A Syllabus for Urban Design on Race and Justice


Days before the protests in Baltimore escalated, the African American Student Union (AASU) of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design hosted an urban design conference focused on social justice. Dana McKinney, the president of AASU, is focused on the fact that Harvard’s Design School simply does not offer courses that consider race and justice. Bryan Lee, 2014 “Member of the Year” for the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), eloquently describes the latter issue as:

“The issue is an ideology that finds its roots in architectural modernism, which eliminates ethnocultural and even sociocultural conditions from the variables that define quality architecture,” says Lee. “When we eliminate these essential considerations, we lose the ability for architecture to respond to the colloquial design languages of the people it serves.”

In Bertin Mock’s article for City Lab, “There Are No Urban Design Courses on Race and Justice, So We Made Our Own Syllabus,” he reached out to a handful of urban designers and architects to see what text’s they would suggest for a design course on race and justice. Some included: Aesthetics of Equity by Craig Wilkins, Urban Planning and the African-American Community by June Manning Thomas, and Race, Poverty, and American Cities by John Charles Boger.

Click here to see the full list of texts and to read the full article on City Lab.

Image courtesy of Patrick Semansky

A Sanctuary for Beekeeping & Honey Extraction in Tanzania


Tanzania has a rich history of beekeeping, and New York based Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects are tapping into this for their new design in Dodoma, Tanzania. The Mizengo Pinda Asali & Nyuki Sanctuary is going to serve as a central “hub” for not only honey extraction, processing and sales but also for education and as a bustling public amenity. ArchDaily describes the project as:

“Combining a traditional practice with contemporary wildlife and land conservation guidelines, the center aims to encourage local industries without compromising cultural values. ‘Our shared vision is that the design of this building will bring a sense of dignity to the enterprise – a place where modern equipment and techniques blend with traditional methods,’ said Mark Gardner, principal of Jaklitsch/Gardner Architects.

The sanctuary is slated to be constructed in three phases. The first phase is focused on creating spaces for education, harvesting and a market. Using all local labour and materials, the design of the sanctuary draws on several passive energy techniques for ventilation and air circulation.

Click here to read the full profile on the Mizengo Pinda Asali & Nyuki Sanctuary on ArchDaily.

Architecture Professor Creates Community Design Lab at ISU


In early March of this year, ISU partnered with Design Corps to host the Public Interest Design Institute. This two day course offered in-depth methods based on the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) metric. This is just one of the many initiatives that the ISU Community Design Lab offers. Pioneered by architecture professor Nadia Anderson, she describes the Community Design Lab as the following:

“Partnership with communities is the foundation of what we do,” Anderson said. “While we bring professional expertise and research to the table, the local knowledge and decision-making provided by our community partners is essential.”

Some of their current projects include: design concepts for local retailers, planning projects with neighborhood development organizations, and affordable housing prototypes.

Click here to read an article on the past, present and future of the Community Design Lab on ISU’s website.

10 Ways to Improve Your Design Practice

“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 the course of two days, over 800 people converged on Amsterdam’s Stadsschouwburg theater to participate in the fifth annual event celebrating the impact of design on today’s most pressing issues. Nearly 20 practitioners – ranging from architects and graphic designers to chefs and researchers – presented their methods, theories, and projects to create positive social change.

Impact Design Hub captured ten of the best statements from leading practitioners during WDCD, who not only have a profound vision for the future but are working daily to make these visions a reality. We hope these inspire you to approach your design practice from a fresh perspective. More

How to Kick-Start Your Social Impact Career


Anyone interested in working or already working in the social impact sector knows that there is no one path to build a career in this field. Acumen recently reached out to Aliyah Kurji, 2014 Acumen Global Fellow and now Innovation Manager at Acumen, to get some tips on how to successfully build a social impact career. She took the leap from the private sector into the field of impact design and created a list of 8 ways for others to get into the field as well. Here are our top 3:

1. Don’t be put off by the ambiguity
If you’re looking for a structured path, you’re in the wrong spot, the search differs for everyone and you need to create a path that works for you.

2. Don’t expect the first job to be the ‘perfect job’
When switching careers, in any sector, you are likely not qualified for your ‘dream position’ right off the bat.

3. Talk to people you wouldn’t usually talk to
“It was easy because people often ask what you do so that gave me the opening to say I’m actually interested in the social enterprise sector and looking for something in this area. Do you know anything about this?”  Most of the time they knew something or someone they could introduce me to.

Click here to read the full blog post by Aliyah Kurji on Acumen.

