Legos Make Urban Planning Accessible


The MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the Changing Places group at the MIT Media Lab, and the Barr Foundation, are working together to test how bus-rapid transit systems could affect the city. Their work includes three components: a Lego model of Dudley Square, another 3-D model (also made of Legos) of a Boston street, and a touchscreen interface to illustrate the potential effects of different plans on a regional scale—such as how changes to public transit might affect people’s access to jobs.

“The aim is to make the urban planning process more transparent by getting everyone involved—not just experts like [professor of transportation and urban planning at MIT Chris] Zegras. ‘Part of our idea with introducing these types of tools is to break away from the technocratic model of planning,’ he says. ‘So we’ve try to make a very initial foray into opening up those processes a bit more.’”

Not only has the team made the platform familiar and accessible, they have also opened their lab to the public, encouraging residents and local policymakers alike to participate in the project.

Read more about the initiative at CityLab.

SEED Co-Founders Share Strategies for Evaluation


Lisa Abendroth and Bryan Bell, co-founders of SEED (Social Economic Environmental Design) have shared as essay on SEED evaluation and certification as part of their larger Public Interest Design Guidebook: SEED Methodology, Case Studies, and Critical Issues.

“Evaluation involves a detailed assessment of project results based on benchmarks and performance measures embedded in the design process. Evaluation is the translation of project plan or program successes, failures, and challenges. Designers, communities, stakeholders, funders, and clients all have a need to assess the outcome of design work, just as clients and communities have a need to assess how goals were achieved for purposes of defining community benchmarks and working together toward common goals.”

The SEED Evaluator provides a road map, a directional pointer that can indicate vital strengths and weaknesses.

To read the full essay check out chapter 9 of Public Interest Design Guidebook

To Be Successful, Community Development Must Include the Arts


Community development professionals will tell you there is no such thing as a silver bullet when building an equitable community and that many different strategies must be pursued at once – a jobs strategy, safety strategy, land use strategy, transportation strategy, education strategy, housing strategy, etc. – to be successful. In 2010, the Knight Soul of the Community investigated just why people move somewhere; asking about schools, public transit, affordability and safety. After interviewing 40,000 residents over the course of three years, the most common answers came as a surprise.

“The top three answers for why someone loves living in a place shocked almost everyone – they are “social offerings, openness, and aesthetics.” To those of us working in the arts, this fact said something huge – that if you are trying to build an equitable community, you need the arts at the community development table.”

The arts must be touted for the authentic local assets they are. The arts can engage and augment what is unique about a place, and at the same time create jobs and opportunities for all residents of a community.

Read more about the arts and community development here.

“The Architecture School Survival Guide”


Responding to the idea that “every year new architecture students make the same mistakes,” award-winning architect and educator Iain Jackson wrote The Architecture School Survival Guide to offer tips, tricks and advice to help make the transition from novice to capable student just that little bit less painful.

“Covering everything from how to properly approach contextual design to how often to back up your work, the book is full of ideas that new students will find enlightening, and older students – and even professionals – are likely to find useful as reference points.”

Because there are so many different ways to approach design, the book addresses the most basic principles that are often left for the student to learn the hard way.

Read an excerpt of The Architecture School Survival Guide at ArchDaily.

Center for Social Design Highlighted in New MICA Publication


The Center for Social Design at MICA was featured in the inaugural issue of Commotion, a magazine produced twice each year to share ideas, news, and art from the 19 graduate programs at MICA.

In 2007, “[Mike] Weikert was newly appointed as co-chair of MICA’s undergraduate graphic design program, and he began thinking about the process of design and the process of educating young designers. He knew design was evolving, that real-world practices were becoming more interdisciplinary. At the same time, he was keenly interested in a growing awareness within the design community of social design—a creative process and practice dedicated to understanding social problems and supporting positive social change.”

Read more about the history of social design at MICA and how they’ve used design to increase access to fresh food in Baltimore City food deserts, help HIV-Positive men move beyond stigmatization in order to stay healthy, and provide children in underprivileged communities with safer areas to play.

OpenIDEO Initiates Local Conversations on Climate Sustainability


In the wake of the tragic acts of terror that took place in Paris, President Hollande announced that COP21—the United Nations Climate Change Conference—will move forward. These negotiations in Paris are an opportunity for us all to take action toward a more sustainable future.

“To build on this global momentum, we’re inviting OpenIDEO community members around the world to host local events during COP21 (November 30th — December 11th). Events can take any form—from a conversation with friends to a Meetup with your community. If you’re interested in attending or organizing a #COPisHere event, complete this short form. We’ll share the full list of events and resources for organizers here.”

