Design for Social Impact

  • Design for Social Impact 2019 Image 1
  • Interior of brochure for craniosynostosis
    Interior of brochure for craniosynostosis
  • Craniosynostosis decision making website.
    Craniosynostosis decision making website.
  • Card with information about class fees.
    Card with information about class fees.
  • Design for Social Impact 2019 Image 5
  • Design for Social Impact 2019 Image 5

Design for Social Impact, led by Louis D. Beaumont Artist-in-Residence Jude Agboada, offers an opportunity for upperclassmen in communication design to learn traditional design research methods, and how to apply them. These methods help students to creatively solve problems from a human-centered point of view, navigating design thinking from problem identification through development of a viable solution. To practice the skills in the course, the students worked collaboratively to approach each challenge. 

In one project, students identified a problem within the Sam Fox School that they wanted to address. Working together, they identified the issue of course fees and materials costs as being pertinent to Sam Fox School students. They conducted a survey, as well as a series of interviews with administrators and faculty members, to understand the challenge, and to define two clear problem statements: “How might we help facilitate communication about course fees between professors and students in the Sam Fox School?” and “How might we help professors be transparent about materials fees in the Sam Fox School?” These prompts led the group to a series of designed prototypes that answered common student questions in a visual and compelling interactive format, and connected students to resources for addressing financial concerns. 

For their second project, students worked with University College, WashU’s professional and continuing education division that serves the St. Louis region. The College is currently working to serve as a front door to welcome users to a vast array of programs that serve Professional Development at WashU. These programs are currently offered by a wide range of programs, including business, engineering, and social work. Students interviewed University College administrators as well as people who had taken courses in professional development programs across WashU, and then sorted this data to make recommendations for future web communications.

In the final project of the semester, students went off campus to develop a shared decision-making tool for families addressing craniosynostosis, a birth defect in which the bones in a child’s skull fuse prematurely. Craniosynostosis can be treated in several different ways. Unfortunately, caregivers who are faced with making decisions for these children are frequently trying to weigh a number of complicated choices in a short period of time. The physicians assisting them may have their own biases, and most certainly are using jargon that may be too complicated for parents to understand. 

The students worked closely with the medical and research team, including Abdullah Said, Dr. Kamlesh Patel, and Gary Skolnick. Students interviewed both the medical staff—including the surgeon, the orthotist, and the resident—as well as caregivers who were evaluating treatment options for their children. These conversations led the team to realize the importance of a shared decision-making tool that would give caregivers the chance to weigh the different options independently. 

To develop this tool, the student team looked at different models for comparing important health decisions, and the visual communications tools employed in those models. They created prototypes that laid out the concepts they needed to cover, and tested a website and a physical brochure that help caregivers walk through the decision-making process. Through refinement and feedback, the team created a brochure prototype that was distributed to the caregivers of patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, providing a reference to better understand their situation and the choices they had at their disposal.

Participating Students

Amanda Im
Eve Wallack
Ali White
Lianne Kang
Kristina You



University College at Washington University in St. Louis
Department of Neurosurgery at Washington University School of Medicine