for 2017, we’re committed to showcase the harder to find, yet equally important and compelling work that’s happening outside of San... Read More

The Broad Reach of Environmental Design in the Twin Cities

April 13, 2017
By: Amber Morgan, a local writer based in Minneapolis Environmental design in the Twin Cities is broad and far reaching. Of course, traditional environmental design is at work in a “state that has long prided itself... Read More

Juxtaposition Arts’ Youth-Driven Environmental Design

April 20, 2017
By: Genevieve Poist **Disclaimer: Juxtaposition Arts is featured on the Twin Cities Wheel in our Products & Services category; however, the organization’s work and classification as a design firm that trains and employs youth to... Read More

Product and Service Design in the Twin Cities: Looking at the Big Picture

April 27, 2017
By: Amber Morgan, a local writer based in Minneapolis When it comes to product and service design in the Twin Cities, it’s big picture social inequities that drives the work. It’s disparities in access and affordability... Read More

How Youth Are Using Design to Approach Police Brutality in Minneapolis

May 4, 2017
By: Genevieve Poist Prompted by the social unrest caused by the 2015 and 2016 shootings of Jamal Clark and Philando Castile, many of North Minneapolis’ young people, specifically those of color and immigrant backgrounds, took... Read More

Academic Impact Design in the Twin Cities

May 11, 2017
By: Bruce N. Wright In 2010, Haiti suffered a devastating earthquake killing thousands and displacing tens of thousands to countries outside their own, including the United States where they continue to remain on a temporary... Read More

Development Engineering

This Development Engineering series is the the first of our IDEAS Series. Here we feature work from our series partner, Berkeley's Blum Center for Developing Economies, in the form of an overview by two PhD students as well as critical reflections and responses from those in the broader impact design field.

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Urban vs. Rural

The Urban vs. Rural series will bring to light the existing spaces in which urban and rural perspectives are already joining together to make progress towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

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Urban vs. Rural: Shared Problems, Separate Perspectives — Introduction to the Series

September 21, 2016
When we think of urbanization, the first thing that comes to mind is a sprawling city — one that’s simultaneously expanding its boundaries wider and wider while building higher and higher towards the sky. However,... Read More

The Rise of Rural Design

September 28, 2016
Impact Design Hub’s goal for the Rural vs Urban series is to take a deeper look at how rural and urban approaches to design address the most pressing social issues of our time, such as... Read More

Race and Place: How Urban Gondolas Address Segregation

October 12, 2016
By David Schwartz Austin is the United States’ number one economically segregated large metro area. Within it, race and poverty are well-studied. The city has the 8th fastest growing poverty rate in the country with... Read More

Borderless: Urban and Rural Design in Mexico

November 4, 2016
Paola Aguirre is the founder of Borderless, an urban design consultancy based in Chicago. In addition to her training as an architect and urban designer, Paola’s professional experience includes working with government, universities, and architecture/urban design offices... Read More

Suburban Design’s Effect on Climate Change

November 23, 2016
By: Nissa Tupper As a designer focused on climate change, with a rural upbringing, who eventually put down roots in the “big city” only to (gasp!) move out to the suburbs, I’ve felt the weight... Read More

The Effects of Urban Aesthetics in Detroit’s Development

October 26, 2016
By Lisa Berglund As designers, our work tells a story. Our obligation is to tell that story in an inclusive and honest way, that is both significant and real. If we are to practice our... Read More

Measuring Impact

How do we know we’re making a difference, or making the world any better? Our series grapples with those challenges and explores how impact designers are finding solutions as imaginative and meaningful as the work they seek to quantify.

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Designing For Flux

Is lasting impact possible in an age of impermanence?

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Designing For Flux – Introduction To The Series

March 9, 2016
Glancing at the headlines, or the harrowing images on our screens, one might be forgiven for thinking it’s all coming to an end. War, terror, rising tides, desperate refugees clawing at barriers or clambering for... Read More

Unsteady Ground – Impact Designers On The New Age Of Uncertainty

March 9, 2016
For the opening feature in our Designing For Flux series, we brought together leading thinkers and practitioners in impact design to explore the question of uncertainty and instability. What can we no longer take for granted in... Read More

From Chaos to Dignity – The New Face of Shelter Design

March 23, 2016
Shelter is a basic human need, one that many of us barely notice because ours is seldom under threat. But for an increasing number of people, it’s becoming a scarce resource. An unstable climate is... Read More

Wa$ted Market Seeks A New Architecture Amid The Rubble

April 6, 2016
By David Dewane   “What happens when one county in America took the radical step of demanding all buildings be built with other buildings?” When accepting the Pritzker Prize in 2000, Rem Koolhaas called on... Read More

