Case Study: Inneract Project: Bringing Design To The Community
Inneract Project: Bringing Design To The Community
Inneract Project (IP) is an organization formed for the purposes of providing under-resourced youth access to fields in design via professionally supported education, collaboration and community-based initiatives, connecting design with urban communities, schools and families.
IP provides middle school students access to design in an inspirational college-like setting, at an age when aptitude and curiosity can be best cultivated. At IP, it is very important to us to increase diversity in the field of visual communications because we believe that finding the best solutions to problems in the world around us requires the input of different types of people from different age levels, experiences and backgrounds.
Our program is run entirely by a 12-person committee of volunteers, and our classes are taught by local design professionals who volunteer their time to teach their craft. Classes are held at Academy of Art University in San Francisco and Ex’pression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville, California.
Our strategy includes three key elements:
1. Educating young people and their communities about the field of design and potential design careers.
Design is not taught in a traditional K-12 education. Some people come across design through college classes, but many aren’t exposed to it at all aside from their unconscious interactions with design in everyday life. Often, there is confusion about the difference between the concepts of “design” and “art.”
Inneract Project’s free workshops educate kids, their parents and the broader community about design, showing that design is a worthwhile and valuable profession to pursue. They also educate participants on how to leverage design to solve real-world problems. IP creates a classroom experience with hands-on projects, teaching what it means to design something. Teachers work with students, and students work together in small classes consisting of 10 to 15 kids. In addition, parents are encouraged to work with their children outside of classes through Learning Labs, studio tours, lectures and one-day workshops for both children and parents focused on hands-on learning of a single design discipline / activity. IP also partners with community organizations to engage in real-life design projects. This holistic approach creates a learning experience that offers students relevant context. Parents, families and community figures continue the dialogue with kids outside of the classroom, making design more relatable.
2. Linking designers to underserved youth—providing a place for designers to give back and for youth to be mentored by real practitioners.
Inneract Project is run entirely by volunteers. Our education chair (one of the 12-person IP committee) works extensively with teacher volunteers (local design professionals) to craft detailed lesson plans for each class session. Teachers use these structured lesson plans and leverage their own professional knowledge base to develop curriculum centered around problem solving using design concepts. Past class concepts have included visual communication design, architecture, fashion design and photography.
Our middle school students are taught to think critically, collaborate with other students and come up with creative solutions to problems. They are exposed to something resembling a college educational setting at a young age, which may positively influence them to pursue college in the future. Working with teachers who are real practitioners in the industry provides students with role models and real-life insights into what a design professional does. Throughout our program, students populate their own design portfolios with the work they complete in the classroom. These portfolios are theirs to keep, and they may take them to other educational programs and use them in the search for job opportunities.
3. Adding diversity to design communities, to broaden the scope of ideas, processes and solutions to problems in the world today.
Diversity is a concern that spans all design disciplines. We cannot efficiently and effectively solve problems in the world today without the input of diverse subsets of people. Diversity sparks creativity, brings new ideas to the table, and broadens our perspective. Inneract Project’s mission is to encourage minorities and lower income children to learn about design and contribute their experience and ideas to the field. Our program works with young people who are primarily of African American, Hispanic and Asian decent, and come from middle to low socioeconomic backgrounds.
At IP, we believe this disparity is caused by a lack of exposure and access to design. We are working to change this by encouraging minorities and lower income children to join our program and pursue design careers. Our program is specifically geared toward teaching those in underserved neighborhoods about what design is and how the design process works. Even if students don’t become designers after joining our program, they become aware of design’s relevance in the world, which is a big first step.
Inneract Project teaches design to approximately 120 children per year. Our students are taught to think critically, collaborate with other students and come up with creative solutions to problems. Working with teachers who are real practitioners in the industry provides students with role models and real life examples of what a design professional does. Throughout our program, students populate their own design portfolios with the work they complete in the classroom. These portfolios are theirs to keep and take with them to other educational programs and/or job opportunities. Even if these students do not go on to pursue design careers, they all begin to think about college education at an early age.
Two graduates of the Inneract Project program recently participated in an illustration project for a book written by the SAGE Scholars Program at UC Berkeley. The students produced over 30 graphics and illustrations for the book, leveraging the design skills they developed in IP classes. The book was subsequently published, and both students received credit for their work along with payment for their services. Most importantly, the students built their portfolio and gained experience contributing to and completing an actual design project for a real client.
A graduate of the Inneract Project program also recently received the Herb Alpert Emerging Young Artists Award, which is a $40,000 scholarship to be used towards four years of full-time college attendance.
Inneract Project engages the Bay Area community at large to think about design and the impact it has on everything around us. Our hands-on projects focus on real world problems and challenge participants to come up with innovative solutions to issues they face in the community every day. Inneract Project aims to reinforce that design is a worthwhile and rewarding profession. We are continuing to gain momentum in raising design awareness by developing a video series on the impact of design, partnering with parents, community organizations, and local design professionals.