5 Tips on Paving Your Career Path in Impact Design


When we set out creating the Pathways to Practice series, we knew it was going to be a big task. From numerous stories, viewpoints, and words of wisdom, we attempted to select those that best represented the diversity within the impact design field. Through the collection of interviews, videos, resources, and event recaps, our ultimate aim was not to give you a neatly paved yellow brick road to follow but rather to expose you to the multitude of approaches in order to create your own path.

Now that the eight-part series is coming to a close, we wanted to capture our favorite highlights as a way to inspire your personal impact design journey. More

An Interview With Jan Gehl on the Real Meaning of Architecture

Jan Gehl

Architect and urban planner Jan Gehl helped make Copenhagen one of the most walkable cities in the world. In this interview with Metropolis Magazine, Gehl talks about his work in Copenhagen and beyond, partnering with psychologists to determine what makes people really happy, and the common human experience that binds us together across cities, cultures, and climates.

“We are homo sapiens and we are made as a walking animal and have the same biological history. We have the same senses and we kiss the same way” remarks Jan Gehl. “So it’s really about making a good urban habitat for homo sapiens, and that’s no different in Tokyo than it is in a small village in China, or in Moscow, or Christchurch, or Hobart.”

Gehl observes that the advent of the automobile transformed cities – and not necessarily for the better. His thoughts on the responsibility of architects and designers to the people display the important role that architects can play in shaping society and forming the future.

Click here to read the full article on Metropolis Magazine.

Photo by Metropole Films

3 Business Models of Social Impact Design


Over the past ten years, we’ve seen the proliferation of design projects that explicitly aim to have a social, economic or environmental impact… but where are the firms? There have been dozens of publications that highlight successful projects, but few that explore how these types of projects could sustain an entire design practice. However, we’ve already seen leaders like D-Rev and MASS prove that it is in fact possible to develop a financially sustainable design practice focused on social impact design. But how have they done it? What are their strategies and methods? What are their business models and organizational structures? How do they make money?

Over the past two years, I’ve been researching these very questions alongside my two partners, Mia Scharphie and Nick McClintock. Our work explores how social impact design firms fund projects and develop viable business models, as well as how these new approaches to practice are redefining the scope of the traditional design process. We recently received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to finish and publish this research, which will be publicly available early next year, but we wanted to share just a taste of what’s to come here first! More

After The Storm: Katrina 10 Years Later


From cataclysm to catalyst, Hurricane Katrina affected individuals, communities, and ultimately our nation in profound and innumerable ways. Ten years after the storm, Next City marks its anniversary through the voices of ten residents who share their experiences and efforts to cope with and create change around the circumstances created or simply exposed by Katrina.

“We chose to mark the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina this way because it would be impossible for one story to encompass the myriad experiences and truths that underlay New Orleans’ rebound from what can only be described as a complete failure of local and federal government systems and policies. There is no single metric that can measure the ongoing evolution of a city and no one voice that should be privileged in the recounting of something as complex as post-disaster recovery.”

Progress has not always been linear and has taken on different meanings for different people. From criminal justice to housing discrimination, K-12 education to the environment, these stories run the gamut from hope to despair. But it is vital that they be heard.

Click here to read the full series on Next City.

Photo by AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Architecture for Humanity Chapter Network is Rebranding and Wants Your Input


The group formerly know as the Architecture for Humanity Chapter Network, has decided to find a new name for itself. Now that they have done significant work transitioning from a group of chapters to a collectively mobilized and collaboratively led network, they will surface a new banner to rally under, and they want your voice in creating this name.

The network’s existence proves that the most resilient aspect about the old AFH organization are the people. Inspired to deliver on the mission of needs based, participatory design these volunteers remain as steadfast as ever, maybe even more so, working to create more opportunities within the design and AEC professions for humanitarian work. Moving forward they will form a 501(3)c nonprofit in the US and operate to support the professional development of their members, and the incubation of new chapters as sustainable business models for humanitarian design practice.

This network belongs to anyone who believes in the power of design to have a massive impact on the way we build and are represented in this world. To capture the essence of how you want to see this new organization they are running a campaign to have people record their answers to key questions about our collective efforts.

Click here to voice your opinion for the new AFH in this 15 minute survey.