The (Im)Permanence of Paper: An Interview with Shigeru Ban

April 13, 2016
Architect Shigeru Ban has gained worldwide-renown for his extraordinary structures made with paper and cardboard. His “three-dimensional” poetry has provided crucial shelter to victims of disaster across the world, at sites as far-flung as Nepal,... Read More

Every Step of the Journey: Richard van der Laken and the What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge

April 20, 2016
Dutch graphic designer Richard van der Laken co-founded What Design Can Do to push beyond the conventional bounds of the industry. Earlier this year, he and his colleagues laid down the social impact gauntlet with... Read More

Can We Co-Design In A Crisis?

April 27, 2016
By Matt McCallum and Lauren Weinstein At 12:51 p.m. on February 21, 2011 in Christchurch, New Zealand, the ground began to roll. Putting one foot in front of the other on the concrete roads and... Read More

From Failure to Resolution

What failure has to teach us and how it can help us to be better impact designers

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From Failure to Resolution – Introduction To The Series

January 5, 2016
  The new year is a time for resolutions. We boldly make promises to ourselves and to others that we will be better, thinner, kinder, or more (or less) than we were last year. We resolve... Read More

Paved With Good Intentions – When Impact Design Goes Wrong

January 6, 2016
  As part of our From Failure to Resolution series, we asked leading practitioners in the world of impact design to share a few choice cautionary tales and epic blunders from their own experience in the field.... Read More

Failure As Catalyst

January 20, 2016
  By Lauren Weinstein The notion that the work of social change necessarily means both scrambling to find funding and endless employee self-sacrifice has never made sense to me. While working at a handful of... Read More

Los Guidos to Librii: Confessions of an Impact Designer

February 3, 2016
By David Dewane Los Guidos is a depressed neighborhood on the fringes of San Jose, Costa Rica. In the late 1990’s its population of poor native “Ticos” and undocumented Nicaraguan immigrants lived in ramshackle houses... Read More

Of Pitfalls And Pivots: How Design Impact Found Its Way Home

February 17, 2016
Inspired by our From Failure To Resolution series, Ramsey Ford of the social innovation firm Design Impact got in touch with Impact Design Hub to share his own story. We recently spoke with Ramsey about his... Read More

The Perils of PlayPumps and Other Cautionary Tales – An Interview with Mulago’s Kevin Starr

February 24, 2016
Mulago Foundation Director Kevin Starr’s no-holds-barred talk at PopTech in 2010 charted some of the more spectacular flame-outs and fiascoes in the world of global social impact at the time. We caught up with Starr recently... Read More

From Zero to Impact – ioby and the Power of Honesty

March 2, 2016
To round out our series – From Failure to Resolution – Impact Design Hub spoke with Erin Barnes, co-founder and executive director of ioby, a crowdfunding platform for community-based social change, about starting from scratch... Read More

Shaping Design Through Education

How education is set to transform the world of impact design

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Our New Feature Series: “Shaping Design Through Education”

October 14, 2015
Design and education are both, in a sense, about the shaping of things. The lines and contours of our built environment, the elegant curves of our diagrams, the molding of minds. Perhaps what they share... Read More

Impact Education Around The World: The African Design Center

October 28, 2015
Five years ago, Christian Benimana looked all around him and saw disaster. Born and raised in Rwanda, Benimana had just returned to his native country after finishing his architecture studies abroad. What he found was... Read More

The Promise of Transition Design: An Interview with Terry Irwin

November 11, 2015
Terry Irwin is Head of School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University and has been teaching at the university level since 1986. A practicing designer for over 40 years, her studies in living systems convinced... Read More

The Future of Impact Design Education

October 14, 2015
Few of us today have a degree in “impact design,” “social design,” or “public interest design;” though a few of us who are now students may be studying exactly those subjects, some even in degree... Read More

What The Maker Movement Needs To Learn

November 18, 2015
  Vincent Purcell is a Baltimore-based maker who teaches about making culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He currently serves as an Open Society Institute-Baltimore Community Fellow, where his work centers on the... Read More

Democracy in Action: Impact Design Education at Malmö

December 2, 2015
As part of our Shaping Design Through Education feature series we’ve been exploring the many different ways impact design education is being practiced around the world. anNa Seravalli is a senior lecturer in product design... Read More

Open Secret: An Interview with John Bielenberg

December 16, 2015
Open Secret: An Interview with John Bielenberg John Bielenberg is a designer, entrepreneur, and imaginative advocate for creating a better world through the application of “Thinking Wrong”. In 2003, he created Project M, an immersive... Read More

