Design for America: Embracing Human-Centered Design

| Adam J. Hecktman

Big Shoulders Design for America

Industry leaders, visionaries in all fields, and entrepreneurs are putting a sharp focus on design. In the past, design was synonymous with making something visually appealing or functionally beautiful, so it was often an afterthought. Design is more often now a key consideration at the front-end of a project. This is to ensure that all pieces work both in harmony with each other, with their environment, and with the people who use the products that are created. When considering the notion of how something will be used and how it will fit into the existing world than, where else would design be more vital than when tackling a social impact challenge within a community?

Enter Design for America (DfA). Based out of Northwestern University, DfA is a network of student-led campus studios that leverage the talents of teams from all backgrounds and disciplines that come together to tackle local/social challenges using design. Formed in 2011 to inspire students to take their creativity into their communities, DfA now boasts 29 studios and nearly 900 students.  

I got to know a few of the DfA folks who are on the Northwestern campus. They explained to me “human-centered design”, an approach to design centered around continuous learning by talking to those who will be using (and impacted by) their solution.  They incorporate that feedback, adjust their design, and iterate.   

What impressed me most about these young people is that are passionate about experiencing first-hand how design can (and must) be used in order to improve the station. In this episode of Big Shoulders, you will meet a program leader, a fellow, and an entrepreneur who leveraged the DfA model while building his social-impact business.   

Watch my discussion with the DfA team live on Advisor.TV.

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Adam J. Hecktman

You may recognize Adam. He’s a regular on TV, you can hear him on the radio, he’s penned numerous articles and is the co-founder of the Chicago City Data Users Group. But some of Adam’s most important work is done behind the scenes in his role as Microsoft’s Director of Technology and Civic Engagement for Chicago. Tech giants, universities and government leaders turn to Adam for guidance on all matters technology, and he happily obliges, helping Chicago overcome challenges and capitalizing on new, exciting opportunities.