Coming to a City Near You!

Public Interest Design: Training Program

There is a growing sector in the design professions known as Public Interest Design, as documented in MoMA’s Small Scale, Big Change exhibit and publications like Design Like You Give Damn. The projects in this sector are unlike traditional practice in critical ways and are an area of great potential for the future of the design professions.

Public Interest Design Institutes® provide training to design professionals with in-depth study over two days on methods of how design can address the critical issues faced by communities. Training in public interest design is a way of enhancing an existing practice and learning skills to become pro-actively engaged in community-based design through fee-based projects.

Case studies and best practices documented in the Public Interest Design Practice Guidebook and the Harvard Case Study will be presented and discussed by leaders in the field. The curriculum will be formed around the Social Economic Environmental Design® (SEED) metric, a set of standards that outline the process and principles of this growing approach to design. SEED goes beyond green design with a “triple bottom line” approach that accounts for social, economic, and environmental impact. The SEED process takes a holistic and creative approach to design, driven by community needs. This process provides a step-by-step aid for those who want to undertake public interest design.

Successful participants will earn SEED Certification. This professional training is accredited by the American Institute of Architects. Professional continuing education units (CEUs) are available to eligible professionals.

Learning objectives will address:

    • Finding new clients and public interest design projects
    • Learning about new fee sources and structures
    • Using a step-by-step process of working with a community as a design partner
    • Leveraging other partners and assets to address project challenges
    • Maximizing a project’s positive impact on a community
    • Moving beyond LEED to measure positive social, economic, and environmental impact on communities
    • Understanding public interest design and how is it re-shaping the design and planning professions

The Academic Leader of each session is Bryan Bell, Founder of Design Corps, Founder of the Public Interest Design Institute, and a Co-founder of SEED. Bell has supervised the Structures for Inclusion lecture series for 14 years, which presents best practices in community-based design. He has published two collections of essays on the topic and lectured at numerous schools including the Rural Studio with Samuel Mockbee. He has received an AIA National Honor Award in Collaborative Practice. His work has been exhibited in the Venice Biennale and the Cooper Hewitt Museum Triennial. He was a Harvard Loeb Fellow in 2010-11 and a co-recipient of the 2011 AIA Latrobe Prize, which is focused on public interest design.


Public Interest Design Institutes are made possible by funding from the Surdna Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)

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