The Trailblazers – How Students Are Learning To Make Impact Design Better

December 23, 2015
Social impact is something that many fields work towards, and in some respects, designers are actually late to the game. Disciplines like public health, social work, and international development have long been pursuing the same... Read More

Empathy Is Our Compass – The Power of Design Futures

December 30, 2015
For years, students across the country have been frustrated by the lack of real educational opportunities in community-engaged design. While a handful of programs are gradually emerging to fill that demand, the problem of access... Read More

Linking Energy to Impact

Transforming access and curbing excess in the flow of global power

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Announcing Our New Feature Series: “Linking Energy to Impact”

September 8, 2015
“Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, environmental health, social fairness and opportunity,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the 2013 World Energy Congress in Korea, affirming his pledge to give a billion more... Read More

Designing for Human Energy as a Precious Resource

September 9, 2015
Depending on your job, your political persuasion and where you call home, the word “energy,” conjures images of solar panels, windmills, gas stations or coal mines. Or, it can bring to mind oil spills and... Read More

Micro-Power! Making An Impact on Millions One Home at a Time  

September 16, 2015
In Northern Thailand farmers tend their terraced fields by hand and make do without cell phone service, yet a growing number now light their homes with LED lamps and draw their power from solar panels.... Read More

An Energy Revolution At Your Doorstep

September 23, 2015
Each rotation of a revolving door generates enough electricity to power a 60-watt light bulb for 23 minutes. Revolving doors also equalize indoor temperatures, save lots of money, and reduce carbon output. So why do... Read More

Eco-Hacking: Open-Source Solutions for Energy Access

September 30, 2015
By Michael Floyd On August 15, 2015, scores of makers, engineers, designers, and mentors began to arrive at a 16th Century chateau west of Paris for five weeks of open source eco-hacking. Their goal: to... Read More

No Penalty for Poverty: A Conversation with Hugh Whalan

October 7, 2015
Hugh Whalan has started three businesses in Africa focused on innovative financing of solar power to some of the poorest consumers on the planet. His first company pioneered crowdfunding for energy loans to the developing... Read More

Pathways to Practice

The ins and outs of working in impact design

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Join Us for a New Series on ‘Pathways to Practice’

July 7, 2015
As socially-engaged design continues to gain momentum around the world, one crucial question remains unanswered. Our team here at Impact Design Hub has witnessed first hand the immense energy and excitement from people seeking to... Read More

The Human Center of Design: In Conversation with IDEO.org’s Patrice Martin

July 8, 2015
Patrice Martin is the Co-lead and Creative Director of IDEO.org, the San Francisco-based non-profit design organization. She’s passionate about the power of design to change lives, and works to not only create solutions, but also... Read More

The Reality of Building a Social Impact Design Project

July 15, 2015
Composed of four city blocks alongside the crowded streets and sugarcane fields of Villa Rica, the El Guadual Early Childhood Development Center is an exquisitely constructed building in a highly contested territory. As the primary... Read More

Staying in Close Proximity to Customers

July 22, 2015
How one social enterprise is changing Myanmar through design In a landscape marked by lush, fertile plains that sit between sculptural mountains, two-thirds of Myanmar’s population of 51 million live rurally where resourcefulness is a... Read More

10 Ways to Improve Your Design Practice

July 29, 2015
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality,” said American scholar Warren Bennis. His insightful statement was clearly demonstrated by the impact design leaders at this year’s What Design Can Do! (WDCD) conference. Over... Read More

BioLite Shares the Case for Parallel Innovation

August 5, 2015
Sometimes, all it takes is a spark to launch a potentially world-changing idea. Long eclipsed by coal, oil and renewables, wood is no longer regarded or used as a primary source of energy in the... Read More

5 Skills You Need to Make Positive Impact

August 19, 2015
“If we can’t make any difference in the world, then what are we doing here?” asks Susan S. Szenasy, the candid and perceptive Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Metropolis who has become known for such provocative... Read More

How to Get a Job in Impact Design

August 26, 2015
John Peterson, Founder and President of Public Architecture and recently appointed Curator of the Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, has played a central role in the public interest design movement for... Read More

Design for Equity

Discussions and strategies to implement more equitable practices

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Design for Equity: Introduction to an Eight-Part Feature Series

February 25, 2015
Over the past few weeks, news of the closure of Architecture For Humanity has led to many critiques and questions, not only about the future of AfH, but the future of the entire field of... Read More

Using Our Words: The Language of Design for Equity

March 4, 2015
This is the second post in the “Design for Equity” series. Read all articles in the series in the design for equity section. Public interest design. Social impact design. Community based design. These are labels that... Read More

