Design for America welcomes our newest studio, University of Michigan, to the DFAmily! Inspired after attending the DFA Leadership Studio Conference in August 2017, students Abril Vela, Uriel Lee, and Ken Kaufman were eager to begin using the human centered design process to bring about social change. In Fall 2017, the students rallied an enthusiastic group of their peers from a variety of backgrounds and worked together to launch DFA UMich.

Passionate about collaborating with communities of Ann Arbor, the team partnered with Avalon Housing, a permanent housing organization serving previously homeless individuals in Washtenaw County, where the students began to focus on challenges within assisted community living. They spent their time fostering a strong connection with both the staff and clients of Avalon while brainstorming areas in which impact could be made.

 DFA UMich students in the beginning stages of the design process.

Several ideas and hundreds of post-it notes later, the team came up with two challenges: Transforming space and utility of existing furniture to improve the quality of life for the residents, and supporting those who cannot get up without assistance. In addressing these challenges the students asked themselves, “How can we temporarily transform existing Avalon furniture to increase functionality and durability?” and “How can we provide an assistive device for both staff and residents to use in order to bring fallen residents into an optimal position to get them up after a fall?” Using lessons on reframing and building, they designed an environment that liberates the residents with flexible living spaces; for example, more supportive furniture frames, a leveraging mechanism for reorienting fallen residents, modular tables for storage and space, and re-fillable couch covers to provide support and prolong life in sofas and stuffed furniture.

DFA UMich students building prototypes.

DFA UMich plans to continue these projects throughout the Spring 2018 semester and implement solutions with the Avalon House in May. We are excited for what they’ve done thus far and know it is just a glimpse of what’s to come in the future!

To connect with the studio, follow them on Facebook.