Please welcome new faculty member Suzi Sosa!

Austin Center for Design is proud to welcome Suzi Sosa to our faculty. Suzi, a veteran of the thriving social entrepreneurship scene in Austin, is the Founder and President of the MPOWER Foundation, a non-profit operating foundation dedicated to the empowerment of the underserved. Suzi is passionate about social entrepreneurship and social capitalism and seeks opportunities to harness the speed, scale, and creativity of the private sector with the compassion, transparency, and stakeholder models of the non-profit world. Her background in is international development economics, and she has a Masters in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. She co-teaches Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas and is a Judge for the Dell Social Innovation Competition. She is a founder of RISE.

We’re thrilled to have Suzi joining our existing faculty. Welcome, Suzi!

Austin Center for Design in Forbes Magazine

Director Jon Kolko is interviewed in Forbes Magazine, discussing how design can change human behavior: “Good design is design that changes behavior for the better. I think it needs to take into account the context of the environment, of the human condition, the culture and then attempt to make the things you do – make us do them better, make us do better things.”

Read the whole article here.

Austin Center for Design in the New York Times

Austin Center for Design is in the New York Times; as Allison Arieff writes in her commentary The Way We Design Now, “If not objects, what? It’s a dilemma closely mirroring that of the larger American economy, which has been shifting steadily form manufacturing to service. In response, design schools are scrambling to offer curricula that moves away from what Jon Kolko describes as ‘the Bauhaus, form-giving stuff.'”

Read the rest here.

Design for Impact Bootcamp – Videos Available

Here are the instructional videos from our Design for Impact Bootcamp; please feel free to share these and use them as inspiration for your own Bootcamp events.


Jon Kolko describes how the Bootcamp works, and gives an overview of design process:


Lauren Serota provides an introduction to ethnography as a mechanism for gathering data from users:


Justin Petro describes the importance of a monetization strategy when developing for social change:

Design for Impact Boot Camp – Video

On April 24th, a number of individuals participated in our first Design for Impact Boot Camp, focused on poverty and homelessness. In collaboration with frog design, and with the generous facility support from Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, participants spent a day investigating how the design process could be applied in the social space. The goals were simple: to offer participants an introduction to the high level process for approaching large-scale social problems from a design perspective, and to better understand the challenges associated with these types of problems.

Design for Impact Boot Camp

On April 24th, a multidisciplinary team of 22 designers, technologists, and students took part in an all day Design for Impact Boot Camp. Co-sponsored by AC4D and frog design, the day-long educational experience was intended to introduce a high level process for approaching large-scale social problems, and the challenges associated with these types of problems. Additionally, the Boot Camp provided a framework in which to experience the research, synthesis and ideation processes as related to design for impact, and introduced the vocabulary necessary to speak about strategic design work, in the context of designing for impact.

    The boot camp was held at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, and with the generous facility support of Front Steps, the group was able to perform guerrilla ethnography with the homeless, the shelter security, the various volunteers, and the staff that work at Front Steps.

    You can browse through some of the lecture material that was introduced during the day:

    An introduction to Designing for Impact, by Jon Kolko. In a group conversation, participants examined the precedents that have been set in the social innovation space, discussed the holistic process of design, and began to understand why the methods of design are most appropriate for tackling these complex social problems.

    A Process for Seeing: Guerrilla Ethnography, by Lauren Serota. In the first session, the group talked about how to practice guerrilla ethnography, by using sketching visualization methods, rapid photography, and in-context conversations in order to engage with target audiences. Then, in groups, the participants tackled a design problem related to the context of poverty in Austin, Texas – and engaged the community by practicing the guerilla ethnography methods just discussed.

    Understanding Insights and Themes, by Jon Freach. As the group began meaning-making,  insights and themes began to emerge. Jon described how to capture high-level takeaways from research, and how to form actionable design directives out of these conceptual frames. Then, participants extracted insights and themes, and positioned these elements in the context of the initial design brief – designing for impact, and producing new products, systems and services.

    Externalization and Rapid Modeling, by Matt Schoenholz. The group focused on how to externalize this data and form visual representations of it. We modeled the data gathered, and created representations to capture the high level takeaways from the streets in order to build frameworks for creating new idea.

