DSI Getting Back to Nature with Danielle Skinn’s (‘20) Compostable Pillow Studio

Creative Leadership

Tiffany Gaines, ’14, graduated from NYU with a degree in Social Entrepreneurship, but she felt she was missing design. While at DSI, she got a job through the program working as a consultant for Hyatt Hotels, helping them reimagine the hotel experience. Her thesis project has become her life. Lovability, Inc. designs products to promote female empowerment and safe sex. As President of Lovability, Tiffany has lead the company from one success to another, including sales in Urban Outfitters and a feature role on CNN Money.

Ivan Boscariol, ’16, came to DSI from Piracicaba, Brazil, with an undergraduate degree in International Relations from UNESP/Franca. He was, from the first, interested in how to make governments more serviceable to people’s needs, but he also took advantage of every learning opportunity available to him in his two years of graduate school. These included an SVA Alumni Scholarship Award to complete work on his thesis, a project that diminished bullying among young school children. Today, Ivan is back in Brazil working as a Government Innovation Consultant with EloGroup, a consultancy transforming organizations in both the private and public sector by helping them grow sustainably. Ivan’s principle focus will center on developing more innovative approaches for the Brazilian government within the GovLab initiative.

Grace Kwon, ’20, is a first year student from South Korea, who is already “ripping it up” in terms of maximizing her time at DSI, including taking on analyzing the media landscape in China. She is a visual communication designer with experience in the corporate world who is here to “meet change-makes from all over the world, learn how social design can change the way businesses think and develop ideas that will support people who need it the most.” Stay tuned to Grace to see some world-changing efforts as she moves through the program.

David Rojas-León, ’16 comes from Bogotá, Colombia, and spent much of his time at DSI connecting what he learned to ways to improve the conditions of health and peace in his native country. Now, he is committed to improving healthcare. As a senior interaction designer at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai’s Arnhold Institute, David puts humans at the center of his work. His goal is to create a sustainable global health impact for poor communities, and he uses the skills he learned at DSI to transform abstract ideas into real, empathetic solutions for users.

Akshata Malhotra, ’15 comes from a family of physicians, including her husband. She is a graduate of the Strategic Design Management program at the National Institute of Design in India, with a degree in Lifestyle Accessory Design. She used her time at DSI to pursue solutions to the problems she heard the doctors in her life discuss, including one she took on for her thesis project. Called Wise MD, Akshata’s project explores how to change primary care doctors’ behavior, helping them reduce unnecessary testing. Describing the process of choosing her thesis project as a highlight of her time at DSI, Akshata says: “It’s an amazing experience. You’re encouraged to think through your life to really understand what matters to you. It’s extremely challenging but ultimately makes your work so much more meaningful.” When DSI sent her thesis out to a partner institution, it landed Akshata a job as the first designer hired by the Peterson Center on Healthcare, an organization that accelerates the adoption of innovative solutions that improve quality and lower cost on a national scale.

Tanvi Kareer, ’17, studied textile design in India, and worked with the textile-class communities in her country, researching and documenting their work. That encouraged her to use her design skills — and, she noted, her time — to prioritize people over products. “I was definitely looking for a program which was more general and more design-process oriented, rather than a specific skill,” she said. She had spent her undergrad focusing on product design, and in graduate school, she decided to diversify her experience. For her thesis, she designed a project based on financial security for people working in farming villages in western India. By learning about their peers’ journeys, students become more confident in their own story. “As much as you are able to give to the program, you’ll be able to get out of it,” she said. Now, Tanvi is putting everything she learned at DSI to work as a designer and researcher at Doblin, a global innovation firm based in Chicago.

Caroline McAndrews, ’16, majored in Urban Studies and Architecture in undergraduate school, worked at Ms for a spell and was leading research in the nonprofit sector. She came to DSI to change all that— “to cross boundaries and see new connections where there appeared to be none.” She also delivered a baby a few weeks after she delivered her final thesis. Since graduating, she won a design fellowship at Blue Ridge Labs at Robin Hood, where she came up with an idea, now called the Leap Fund. She’s now co-founder of a new venture that will bring this new financial solution that helps vulnerable people create a path towards self-sufficiency and financial independence.

The first time Linjie Deng, ’17, came to New York, in fact the first time he left China, was to come to DSI. He transformed himself from a starry-eyed observer of life in graduate school in New York City to a force of nature in addressing inequities in China’s recognition of the rights of young LGBTQs. Today, Linjie influences millions of people to think about life, and social equity, in a new and just way.

Stephen Morrison, ’18, came to DSI with all the right stuff: a love of working with multidisciplinary teams and a desire to use his talent and energy to help other people. While in school, he reimagined an Indian organization that teaches young school children to be entrepreneurs, partnered on a thesis project that helps cancer survivors survive life after cancer, won the Design Impact Group at Dalberg’s Fellowship, then got a job there almost the moment he graduated. He’s a creative leader in the process of taking off: traveling the world, and contributing to it everywhere he goes.

Sara Cornish, ’14, came to DSI from a career in advertising, because she wanted it all to mean something. She made the most of her opportunities, working while in school at the UN Global Pulse and facilitating the world’s most extraordinary data scientists, then joining Games for Change, led by DSI faculty Asi Burak. There, she was discovered by Microsoft, and now she’s living in Seattle, leading marketing for the launch of Minecraft Education. Now she’s making what she mastered mean something for students and teachers all over the world, with a way to make learning more student centered.

Manolo Ampudia, ’16, came to DSI as an industrial designer, amplified the effectiveness of placemaking in Brownsville, used his thesis project to inspire people to be more active citizens, and is now home in Mexico City building capacity at the Uncommon creative consultancy for powerful social design. The world doesn’t have to wait for Manolo any more.

Communication Design Class is one of the places DSI students develop the skills and agency to take on real world challenges. Here, on assignment in the rainforest of Ecuador, Sophia Granefelt-Lauren, ’18, and Alejandro Cercas, ’18, immerse in the world of their client Neblina Forest, an ecotourist company that helps local farmers maintain their land.

Every year, students in their first year at DSI learn to use communication design to help mission-based organizations achieve their visions. Clients have ranged from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative to the L’Oreal Corporation. This spring, clients will include the Museum of Design Atlanta; The Giving Kitchen, an organization helping restaurant workers maintain security; Ignite, helping women run for office; and Project Liberation, an organization supporting formerly-incarcerated women.Skills include mastering language to lead change, storytelling, critical thinking and writing, creative development and presentations.

Gina Kim, ’15, entered DSI as an Illustrator, won a DCFemTech award, helped young people in the autism spectrum with her thesis project, worked at the VA helping veterans get the benefits they deserve, and has just taken a new job at the American Civil Liberties Union as a product designer. Gina knows how to make a lot of good trouble.

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