Design and Arts Corps

Partnering with community to make the world a better place.

About Design and Arts Corps

An initiative of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the Design and Arts Corps (DAC) builds on the ASU Charter centering access, equity and purpose-driven research while taking “fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities” we serve. In partnership with community, we use design, art and culture to consciously advance well-being and strengthen participatory democracy. When fully realized, the Design and Arts Corps will be the largest socially engaged design and arts program in the nation, and all Herberger Institute students will participate in DAC projects at least once during their studies at ASU. Three levels of participatory engagement place Herberger Institute students, faculty and staff in direct and ethical collaboration with the community in executing design-and arts-based programming/actions that activate community goals while facilitating experiential learning and purpose-driven research. 


The Design and Arts Corps partners with communities to place designers, artists, scholars and educators in public life and prepares students to use their creative capacities to advance culture, strengthen democracy and imaginatively address today’s most pressing challenges. 


Communities, designers and artists working together to make the world a better place


  • We leverage the creative and scholarly resources of the university to build assets in, with and for communities of location, spirit, experience, or tradition.
  • We prepare students to engage ethically and thoughtfully in our multiple communities.
  • We honor diversity and pluralistic ways of knowing and engaging in the world.
  • We practice honesty, transparency, and reciprocity in our community partnerships and arts/design actions.
  • We use participatory democratic processes to build and participate in public spaces of community and collaboration.
  • We support risk-taking, experimentation and the possibility of failure to inspire innovation and engaged learning.
  • We evaluate and assess in order to grow stronger.

Programming tiers

Design and Arts Corps has three tiers of programming that work on increasing levels of time, trust, and depth of collaboration.

Integrated Studios

Integrated Studios

A consistent and integrated leadership team comprised of community members and ASU faculty and staff collaborate in long-term, ongoing work with one central driving focus. The team shares a space (studio) and develops, activates and evaluates programs over an extended period of time. The work of the studio can encompass the project and engagement components of the corps as well. All stakeholders in the studio collaborate in grant writing and fundraising initiatives to support the work of the studio.

Hypothetical example

  • Phoenix Children’s Hospital Design and Arts Studio: Led by the head of child life at PCH and a PCH social worker and a Herberger Institute faculty member. This studio includes nurses, doctors, hospital administration, ASU students, ASU faculty and current/former patients and their parents. The team’s shared goal revolves around facilitating creative experiences to reduce stress and anxiety and improve psychological well-being for patients and their families. Projects include a traveling maker space for bed-bound patients, a digital storytelling lab, bedside concerts, a design your own hospital room workshop, et cetera. Studio personnel supervise an ongoing rotation of ASU undergraduate and graduate students to facilitate the work. 

Collaborative projects

Collaborative projects

A time-bound collaboration between community partners and ASU staff, faculty or students who come together to accomplish a specific shared goal or outcome. Projects can be initiated by community members, students, staff, faculty or guest artists.

Hypothetical examples

  • Student composers work in residency with the ASU Biodesign Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center and its lead scientists to create chamber music exploring Alzheimer’s effect on the brain. 
  • Visual artists partner with an activist neighborhood organization to build antiracism materials in order to work towards systems change.
  • A senior film student partnering with the Tempe Historical Museum creates a capstone documentary exploring the integration of Tempe’s swimming pools.

Coordinated engagements

Coordinated engagements

Short-term service learning opportunities within the context of existing ASU classes or co-curricular experiences. Herberger Institute students work and learn through the mentorship of faculty and community partners around a community goal.

Hypothetical example

  • An undergraduate interior design class partners with a third-grade classroom to re-imagine the classroom space so that it reflects the classroom learning goals.
  • Devil’s Dance Sport hosts open ballroom lessons at Desoto Public Market.
  • A second-grade classroom partners with the Jewish Heritage Center and ASU theatre students to create a reader’s theatre performance using oral histories from community elders.

Value proposition | Theory of change

Most design and arts move from process to product in a linear way.

Process -> Product ->

The Design and Arts Corps wraps process and product into a continuous cycle while adding participatory publics. Community engages in each part of the creative cycle and together we collectively leverage design and/or the arts to build value in specific ways.

Cycle of process to product to participatory publics
Below is a model for how the Design and Arts Corps as a whole invests in building a better world from the individual to the policy levels.
Through public participation, Design and Arts Corps facilitates results at 5 levels: Organizational, Community, Policy/Macro, Individual and Interpersonal.