Design for Good resources

Filed Under: Design for Good

Looking for additional ways to design for good? This list of organizations and programs is a great place to start.

Looking for an organization that pairs designers with nonprofits or provides guidelines on running a nonprofit project in your area? See our act and advocate list.

Are you a student or professional seeking ideas for internships, mentorships, professional development opportunities or graduate programs in the social impact realm? Check out our learn and grow list.

Do you have a socially impactful design project that would benefit from a grant? Or perhaps another form of support could help you turn your great idea into reality? Review our fund and support list.

Act and advocate

Advertisers Without Borders is an international network of advertising professionals who have a true passion for social causes.

All for Good makes it simple to find ways to do good by helping people connect with service activities in their communities. The site brings together service opportunities from local and national organizations to help you find volunteer activities that fit your time and interests.

Association for Community Design (ACD), a a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is a network of individuals, organizations, and institutions committed to increasing the capacity of planning and design professions to better serve communities. ACD serves and supports practitioners, educators, and organizations engaged in community-based design and planning.

Catchafire is an online pro bono talent network that matches professionals who want to give their skills with purpose-driven nonprofits and social enterprises that need their help to build capacity. Matches are made based on a variety of characteristics including skills, cause interests, and time availability.

>Center for Urban Pedagogy is a nonprofit organization that uses the power of design and art to improve meaningful civic engagement. CUP collaborates with designers, educators, advocates, students, and communities to make educational tools that demystify complex policy and planning issues.

CreateAthon is a national organization that provides guidelines for marketing, advertising and public relations firms to participate and run their own 24-hour, work-around-the-clock creative blitz, during which nonprofit marketing services are provided on a pro bono basis.

Design Assign: Creativity for Causes is an annual collaborative partnership that gives back to the greater Des Moines area community through design. Alongside AIGA Iowa, area creatives use their talents to provide local non-profit organizations with communications products that help raise awareness and funds for their causes.

Design for America teaches human centered design to young adults and collaborating community partners and implements innovative solutions based on insights into human needs, rapid prototyping, user-testing, and interdisciplinary team work. Design for America currently addresses national challenges in education, health, and environment and is constantly seeking mentors and students to participate.

Design Global Change is a creative think tank comprised of a transdisciplinary group of students and alumni from the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford, that pairs students with non-profits and uses design thinking to provide positive solutions to communities in need (mostly related to education, wellness and health issues).

Design is Love is a website that provides stimulating opportunities for their members to explore their creativity through funded projects and engaging communication, along with a match-making system that brings creatives and non-profit organizations together—taking the positive energy promoted on designislove.org and sharing it with the world at-large.

Design Trust for Public Space is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the future of public space in New York City. Its projects bring together city agencies, community groups and private sector experts to make a lasting impact–through design–on how New Yorkers live, work and play.

Design that Matters (DtM) is a 501c3 nonprofit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts that creates new products that allow social enterprises in developing countries to offer improved services and scale more quickly. DtM has built a collaborative design process through which hundreds of volunteers in academia and industry donate their skills and expertise to the creation of breakthrough products for communities in need.

D-Rev is a non-profit technology incubator based in Palo Alto, CA, whose mission is to improve the health and incomes of people living on less than $4 per day. The organization has ongoing opportunities for volunteers.

EPIC | Engaging Philanthropy, Inspiring Creatives is a Chicago-based organization that hosts a number of eight-week creative rallies each year, pairing hand-picked volunteers from the advertising and design industries with nonprofit clients dedicated to education, children and families. During the rally, teams create programs and materials—on a strictly pro bono basis—that their nonprofit client will use to positively impact the lives of those they serve.

Firebelly Foundation, in Chicago, supports Reason to Give, a nonprofit program, that shares the stories of Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood and connects people who care with people who need a hand.

Good Thinking is an Atlanta-based volunteer creative service organization that provides communication tools to qualified Not for Profit 501c3 organizations (NPOs) that provide health, education and/or welfare services to Greater Atlanta families. Good Thinking draws volunteers from every creative discipline to work in teams on efficient schedules within a defined scope. The organization has the capacity to provide recipient NPOs any creative service tool that fulfills the approved scope, budget an schedule. Volunteers work with talented peers under the direction of the city’s best creative leaders.

!mpact sessions archive contains free 30-minute webinars that explore how design-driven ideas for social good are launched. Presented by Impact! Design for Social Change, the School of Visual Arts and Design Ignites Change in 2013–2014.

INDEX: is a Danish-based, non-profit organization that works globally to promote and apply both design and design processes that have the capacity to improve the lives of people worldwide through a biennial competition focused on design to improve life, education, labs, large-scale public events and communication.

Project H is a nonprofit focused on the transformation of curricula, environments, and experiences for K-12 educational institutions in the US, centering around their cornerstone initiative: the Studio H design/build high school program, launched in Bertie County School, NC, and now based in Berkeley, CA. Their two other core programs are Girls Garage, a design and building program for girls, and Unprofessional Development, a workshop series for teachers.

Taproot Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., that matches pro bono business talent with nonprofit organizations working to improve society that could otherwise not access the marketing, design, technology, management or strategic planning resources they need to succeed.

UX for Good is a design competition that brings together top user experience and visual designers to tackle vexing social challenges with the help of executives from leading non-profit organizations addressing those challenges.

