School of Visual Arts—Makeshift
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School of Visual Arts

Makeshift teaches design graduate students deep urban ethnography each spring

Institute Case Study


Sex workers, dumpster divers, subway dancers. These are some of the users our students design for each spring. In 2013, the Design for Social Innovation graduate program challenged us to create a course that pushed students out of the classroom and into the streets. Our solution was a program for discovering design insights among often-messy and scattered informal economies. Using ethnographic and design thinking methods, the students gain empathy for their subjects and find opportunities for design among personal stories. Our team is consistently inspired by the students we teach, and their feedback helps us refine our methods.



United Nations

Makeshift tracked the flow of intellectual property across Nairobi’s informal manufacturing clusters

Institute Case Study