Beyond the Cafeteria – A School Designed to Fight Obesity


Despite widespread awareness of the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic, there has been little success in affecting healthy and lasting change. Initiatives like longer gym classes, nutrition classes, and mandatory standing desks have failed to turn back the tide. But what if the design of a school itself could be used to prevent obesity? The redesigned Buckingham Elementary School in Virginia does exactly that.

“The architects worked directly with public health researchers to change a long list of details based on current research, from designing a kitchen with dedicated storage space for local, seasonal fruit, to placing healthy meals at kids’-eye level in the checkout line. In a teaching kitchen, third-graders can learn to make healthy meals from the foods they grow in the school garden …. Beyond the healthy eating interventions, the school was also designed to keep kids more active, with features like inviting stairways, walking paths, and furniture that flexes as students sit, so they aren’t completely still.”

From colors to materials, furniture to layout, the entire building is a classroom. This new frontier in design-centered health intervention in an academic setting, instills the lessons of healthy living for life.

Click here to read the full article Fast Company.

Photo by Tom Daly.

“Lilongwe women leveling inequality in construction”


In Lilongwe, Malawi, women are stepping up and staking their claim as contractors. At this point, 30 women have constructed over 200 units for a large scale affordable housing development called Likuni Meadows. In an article on, they describe these women as not being credited engineers or project managers.

“ Instead, they are ordinary mothers and grandmothers, many of whom were not able to complete their schooling. They all share financial discipline, work ethic, and the ability to think outside the box.”

They have worked very hard to climb up the ladder within their informal settlements of Lilongwe to get to this point. The female contractors collect five percent of the construction cost and have typically invested this money back into their families.

Click here to read the full article on

Photo by Reall/Mikel Fleming

2015 INDEX: Awards Bestowed Upon 5 Projects Designed to Improve Life


Last night in Helsingør, Denmark, over 1,300 people gathered to celebrate the 2015 INDEX: Award winners, a prestigious biennial design award that began in 2005. Representing the best in design “as a tool to address the world’s biggest challenges,” five projects were selected to each receive €100,000 cash prize from a record-breaking pool of 1,123 applicants from 72 countries. Join us in honoring this year’s winners, and don’t miss out on exploring all 41 finalists (including Better Shelter and Divine Divas, which were featured in our Pathways to Practice series!) More

Free Course on How to Successfully Network


The idea of networking tends to conjure up visions of “awkward mingling.” +Acumen and the Center for Creative Leadership have partnered to create a free 4 hour course addressing just this. Acumen believes that in order to make great change one needs great collaboration. The course “Networking Leadership 101: Building Your Core Professional Network,” is offering some core tips and tricks to getting over the networking hurdle. Some key learning outcomes include:

  • Understand the 3 key characteristics of effective networks and 5 network “traps” to avoid
  • Map and diagnose your individual network using the Leadership Diagnostic tool and other visualization platforms
  • Visualize and collaboratively assess your organizational or team network to see key trends and gaps
  • Plot 3 specific ways you can cross a network boundary, make a new introduction, and deepen an existing relationship

This free course is available from September 22- October 21 2015. All you need is a computer and approximately four hours to complete the course.

Click here to read the full description of the course.

“Impactful Business Models in Architecture”


‘The State of Practice’ is the focus of the AIA Young Architects Forum’s recent issue of Connection released last week. Available online for free, editor Jeff Pastva curated a solid sixteen pages on business models in architecture–a topic that compliments our current feature series on Pathways to Practice. Our own editor Katie Crepeau collaborated with verynice’s Matthew Manos to share socially-engaged practices in “Impactful Business Models in Architecture” through highlighting the online resource Models of Impact.

Last year, Matthew and his colleagues at verynice launched the Models of Impact website to share their findings and help more social entrepreneurs and designers understand the variety of social impact business model out there. The interactive map highlights over 100 brands and documents 45 thriving business models in both product- and service-oriented industries… Although it has attracted primarily startup incubation programs, coworking communities, academic institutions, social entrepreneurs, and nonprofit directors, Models of Impact can easily be applied to the architecture field in two ways: for architectural practices and for their client work and projects.

Read the full article on how architects (and designers) can use Models of Impact for their own practices, accompanied by three case studies of thriving practices, on Issuu here.