1546206_799226110123898_1467500247545835600_nWe’re always open to building new partnerships with professionals and faculty who want to work with passionate students. Industry professionals and mentors provide expertise that is important in making projects successful.

It goes without saying that our students benefit greatly from the participation of design professionals in DFA, and we appreciate all the volunteer hours our communities devote to DFA.


  • Opportunity to apply your design skills for the benefit of local (and scalable) social change projects that have the potential to affect the quality of life for others.
  • Opportunity to network with faculty, fellow professionals, and local organizations from different design domains and areas of expertise.
  • Opportunity to introduce your field and organization to enthusiastic, talented, motivated students. This might even lead to interns and future employees for your organization.
  • Opportunities for new learning, experimentation, and practiced teaching and facilitation skills.
  • Opportunity to highlight your and your company’s involvement with the local community and social innovation. We are happy to provide any collateral that may be useful for you to share your experiences in working with DFA that you might include in a newsletter or blog update.


We recognize that design professionals are busy and client emergencies can derail a DFA commitment.  That is why we have structured involvement with DFA to be as flexible as possible for design professionals and an openness to collaborating virtually, so that student needs are covered and design professionals have a satisfactory experience with the their studio.

DFA ANCHOR- Let’s Build a Community Together
Approximate time commitment of 5hrs/month, although this will vary according to the time of year:
The role of a DFA Anchor is to develop a network of professionals within the studio’s location and connect DFA teams to needed expertise throughout different phases of the design process. As a DFA Anchor, you are the connector between the students and the community of professionals in the area.

  • Meet/skype with student teams once a month to get project updates and connect teams to any relevant design professionals if needed.
  • Respond to and coordinate local interest from professionals to get involved.
  • Invite design professionals to studio review sessions.
  • Organize social events throughout the school year with students, faculty and professionals to help build the local community.
  • Correspond with DFA HQ and fellow Anchors to share best practices

TEAM COACHES- Let’s Work on a Project Together
Time Commitment:1-2 hours ever week/ every other week
Team-anchored coaches meet on a regular basis with their specific teams throughout the term, sometimes in person, sometimes virtually, to guide them through their design projects from User Research to Implementation Plan.

WORKSHOP FACILITATOR- I’d like to Share My Skills and Expertise
Time Commitment: 2-4 hours + prep time
Help students from all majors understand the different stages of the design process. Presenters design and facilitate a session related to a specific topic for an interactive workshop with a studio’s members. These bootcamps generally contain an intro presentation with background information, examples from the field, followed by a hands on experience and reflection to get the students involved and run-through of the learning. You will work with the student leaders and studio mentors to go over any logistics in arranging your bootcamp.

Bootcamp Topics Can Include:

  • UNDERSTAND: How cans students best conduct user-research and makes sense of their data to inform meaningful projects?
  • CREATE: How can students brainstorm as many ideas as possible, prototype them or test if they work?
  • IMPLEMENT: What are the ways teams can secure resources to implement their ideas and tell their story to inspire others?

GUEST REVIEWER- I’d Love to Stay Updated on Projects
Time Commitment: 2-4 hours/term
Guest Reviewers join us during our review sessions throughout the term to offer professional insight into each team’s project.  Your feedback during these times will be invaluable for the growth and development of the teams.

11880559_10153571900304894_6566843799606770930_nAt the start of each semester, we take students of each class from all majors and backgrounds. If you share our passion for innovation, entrepreneurship, and design, email us with any questions. Check back at the start of the semester for to apply.

As a Duke student, you participate project teams. Teams pick a topic they’re passionate about—poverty, education, or sustainability, for example—and then work to design something that solves that problem. Our teams are interdisciplinary; we want you to contribute your unique skills whether your major is Engineering, English, Education, or something in between. Project teams generally run for a semester or two and require at least one meeting per week, but there are opportunities to get involved no matter how crazy your schedule is.

Besides working on our projects, we have events along the way to learn new skills, connect with the design community in Raleigh/Durham, and eat free food. Stop by one of our studio meetings sometime—we’d love to have you join us.

DFA is a great opportunity to learn useful design skills, meet new people, build stuff, and make a real impact in the world while you’re “just” a student. And, of course, DFA is a lot of fun!

You can join our listserv by clicking (here).

11902244_10153551716669894_1314015450365280992_nDFA Teams work with community partners each semester to create new solutions to various problems.

Thank you so much for your interest in working with DFA Duke! We could not do this without our community partners. Community partners are an essential component to DFA. Our community partners are the experts in the domain in which we work. Student teams are not expected to start with in-depth knowledge of the subject they are tackling, but rather aim to work with our partners, the community, as well as additional research to truly understand the issues at hand. Our student teams aim to work with you to understand the needs of your benefactors and work with your community in hopes of discovering where design can make a difference.

Design for America Duke works on projects that are Daring, Feasible and Applicable to communities throughout the country. We work best when our partners are within a 15 minute radius of Duke’s campus so that teams may work with benefactors and community experts as frequently as possible. As teams move forward on their designs, they rely on our partners and their community for feedback and guidance. We hope that as a partner you will share our passion in finding a ripple cause where design can make a difference and improve the lives of those you serve.


You can expect our students to bring a lot of enthusiasm, energy, and creativity to uncovering and addressing challenges within your organization or your users’ experience, and to take the project very seriously. You can also expect that they will be in regular contact with you while being respectful of your schedule.

Our students’ design process involves:

  • Conducting in-depth research, including interviewing potential users and analyzing user needs.
  • Reframing the challenge statement originally delivered to them to better suite the users’ needs.
  • Ideating & brainstorming possible solutions to innovate and develop new solutions.
  • Mocking-up these solutions and testing them with the user.
  • Formulating a coherent concept at the end of the term to either be handed off to partner or continued into the next term depending on student and partner interest.


Design for America uses a holistic human-centered design approach to tackle local community issues. To allow for innovation and creativity to flourish, often times the specific end result remains unknown until teams start ideating and mocking-up their solutions. However, previously, DFA projects have resulted in a product, experience, system, or service. To see more information on projects from across the DFA network, click here.


DFA Duke projects are most successful when clients take an active role in the design process. Clients are expected to participate in:

Students participate in the School Year studio as an extracurricular activity, meaning they do not get paid and it is not for credit. They are driven solely by their desire to learn and create an impact in their community. Students are expected to give 3-5 hours/week of their time to DFA projects.

  • Meet with DFA student team 2-3 times/semester for user interviews.
  • Recommend other community partners that might be helpful for them to talk to.
  • Allow student team to test their concepts with organization or users to receive feedback on initial ideas.
  • Offer feedback to student team to determine what is feasible and most helpful for the challenge.

Once concepts have been created and tested, teams have the option to continue their project further into implementation the following term should their be mutual interest from community partner and students in continuing to pursue project.

To get involved, please email us or fill out the contact form below.

Your Full Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Email: duke@designforamerica.com