Designing for Equity: Using a Civil Rights Framework

March 11, 2015
This is the third post in the “Design for Equity” series. Read all articles in the series in the design for equity section. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s moved pivotal barriers that segregated and discriminated communities... Read More

Finding Your Path in Social Impact Design

March 18, 2015
This is the fourth post in the “Design for Equity” series. Read all articles in the series in the design for equity section. The pursuit to challenge traditional notions about what designers do and who benefits from their... Read More

Walking the Walk: Putting Equity Into Practice

March 25, 2015
This is the fifth post in the “Design for Equity” series. Read all articles in the series in the design for equity section. Over the years, each of us has experienced or seen firsthand organizations practicing social impact... Read More

Process and Collaboration: Why Community Design Needs More Cross-Fertilization

April 8, 2015
This is the sixth post in the “Design for Equity” series. Read all articles in the series in the design for equity section. I once had the good fortune to have lunch with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi at... Read More

When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough: Linking Intent to Impact

April 15, 2015
This is the seventh post in the “Design for Equity” series. Read all articles in the series in the design for equity section. Over the last few weeks, we’ve introduced the idea of “design for equity” and... Read More

Design for Equity: Participate and Contribute to the Movement

May 8, 2015
The last post in the Design For Equity series was meant to be a conclusion, but of course it is also a beginning. We’d like to use this final essay to reflect on who we... Read More

Year in Review & Look Ahead

Recaps of years and predictions past

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2015 Impact Design Gift Guide

December 23, 2015
Once again we’ve teamed up with our friends at Makeshift to bring you a holiday gift guide for all the impact designers in your life, and maybe a few others who are making a difference... Read More

Core77 Year in Review

December 29, 2015
This past year, Core77’s Allan Chochinov had a chance to speak with leaders in social innovation about their projects, methods, and ideas about design for social impact. In looking back on some of those discussions... Read More

24 Impact Design Organizations to Support on #GivingTuesday

December 2, 2014
Founded in 2012 by New York’s 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, #GivingTuesday is an annual day when people around the world come together to give back. As the movement continues to grow... Read More

2014 Impact Design Gift Guide: Maker Edition

December 10, 2014
For Impact Design Hub’s first holiday gift guide, we partnered with the team at Makeshift for a special maker-version to infuse a bit of the unexpected into your gift giving this year.  You’re not the traditional... Read More

Impact Design Countdown to 2015

December 22, 2014
Since the founding of PublicInterestDesign.org in 2011, we have wrapped up each year with an annual recap on the most impactful milestones of the year and predictions on upcoming happenings for the year ahead. This year we’ve decided... Read More

2015 Countdown #10: A Rooftop Garden Grows in Brooklyn

December 22, 2014
The number 10 milestone in our Impact Design Countdown to 2015 with TakePart features a video of Brooklyn Grange‘s Navy Yard Farm, the largest rooftop garden in the world set to produce over 50,000 pounds... Read More

2015 Countdown #9: A Twist on Floor Tiles Gives ‘Power Walking’ New Meaning

December 23, 2014
The number 9 milestone in our Impact Design Countdown to 2015 with TakePart features renewable energy-generating floor tiles created by UK company Pavegen Systems, first developed by industrial design graduate student Laurence Kemball-Cook. Each day... Read More

2015 Countdown #8: With This Bio-Reactive Food Label, Sell-by Dates Could Become Obsolete

December 24, 2014
The number 8 milestone in our Impact Design Countdown to 2015 with TakePart features the innovative ‘Bump Mark’ that allows consumers to determine a product’s freshness by touch and reduce rampant food waste. Every milk... Read More

2015 Countdown #7: Want Healthier Students Who Love to Read? Ditch Those Desks for Bikes

December 25, 2014
The number 7 milestone in our Impact Design Countdown to 2015 with TakePart features North Carolina’s ‘Read and Ride’ program that combines exercise with reading. If you’ve ever taken a ride on that health club staple... Read More

2015 Countdown #6: When Disaster Strikes, This May Be the Most Crucial Aid of All

December 26, 2014
The number 6 milestone in our Impact Design Countdown to 2015 with TakePart features NetHope, a group of relief organizations that have banded together to rebuild destroyed communications systems so food and medicine can get where they’re... Read More

2015 Countdown #5: Why Little Free Libraries Are the Water Coolers of the Digital Age

December 27, 2014
The number 5 milestone in our Impact Design Countdown to 2015 with TakePart features the popular, homemade ‘give a book, take a book’ boxes that are bringing neighbors together around reading. There’s one in Los Angeles’ Silver... Read More