#COPisHere events are one way OpenIDEO continues to grow Accelerate, the global effort to support innovators, spark action and use design thinking to tackle the biggest environmental challenges.

Read more about the initiative and join supporters as they unite for climate change.

Twelve Upcoming Industrial Design Competitions!


Competitions can be an excellent way to showcase your work, get mentoring from experts, generate funding, and earn critical feedback on your ideas. New industrial design competitions are springing up every year. Line//Shape//Space created a list of 12 upcoming competitions to help stimulate you and your team to take the next step; from drawing to prototype or prototype to market. This list includes:

  • Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge: Currently open for submissions and sponsored by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute in partnership with Autodesk, the goal of this design challenge is “to eliminate the concept of ‘waste’ by designing products with materials that may be perpetually cycled to retain their value as nutrients to fuel growing global economies.” Prizes include $2,000 and a three-day pass to Autodesk University.
  • Makerspace Contest: Instructables presents some fairly serious hardware prizes for the dedicated makers out there. Participants compete for more than $30,000 in prizes.

It’s worth noting that most of these competitions are held at roughly the same time every year. If you’ve missed this year’s deadline, hang tight because another chance will be coming around. And, for others, the topic or project might change, but the organization won’t.

Review the rest of this list at Line//Shape//Space.

Enzo Mari Designed Furniture Will Raise Funds For Refugees


Italian artist and furniture designer Enzo Mari has given Berlin-based organization CUCULA (also called the Refugees Company for Crafts and Design) the rights to redesign and sell his Autoprogettazione furniture to raise funds for its refugee support program. Mari’s furniture was designed to be assembled from the most basic materials, using just a hammer and nails. The pieces built by refugees used wood from camp huts, as well as planks from boats used to travel to Lampedusa – an Italian island that serves as a European entry point for many migrants.

“The CUCULA educational programme aims to help refugees by teaching them to design and build furniture, and also offers general education, assistance with language skills, and legal advice. After hosting a workshop for West African refugees based around Mari’s principles, CUCULA founder Sebastian Däschle contacted the designer who agreed to let the organisation recreate and sell his designs.”

Four pieces created by CUCULA designers will be shown at the Cologne Fine Art fair, which runs from 18 November to 22 November 2015. All revenue from chair sales will go back towards supporting the project.

Read more about CUCULA’s initiative at Dezeen.

30 Weeks Accepting Applications for Founders Program

30 Weeks, an experimental program that provides a platform for gifted designers to create products and start companies is accepting applications through December 11, 2015, for their spring cohort. 30 Weeks embraces the principles of technology startups to help transform designers into founders.

“This learn-by-launching structure gives designers a chance to build their entrepreneurial skills in an environment that’s as close to the real thing as possible. In short: you get startup mentorship, discussions with industry leaders, real tools, group critiques, hands-on-help, a space to work in and the time to focus on your own product. Designers will be exposed to 5 key areas of learning: design, product, tech, business, and collaboration.”

The program brings in mentors from some of the brightest minds in design, tech, business and venture capital including a robust board made up of high-level individuals from IDEO, Google, Cornell Tech, Hyper Island, Cooper Union, Pratt, SVA, and Parsons.

Read more about the program and apply at 30 Weeks.

Kresge Foundation Announces New Grant Opportunity for Food and Revitalization


Earlier this month, the Kresge Foundation announced that they will award up to 20 planning grants of up to $75,000 each in the first quarter of 2016 as part of the initiative “Fresh, Local & Equitable: Food as a Creative Platform for Neighborhood Revitalization.” Organizations and collaborations that lead food-oriented development initiatives in economically distressed urban neighborhoods are eligible. Applications are due December 14, 2015.

“Throughout history, food has been inextricably tied to social cohesion, health, culture and entrepreneurship,” said David Fukuzawa, managing director of Kresge’s Health Program. “This initiative recognizes both the direct positive impacts of healthy, local food and the overarching role that food can play in neighborhood revitalization.”

The new grant opportunity is a joint effort by of Kresge’s Arts & Culture Program, which seeks to build strong, healthy cities by promoting the integration of arts and culture into community revitalization; and its Health Program, which works to enable communities to overcome economic, environmental and social barriers to health. Kresge’s goal for the initiative is to help create a sense of place in communities where culinary ventures are integrated into community life, creating synergies that exceed the sum of their parts.
Learn more about the new grant opportunity here.