In July 2015, DFA Northwestern members launched the first annual Jiang China Human-Centered Design Challenge. Created by DFA Northwestern student Jenny Wang and alumna Cassie Coravos, the Jiang China HCD Challenge is a two-week design crash course for Chinese college students who want to make a positive social impact. After developing the program over one year, they traveled to China with a team of design instructors to put their plans in action!



User Research Under the Sun
User research under the sun


Based in the city of Hangzhou, the Jiang China HCD Challenge participants worked with the community to tackle problems ranging from mobility for all abilities to aiding the visually impaired. While there, the design instructors also hosted an HCD workshop open to the entire city of Hangzhou, where people of all ages participated to address the issues they faced through design. The curriculum was supplemented with visits to IDEO and Microsoft, during which they toured the office spaces and learned about the professional design industry.


Recycling Project: Reusable cup with barcode that enables story sharing for travelers.



Public Workout Space: Redesign a workout space for the elderly to promote a sense of community, and encourage a healthy lifestyle



In an interview, Jenny explained that this idea stemmed from her 3-year experience at the DFA Northwestern studio. Upon learning the HCD process for the first time as a freshman, Jenny was instantly inspired and eager to share the process with her friends back home. In creating this program, one of Jenny’s goals is to enable Chinese students to solve problems and create social impact in China.

“From an organizer’s perspective, scoping projects was challenging because we didn’t want to give them too many restrictions, but we also don’t want the projects to be too broad,” Jenny said. “The intersection is very important – they need guidance but they also need room to be creative.”


Stroller Project: Durable stroller lifting method for parents with children of the age 2-5 to improve their traveling experience when approaching stairs.



Blind Path: Integrated system of blind path, bus stop and bus base on current facilities in Hangzhou to assist visually impaired people to take bus smoothly.



The two-week curriculum was based off of DFA Northwestern’s Summer Studio program, a six-week intensive program that walks through the entire DFA process with community members, as well as the Design Thinking & Communication (DTC) course, an introductory design course taught at Northwestern University.

“At the end of the program, most of them said this changed their career path,” Jenny said, reflecting on how the participants grew their skills in HCD. “We also grew a community where people with similar dreams are connected, which is a very cool aspect.”

The Jiang China HCD Challenge is currently looking for leaders for next year’s program in 2016. Check out their website to learn more about the program, and apply here if you’re interested in training leaders of innovation in China!


Jenny and Cassie would like to thank DFA and the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern for all of their help in making this program possible. They would also like to thank all of their sponsors – the Daring Q Foundation, Northwestern University, China Academy of Art, HeCaila, and Black Apple – without whom the Jiang China HCD Challenge would not be possible.

We would also like to thank Jenny and Cassie for spreading the DFA process and values to make social impact across the globe!