North Central News

North Central students form Design for America chapter on campus

Jacob Imm

Feb 08, 2022

North Central design students are getting the opportunity to put their creativity, inventiveness and devotion to social justice to good use thanks to the founding of a new chapter of Design for America (DFA) at the College. DFA focuses on a concept called “design thinking,” which is a solution-based approach to solving problems by seeking to understand the people for whom products and services are designed, challenging assumptions and identifying alternative strategies.

Founded by Lindsay Gleason ’22 and Daniel Wallace ’22, North Central’s Design for America chapter provides a pathway for students to improve their communities and tap into a valuable network of resources including non-profit organizations and other member schools, such as Northwestern, Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Stanford, Washington University and Notre Dame. The new chapter is advised by Kamelotte Gregory, associate director of the Leadership, Ethics and Values Program and the Center for Social Impact.

The DFA project for this academic year is a collaboration with 360 Youth Services in Naperville in the battle against teen homelessness in the area. Students in DFA are consulting with 360 on new buildings to be used for shelter and support.

While principles of design are the core of DFA projects, Gleason said that all students are welcome to join the organization. “Students of all majors, backgrounds and skill sets are encouraged to join our team, as we value diversity in the ideas and skills of our members, (and) different perspectives allow us to develop better ideas and ultimately better solutions,” Gleason said. “DFA teaches the design process to others, so new studio members require no previous experience before joining the studio.”

The students heard about Design for America through Ashoka U., the world’s largest community of social entrepreneurs and changemakers, the organization that named North Central a Changemaker Campus in 2018. They wanted to extend the reach of the work done in Gregory’s LEAD 100 course, Design Thinking for Social Impact.

“Design Thinking for Social Impact is all about using Human Centered Design, a creative approach to problem-solving that leads students through a process to empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test their ideas,” said Gregory. “Since it is a community engaged learning (CEL) course, our students are able to use what they’ve learned in class to help nonprofits in our community solve a challenge they’ve been facing.”

Students in Design Thinking for Social Impact have aided organizations including Kids Above All, Hesed House, DuPage’s Family Shelter Services, the Neighbor Project, the Alive Center, Garden Works Project, and the Phoenix Pact. The goal is to continue to expand the reach of design students in social development. If you are looking for a new design challenge, want to increase your network, or build your design portfolio, there are plenty of graphic design internships in Chicago to explore. 

Gleason stresses that LEAD 100 is just one of many academic resources that North Central’s membership in Design for America will help bolster. “North Central … offers so many fantastic courses in design thinking, social innovation, and leadership which fosters a community of students who care deeply about making change,” Gleason said. “Design for America works to equip these students with the skills and opportunities to act on these interests and truly create an impact in their communities.”

Gleason says the DFA chapter allows students to put their skills to work doing good, helps raise the national profile of North Central’s design and innovation expertise, and builds a sense of community among members.

“I have made some great friends through DFA both at (North Central) and through network-wide events,” said Gleason. Not only do we get to make an impact through our work, but (we) also have so much fun together.”