    Rapid Ideation, by Justin Petro. The insights and themes that have been extracted were then visualized. Justin introduced a structured form of ideation in order to focus on a new ideas, and described how to connect these new ideas to potential sources of funding, in order to understand their feasibility. [worksheets here]

    Here are some pictures of the day:

    We’ll have the actual design ideas presented on the site in a few days – and we’ll be sure to post when the next Design for Impact Boot Camp is coming up.

    Creative designers typically produce stuff – toasters, websites, airplanes, and cell phones – for mass production by large, for-profit corporations. These designers frequently bemoan what they observe to be a misappropriation of their talent – that their creative efforts are misguided, and the hard work and energy they are putting into product development is lacking integrity or honesty. Rarely does their work have a humanitarian element to it; the corporations that hire designers are fundamentally interested in appeasing their shareholders.

    Designing for Impact is an overt redirection of these creative design efforts, in order to tackle the large-scale humanitarian problems that plague our country and our world. The design process is purposefully applied to issues of poverty, access to clean drinking water, equality of education, and other large problems, and the outcome is a combination of products, services, and systems that are intended to better the human experience.

    After taking part in the boot camp participants will have:

    Acquired a high level process for approaching large-scale social problems, and understanding of the challenges associated with these types of problemsExperienced the research, synthesis and ideation processes as related to design for impactGained empathy with a target, at-risk populationAcquired the introductory vocabulary to speak about strategic design work, in the context of designing for impact

    The Strange Connection between Entitlement, Social Innovation,&IxD

    A new post about AC4D is up at Johnny Holland, a magazine focused on interaction design. An excerpt from the post:

    Students would contact me and describe how miserable they were with their jobs, asking for advice on new career paths or even entirely new professions. It wasn’t that their bosses were mean, or that their working hours were awful; it wasn’t even the larger issues we’ve all dealt with in the business context, like the misappropriation of designer as stylists, or the prioritization of technologists over designers. Instead, I began to hear how the benefits of ‘flow’ and ‘being creative’ and ‘solving really hard problems’ were being grossly outweighed by feelings of insignificance and irrelevance. My alumni were at the forefront of design, working at major consultancies and the heart of the Fortune 500 – and they didn’t feel like their work was meaningful.

    Read the whole post here.

    AC4D Q&A with Jon Kolko on core77

    A Q&A with director Jon Kolko is posted at core77, the premier design magazine and resource for all things progressive and intellectual about our field.

    An excerpt:

    Core77: We are excited about the new school you’ve started, the Austin Center for Design. Can you tell us more about it?Jon Kolko: The Austin Center for Design [AC4D] is a school intended to teach interaction design and social entrepreneurship. I have some lofty goals for the school: to transform society through design and design education. My vision is that the hard work and dedication that designers put into making physical products, digital artifacts, and strategy work for the Fortune 500 can be redirected towards large scale social concerns, and that new business models can be created to make this redirection of talent sustainable for all involved.

    Check out the whole Q&A here.

    Design for Impact Boot Camp – sponsored by AC4D&frog design

    frog design and Austin Center for Design are pleased to announce and host a one day Design For Impact Boot Camp. This free event will be held on Saturday, April 24th, 2010.

    After taking part in the boot camp participants will have:

    1. Acquired a high level process for approaching large-scale social problems, and understand the challenges associated with these types of problems
    2. Experienced the research, synthesis and ideation processes as related to design for impact
    3. Gained empathy with a target, at-risk population
    4. Acquired the introductory vocabulary to speak about strategic design work, in the context of designing for impact

    This aggressively-paced boot camp is intended for designers, technologists, marketers, and other professionals who are interested in extending their skill set into the realm of social innovation and design for impact. All levels of design ability are welcome; the only pre-requisite is passion. There are limited participant seats, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Learn more at

    Austin Center for Design to host virtual open house

    Come join us in a virtual open house on Thursday, April 1st, at 6:00pm central (4:00pm pacific / 5:00pm mountain / 7:00pm eastern). Through a live webcast, Director Jon Kolko will present information about the school, discuss the philosophy of learning, and walk through the curriculum.

    We’ll cover an Overview of Austin Center for Design, the Theory, Philosophy, and Pedagogy of the institution, describe the various learning modules, and have plenty of time for Q&A through live-chat.

    Please visit to register for the open house.

    ** Edit: You can watch the recording from the event at