2015 Countdown #4: How a Dyslexic Neuroscientist’s iPad App Will Boost Your Kid’s Math Scores

December 28, 2014
The number 4 milestone in our Impact Design Countdown to 2015 with TakePart features nonprofit MIND Research Institute, which is demonstrating an effective program for bringing technology into the classroom. On a recent weekday morning,... Read More

2015 Countdown #3: 16-Year-Olds Win Google Science Fair With a Simple but Brilliant Food Hack

December 29, 2014
The number 3 milestone in our Impact Design Countdown to 2015 with TakePart features three high school students who might have found the solution to world hunger in wart-like growths on a pea plant. Irish... Read More

2015 Countdown #2: Forget Everything You Know About Toilets—These 4 Designs Flush Without Water

December 30, 2014
The number 6 milestone in our Impact Design Countdown to 2015 with TakePart features four sustainable toilet designs as part of the Gates Foundation’s Reinvent the Toilet Challenge, one of which we featured earlier this... Read More

2015 Countdown #1: In Namibia, Locals Are Building Infrastructure on the Backs of Bicycles

December 31, 2014
The number 1 and final milestone in our Impact Design Countdown to 2015 with TakePart features the Bicycle Empowerment Network that trains people in bicycle repair and maintenance while addressing the transportation needs of HIV/AIDS workers.... Read More

Impact Design’s Unsung Heroes of 2014

January 21, 2015
Black-tie galas, TED talks, and the six o’clock news – there’s no shortage of praise for people making major impact in the world. But for every Gates Foundation and Khan Academy, there are thousands of... Read More

12 Projects That Will Change the World in 2015

January 28, 2015
We teamed up with TakePart to bring you the most impactful design, architecture, and engineering projects launching around the world this year. From technology that turns human waste into clean drinking water to a low-cost... Read More

Future of Impact Design

Emerging and leading designers provide insight into the future of impact design

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Feature: Expanding the Impact Design Movement

August 6, 2014
In 2011, John Cary launched PublicInterestDesign.org with a simple goal: to fill a communication gap for the burgeoning public interest design movement. Over the past three years, PublicInterestDesign.org has become the go-to resource to read, watch,... Read More

Feature: How will Public Interest Design look in 2024? 19 Practitioners Weigh In

August 27, 2014
Rewind to 2004 and think about what you were doing on August 27th. On this day ten years ago, a cold air conditioned breeze was blowing through my hair and onto my sticky skin as... Read More

Feature: The Future of Design is Economics

September 3, 2014
Over the past two years I have had the opportunity to help curate content for PublicInterestDesign.org, and through the process I’ve recognized a common thread in the best projects and firms profiled: an attention to... Read More

Feature: Eric Cesal Talks Architecture, Humanity, and the Future

October 16, 2014
Gilad Meron recently spoke with Architecture for Humanity‘s Executive Director Eric Cesal about what’s on the horizon for the 15-year-old organization and the architecture profession in general. Architecture for Humanity’s Design Like You Give A Damn... Read More

3 Ways Fellowships Strengthen Community Design—and Why We Need More of Them

October 22, 2014
Guest post written by Katie Swenson, Vice President of Design at Enterprise Community Partners In the Spring of 2000, I was about to graduate with my Masters degree in Architecture, and, like my peers, was... Read More

Individual Feature Articles

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“Early In the Process”: An Interview with Robert Fabricant

December 11, 2014
Robert Fabricant is the Co-Founder and Principal of the Design Impact Group (DIG) at Dalberg Global Development Advisors, a strategic consultancy focused on social impact. Prior to joining Dalberg, Robert was Vice President of Creative... Read More

Doors of Perception: In Conversation with John Thackara

January 14, 2015
John Thackara is a writer, educator, producer, speaker and connector in the worlds of design and transition. His Doors of Perception conference was the first gathering to bring designers and the environmental movement together. John... Read More

AFH Chapters Rally to Continue Humanitarian Design Work with New, Bold Plans

February 19, 2015
By now the news has sunk in that Architecture for Humanity’s headquarters has closed shop. However, despite this era’s end, there are still hundreds of volunteers, community leaders and chapter directors who have vowed to... Read More

Design Matters in Social Innovation: Interview with Mariana Amatullo

February 24, 2015
Mariana Amatullo is a writer, educator, speaker, and student of design and social impact. She is the Vice President of the award-winning Designmatters Department at Art Center College of Art and Design which she co-founded... Read More

Connecting People and Planet through Design

April 9, 2015
An exclusive interview with Lynelle Cameron on her path into impact design, the Autodesk Foundation’s first year learnings, and opportunities for more people to become involved in the field. The intersection of people and the... Read More