Public Interest Design

This year marks our 25th anniversary. We see this as an opportunity – and feel a deep obligation – to re-imagine our role as an educator. In 2018, we made a bold move — we focused our educational programs to work with CPS high school students from the South and West sides of Chicago.

**Therefore, Archeworks is not offering the Certificate Program in 2019-2020.**

Since 1994, Archeworks has been on the forefront of design for social change.

We will help build the next generation of leaders that will shape their communities — with the goal of bringing much–needed diversity to the design professions. This is a multi-year commitment that starts right now, and is the first in a series of new programs that we will be rolling out in the coming year.


What is Public Interest Design?

Acting as a catalyst for social change, Public Interest Design addresses complex social problems that disproportionately impact underserved communities. It is guided by the belief that design should enhance quality of life for all, not just the privileged few.

Archeworks is committed to a definition of Public Interest Design that is action-oriented, simultaneously tactical and spontaneous, community building and self-sustaining. Through a vast network of industry experts, civic leaders, award winning practitioners and successful social entrepreneurs, Archeworks students are given the tools and access to make a difference in the world, and the accountability to do so. Over the course of the Certificate Program, Archeworks students have incubated prototype solutions, brought products to market, organized community festivals and developed strategies for community and institutional growth. Our Alumni have gone on as entrepreneurs to start social impact businesses, receive advanced degrees in design and policy, lead communities and cities forward and exhibit their work throughout the world.

Impact Driven

In the Postgraduate Certificate in Public Interest Design program, students collaborate with leaders in the public and private sector, ranging from global leaders in practice to local government to the local community, to address real world problems through an innovative design project. The Certificate Program builds core competencies inherent to successful designers and encompasses field-based research, participatory design that engages stakeholders, and rigorous experimentation and prototyping to refine concepts, proposals and interventions. Students gain theoretical and practical experience in socially responsible design while making an impact in urban communities. Our faculty of leading designers, urbanists, artists and policy makers from Chicago and beyond, provide students with creative guidance and personal mentoring.

Our Approach

The Certificate Program is guided by Archeworks’ approach to Public Interest Design: identifying opportunity, engaging a collective audience, convincing and testing ideas, and making design an agent of change.

Identify the problem and define the design challenge. Explore social, cultural and environmental problems that are multifaceted and complex, embody competing interests and institutionalized ways of thinking, and disproportionately affect disadvantaged members of society. Consider the ethical dimensions of design by exploring the research and design process in relation to personal values, the context of the problem, interest of stakeholders and decision makers, and larger societal issues.

Engage stakeholders, decision makers and the wider public to understand the relationship of ideas to meaningful impact through collective action. Explore the responsibility of design to engage stakeholders at all levels, facilitate dialogue and encourage meaningful ownership, so that strategies are actionable and public interest translates into public impact. Achieve meaningful engagement and impact through methods of public discourse, group interaction and intentional collaboration in support of mutually beneficial agendas.

Develop and test ideas against real world constraints and opportunities, finding strategies towards realization and implementation. Supported by deep research into the social and ethical dimensions of the design problem, produce generative insights and develop design solutions to evaluate within an iterative process. Consider messaging, representation and presentation to develop a coherent project narrative and convey the intent of design proposals to partners, stakeholders and allies.

Learn design and prototyping skills to create mockups and explore bringing ideas to realization. Refine creative thinking styles, strategies and methods for developing a design concept and translating it into an iterative material process. Develop skill working directly with material to advance a design agenda and use human-centered design to create change.


12 weeks – fall or spring
Design Studio: Tuesdays 6:00-9:30PM
Workshop/Lecture: Wednesdays 6:00-8:00PM
Elective Workshops: Saturdays 10:00AM-12:00PM

Certificate Program Calendar Fall2017.pdf

Evening studios sessions are complimented by elective workshops and lectures designed to provide opportunities for skill building, networking, community engagement and public discourse. Throughout the duration of the studio, students have access to mentors who are leaders in architecture, design, planning, non-profits, and policy making, gaining exposure to current trends in practice and direction for next career steps. A design review is held at the end of the program and will include community members, experts in related fields, and professional designers.

Deliverables & Outcomes

Final deliverables include design concepts and strategies supported by drawings and articulated in writing, incorporated into a final project publication (print and/or digital). Process deliverables may include documentation drawings, photographs, and/or video; transcripts from interviews; and visual presentations. The work from the studio is incorporated in a published document and made accessible online. Students have opportunities to participate in public presentations, panels, and other events over the course of the Certificate Program.