In the fall of 2011 the University of Oregon started a Design for America studio team. Design for America ( or, DFA) is a network of student teams who collaboratively and creatively use design to create solutions to problems in their communities—in Eugene, the teams decided to focus on educational concerns for children with autism and living conditions for the homeless, in hopes that their innovative designs will become helpful additions to our community.
Other DFA studios can be found at universities like Cornell, Dartmouth, and Columbia—but the UO DFA team doesn’t compare themselves to their prestigious sister-teams.
DFA isn’t a class to these product design students, who devote most of their free time to meet together and work. They get hands-on experience with the skills they’ve learned and developed in school and apply them to real-life situations.
The UO DFA Autism team collaborated with the Bridgeway House, a local center for children with autism, to further study what unmet needs these children have and what they could design to help them. The Homelessness team interviewed some homeless at the White Bird Clinic, an agency that helps the homeless in Lane County, and found that wetness from the constant Northwest rain is the source to many problems the homeless face, like trench foot.
Two terms have passed since UO DFA started; they’ve lost some teammates and a few projects have been put away for future innovative designers. But, for the remaining two teams (the autism team and the homelessness team), the laboring research is over and the fun is about to begin—it’s prototyping time. Product design is what many of these students eat, drink, and breathe so they’ve been itching to get their designs off the drawing boards and into their hands.
Interested in joining DFA? The UO team has no plans of starting any new projects this term, but they welcome students of all majors interested in their current projects to contact them. There’s always a need for extra hands and minds! For more information and/or to keep up with the teams check out the UO DFA blog.