Ten years after its founding, Designmatters is making a difference within and beyond Art Center.
By ALEX CARSWELL
“This University is not maintained…merely to help its graduates have an economic advantage in the life struggle. There is certainly a greater purpose, and I’m sure you recognize it.”
—John F. Kennedy, October 14, 1960, speaking to students at the University of Michigan
As he campaigned for the White House, John F. Kennedy challenged America’s younger generation to use their talent not just to better themselves, but also to somehow make a difference in the world. Shortly after taking office in 1961, President Kennedy formed the Peace Corps, a transformational government agency that celebrated America’s core values, galvanized our national will and has facilitated service in support of that “greater purpose” for more than half a century.
Forty years later, Art Center students were surveyed on their desire to have some sort of curricular “Peace Corps-type” opportunity. The overwhelmingly positive response set the wheels in motion for what would soon become Designmatters at Art Center, the College’s innovative social-impact initiative. In addition to the Peace Corps model, the brain trust that conceived and developed Designmatters also had other influences. Erica Clark—then Art Center’s senior vice president of International Initiatives—had investigated a number of socially engaged design programs at European institutions. And here at Art Center, “Community Workshop” was already a popular graphic design class that engaged students in projects with local social-impact objectives.