Worldstudio Foundation is a nonprofit devoted exclusively to encouraging social responsibility in the design and arts professions and helping the next generation of artist, architects and designers realize their dreams while being pro-actively involved in their communities, through an array of initiatives. Worldstudio Foundation offers scholarships and mentoring programs in the fine and applied arts.

Learn and grow

Camp Firebelly is a summer design program that selects bright, talented students from across the country to live in the Firebelly Design studio in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois for 10 days. While in residence, 10 student campers live and work with Firebelly to craft a strategic design solution for a non-profit client, from initial research to final implementation.

Creative States is an online media platform exploring bold new creativity in the public realm. Its mission is to revive healthy civic dialogue and citizen ingenuity in politics, public sector, and civic space.

Design for Social Innovation, an MFA program at the School of Visual Arts (SVA), applies the methodology of design to the creation of new models, products and services that address the complex social and environmental challenges facing businesses, governments and society. Students work at the intersection of design, social innovation and enterprise, using design as a tool for social and environmental impact.

Design Ignites Change is a national initiative of Worldstudio, that engages high school and college students in multidisciplinary design and architecture projects that address pressing social issues. Participants are encouraged to apply unleashed creativity and executable actions to problems that exist in their own communities.

D-Lab is a program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) that fosters the development of appropriate technologies and sustainable solutions within the framework of international development. D-Lab’s mission is to improve the quality of life of low-income households through the creation and implementation of low cost technologies.

Designmattersis a program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena that focuses on the intersection of art and design and social change and aims to help students develop the skills to translate meaningful ideas into actionable solutions.

DESIS (Design for Social Innovation towards Sustainability ) is a worldwide network of design labs, based in design-oriented schools universities, involved in promoting sustainable change. In the U.S., labs include Designmatters at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, Parsons DESIS Lab in NEW York, NY, Carnegie Mellon DESIS Lab in Pittsburgh, PA, and DESIS Lab SCAD in Savannah, GA.

Foresight Immersion is the nation's leading hands-on sustainable civic innovation program based in Chicago, IL. Developed over ten years, Immersion is a seven-week summer program that provides emerging leaders with the guiding methodologies, foundational knowledge, project experience, skills and network to create sustainable impact in an evolving landscape. Participants from all majors and professional backgrounds work in interdisciplinary teams to develop insight, identify barriers, and innovate solutions to real world problems across the business, government, and nonprofit sectors. 

Impact Design Hub is an online resource for those committed to designing a better world. It provides information and tools for impact designers to do more meaningful work. As the next incarnation of the popular PublicInterestDesign.org, Impact Design Hub aims to build a more robust website for those involved in public interest, humanitarian, social impact, and community design.

!mpact: Design for Social Change, a summer program of the School of Visual Arts (SVA), offers design, communication and architecture professionals two kinds of workshops: one focused on developing strategic foundations for socially minded design projects, and the other engaging participants in creating, as team members, project for a NYC community based non-profit.

Implementing Social Change: Beginner's Workshop is a workshop led by PellegrinoLab that guides attendees through the critical processes of actualizing solutions to social challenges with a sense of entrepreneurial spirit. An interactive presentation is followed by small group workgroups where participants apply new skills to actual projects. The workshop is available nationally, but must be arranged and scheduled via PellegrinoLab in advance.

Project M is an annual intensive summer program in Greensboro, AL, for young creative people inspired to contribute to the greater good, and looking for a platform to collaborate and generate ideas and projects bigger than themselves. The program encourages and provides techniques for thinking in a non-linear way in order to generate new ideas and design directions in a way that brings about true innovation and creative exploration.

Public Interest Design Institutes® provide training to design professionals with in-depth study over two days on methods of how design can address the critical issues faced by communities. Training in public interest design is a way of enhancing an existing practice and learning skills to become pro-actively engaged in community-based design through fee-based projects.

Fund and support

ArtPlace believes that art, culture and creativity expressed powerfully through place can create vibrant communities, thus increasing the desire and the economic opportunity for people to thrive in place. It is all about the local.

Kickstarter is the world's largest funding platform for creative projects. On Kickstarter, project creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work, but only if a project reaches its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands.

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The Foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.

The National Endowment for the Arts recognizes design's ever-present role by funding activities across the design disciplines that encourage, preserve, and disseminate the best in American and global design and its impact on communities.

The Public Access Design Fellowship provided by Center for Urban Pedagogy, allows New York City-based artists and designers to apply their design skills to contribute to social change. Fellows collaborate with CUP and a community organization to create multimedia projects that use design to make complex urban issues accessible to the New Yorkers most affected by them.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation Fund supports creativity and the arts, with an emphasis on innovation. The Foundation awards two-year grants for groundbreaking creative work that enriches the city’s cultural life and strengthens the role that the arts will play in the future of New York.

Sappi | Ideas that Matter is a grant program established to recognize and support designers who generously donate their time and talent to a wide range of charitable activities with a primarily aim on supporting the creative ideas of designers that have an impact beyond the aesthetic and that are a powerful force for social good.

This list of resources was compiled and edited with help from Zofia Klajs, graphic designer, artist, and printmaker based in Warsaw, Poland. Klajs is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Graphic Arts of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Fulbright Visiting Researcher and Kosciuszko Foundation short term Scholar at Parsons The New School for Design in New York City (2014, 2016).