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ArtCenter College of Design’s Mariana Amatullo on Designing for Social Impact

gryphon agency marketing communicationsMariana Amatullo, vice president of Designmatters at ArtCenter College of Design spoke with Doreen Lorenzo for Co.Design.

As the social innovation department at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, Designmatters is the first hub for educational enrichment and curricula that develops courses in partnership with organizations that are not necessarily design-based.

Working with industry, nonprofits, and government, the department is able to connect the college with dynamic organizations working in social innovation and serve as an incubator. Amatullo helps curate national and international transdisciplinary projects organized under four themes: sustainable development, public policy, global health, and social entrepreneurship.

She spoke about one of the most meaningful projects she’s worked on that was based in Chile, called Safe Niños. The award-winning pediatric clinic is free and treats an underserved population of kids who have experienced severe burns and must come to the facility for up to 20 years as part of the complex healing process that includes several surgeries.

One of the students discovered a segment of teens who were somewhat excluded from patient services, so he created an environment that caters to their interests and creates a place they can call their own. These are the types of projects that achieve results through empathy and playfulness and exemplify design at its best.

Amatullo described how the program has evolved based on student feedback and highlighted some of the challenges in designing for social impact. She acknowledged that flexibility and humility can be hard to maintain, but that it gets easier over time.  



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