Two Fonts for People with Dyslexia


According to the UK charity Dyslexia Action, Dyslexia affects around 10 percent of the global population. Two designers diagnosed with dyslexia created two typefaces that deal with the different struggles faced by this neurological disorder. Dutch designer Christian Boer, created a typeface specifically for people with dyslexia.

“By changing the shape of the characters so that each is distinctly unique, the letters will no longer match one another when rotated, flipped or mirrored,” Boer said. “Bolder capitals and punctuation will ensure that users don’t accidentally read into the beginning of the next sentence.”

London designer Dan Britton took a different approach by creating a typeface that shows how individuals with dyslexia see written words. “What I wanted to do was recreate or simulate the emotions of reading with dyslexia to try and put across how frustrating it is to try and read something simple,” says Britton.

Click here to read the full article on Dan Britton’s font on Dezeen and click here to read the article on Christian Boer’s typeface.

2016 NEA ‘Our Town’ Grants Call for Applicants


Calling all creative placemakers! National Endowment for the Arts is looking to support projects transforming communities through the arts.  The Our Town grant supports local initiatives improving the quality of life for residents while also building a grounded sense of place.  The grant requires a partnership between arts organizations and government, other nonprofit organizations, and private entities. The two categories for the Our Town grant are:

  • Arts Engagement, Cultural Planning, and Design Projects. These projects represent the distinct character and quality of their communities. These projects require a partnership between a nonprofit organization and a local government entity, with one of the partners being a cultural organization. Matching grants range from $25,000 to $200,000.  
  • Projects that Build Knowledge About Creative Placemaking. These projects are available to arts and design service organizations, and industry or university organizations that provide technical assistance to those doing place-based work. Matching grants range from $25,000 to $100,000.

Applications are due on September 21, 2015. Join NEA for their webinar on “How to Apply” for the grant on Wednesday July 29, 3:00 ET and on Wednesday August 5th tune in for the “Tips, Tricks, and Inspiration for a Successful Project Proposal” webinar.

Click here to find out more on the NEA Our Town grant.

Image courtesy of Martha Cooper

New Director of 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale to Focus on Social Needs


The 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale has officially announced its Director for 2016 as Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena. This year’s 15th annual exhibition is focused on addressing the disparity between architecture and social need.

“There are several battles that need to be won and several frontiers that need to be expanded in order to improve the quality of the built environment and consequently people’s quality of life,” said Aravena. “We would like to show that in the permanent debate about the quality of the built environment, there is not only a need but also room for action.”

The 15th annual architecture exhibition in Venice will run from 28 May to 27 November 2016. In direct contrast to last year’s director, Rem Koolhas, Aravena’s approach is based in addressing pressing real world issues. Aravena is most known for his social housing with Elemental, defining itself as a “Do Tank that seeks to upgrade people’s quality of life.”

Click here to read the full article on Deezen

10k Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award Applications Now Due!


In honor of the late social impact design pioneer, the Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award–worth $10,000–will go to a project that addresses a pressing social issue, can be implemented in a timely manner, and will deliver positive results that can be measured. This award is presented by Design Ignites Change and AIGA, the professional association for graphic design.

“Sylvia Harris (1953 – 2011) is widely recognized as a pioneer, a generous mentor and a vital inspiration to the field of social impact design. In that spirit, the Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award has been established to honor her legacy by supporting other vanguards dedicated to public design.”

Applicants need only one year of professional design experience and both designer and project must be located in the United States. Register and apply by August 3, 2015 for this outstanding opportunity to get a project off the ground.

Click here to apply for the Sylvia Harris Citizen Design Award.

Design/Build Firm Pioneering Water Resiliency in the Bay Area


Founded by a group of builders and ecologists with a passion for water conservation, DIG Cooperative is a leading design/build firm integrating water conservation solutions in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2005. Specializing in comprehensive, on-site water catchment and reuse systems for residential, commercial and institutional clients, DIG is committed to building a sustainable future for clean water. In their own words:

“Our team is committed to regenerative ecology, quality craftsmanship, and creative collaboration. We harness the power of water to transform urban environments into resilient habitats.”

Now, after 10 years of pioneering cutting-edge water catchment and reuse systems in the Bay Area, DIG Cooperative has partnered with KivaZip to raise $15,000 to meet the growing demand for their services amidst increased awareness of the severe drought conditions facing California. Their campaign is two-fold, raising funds for both marketing/activities and hardware/software. The campaign ends on August 31st, so get your contributions in soon! Also, keep a look out for the Farm to Fork Expo on August 29th in San Francisco for advocates and lovers of food.

Click here to contribute to DIGs mission of ensuring water resiliency by lending donations to their need for marketing & tools.