Community Design Studio is rooted in its founders' love for the city and people of Winston-Salem, and a vision for its future as a truly equitable and sustainable city.
Having experienced the power of design thinking in their respective fields of graphic design, architecture, environmental design, and industrial design, a group of designers wondered how this method of problem solving could be brought to bear on grand challenges faced by communities—issues such as homelessness, environmental degradation, and racism.
Meeting in the summer of 2011, these designers worked to craft a name and a mission for a unique and valuable organization, dedicated to bringing design into conversations about Winston-Salem's future. Community Design Studio was born.
Since its beginning, Community Design Studio's growth has been based in design methodology. First by researching and empathizing, learning from businesses and nonprofits practicing public interest design across the country, as well as from local not-for-profit organizations. Then designing a model that caters this knowledge to our local context. Finally, prototyping and testing our model in real time through planned events and strategic partnerships. Each time this cycle has ended, we have learned from our successes and failures, going back to the beginning of the design process to start again.
Through this process, the Community Design Studio continues to refine its place in the city and in the growing field of public interest design. In a city filled with creativity, goodwill, and numerous not-for-profit organizations, the Community Design Studio has worked to find a niche by positioning itself as an organization that convenes existing resources. A multidisciplinary design team, we are the next generation of the community design centers of the 1960s: focused on process over product; on community engagement over designer volunteerism; and on convening resources for collective impact over expertise-based silos.
Today we are secure in our mission—we believe it is more important than ever to engage diverse voices in conversations about our collective future. We have cultivated community partners who believe in the value of the design process. And we believe that the power of design thinking and prototyping, when strategically implemented to harness collective expertise, can shed new light on the grand challenges of our time.
Through workshops such as Design for Worldview, we work with community partners to develop human-centered solutions to challenges our community faces. We start with helping communities articulate their needs, generating innovative solutions, protyping those solutions, and identifying ways to incite collective action to implement those solutions.
Our Summer Design Challenge gives student interns the context in which to practice design thinking for the public interest to solve real-world problems in our community. With the goal to draw talent to our city, and to encourage young designers to put their ideas to work, we partner with local firms and designers to provide solutions to community issues.
We participate in design competitions, stage design interventions, publish writing, create toolkits, host lectures, and organize local events, all in an effort to promote the idea of design as a vehicle for positive change. We strive to be thought-leaders and action instigators in order to transform our city into a more sustainable and equitable place for all people.