Design for America was originally conceived of at the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern University by assistant professor Liz Gerber in October 2008 as a way to engage students in solving local social issues using the human-centered design process. The DFA process focuses on empathy with specific user groups to develop unique insights that lead to innovative solutions that are daring, feasible and applicable to communities throughout the country.
Joined by student co-founders Mert Iseri, Yuri Malina, and Hannah Chung, the founding DFA studio started in February of 2009 in the Segal Design Institute and has since grown to 14 colleges and universities throughout the country.
This model of service learning and local community engagement for students is called Extra-curricular Design Based Learning (EDBL) and is a response to the demands of the Millennial generation to make meaning and social impact through their professional practice. DFA continues to be supported by Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering.