2015’s Strategic Journey with XPLANE

XPLANE cover photo

This year, Design for America has been lucky enough to work with XPLANE, a strategic design consultancy in Portland that applies human-centered design principles to drive organizational performance.

One of our wonderful alumni Sara Mesing, who co-founded the Case Western Reserve|Cleveland Institute of Art Design for America studio, currently works for XPLANE. In January, Sara pitched DFA to be selected as XPLANE’s social good client for 2015, and we have been working together ever since.

Preparing for a Natural Disaster with Illumiloon


Along with receiving a DFA Impact Grant, the DFA Yale project Illumiloon made a name for itself as part of the South By Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin, TX this year by partnering with the Field Innovation Team (FIT).

Tom’s Guide coverage of SXSW said, “The Illumiloon from Yale University was one of the simplest but potentially most useful robots on display.”

After being approached by natural disaster innovator, Desiree Matel Anderson, Design for America challenged their national network to find solutions to local natural disasters. Responding to this call and their personal experiences with hurricane Sandy, Illumiloon was born.

The team created Illumiloon to be used as a method of communication during natural disasters when other methods of communication fail. These self-inflating, helium-filled balloons would be attached to the homes of disaster victims and can be customized with color-coded tags to signal different needs – such as food, water, or medical attention.

Promoting Biking in New Haven

The cozy, communal streets of New Haven have been amped up thanks to Yale University DFAers.

Douglas Wong, Joel Sher and Cameron Yick have been creating “ArtRacks” to enhance the New Haven society. Their project showcases non-traditional, custom bike racks to bring attention to the importance of health, community and positive impact.


Tinker Turf Encouraging Children to Learn and Play

Untitled-1Tinker Turf, a DFA Northwestern summer studio project from 2011, has been implemented by the Chicago Children’s Museum! Read more about the project and the team’s design process!

How did you guys get started with the project?

Our team was brought together through the 2011 DFA Summer Studio to partner and work with the Chicago Children’s Museum on their prospective “Tinkering” exhibit. We worked with our partner to define “tinkering,” explore existing successful spaces, and generate ideas for the future exhibit.

DFA UIUC Works to Improve Medical Records

We interviewed our friends at DFA University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign about their project, the Blue Button Narrative. The Blue Button re-envisions the patient’s medical record to make it intuitive and therefore actively engage the patient in his/her own health. Read more about their design process and its unique results!


Luna Lights: Preventing Falls for Older Adults

Luna Lights is a project that started at the DFA Summer Studio 2013 at Northwestern University. It focuses on providing a way for older adults to safely and conveniently navigate through their homes at night and therefore prevent falling. Check out the intense process they went through to get to their concept!


How did you guys get started with the project?

Our initial challenge statement was “how can we prevent older adults from falling?” In the beginning of the project, we learned about why this issue was important to us and what the final product would be. It was great to know that we all had a genuine sense of respect for the older adults and were sincerely trying to solve this problem.

Fruit Buddi Pushes on to Help Prevent Childhood Obesity

We interviewed the DFA team at Northwestern University about their project, Fruit Buddi, which works to deal with the issue of childhood obesity and promote healthier food choices. Read about the various obstacles, challenges, and successes that Fruit Buddi has come to face as it has matured and been continued through the design process.

DFA UIUC Featured Ideators on OpenIDEO


As a departure from our usual focus on a single Featured Ideator – this month we’re highlighting a motivated group of students. DFA UIUC stands for Design for America studio at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – part of the national Design for America network of interdisciplinary student-led design studios. They are a mix of over 100 designers, engineers, business students, social scientists, architects, both undergraduate and grad students, American and international. They explore social problems in Urbana-Champaign, seeking to make impact, using human-centered design. They were high-flyers on our E-waste Challenge, with their Chargers & Cords Exchange Box & E-cycle Truck ideas featuring in the winners list.

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