The Archeworks Chicago Studio mission and manifesto is an inspiring one.

“We believe good design serves the greater good,” it reads. “It can enhance the quality of life for all, not just the privileged few – yet too many members of our communities are not participating in the design process or being exposed to professional opportunities in design. Archeworks Chicago Studio, a design education program for Chicago’s high school students, aims to change that reality. We will teach, mentor and inspire students on the role of design in improving peoples’ lives.”

Archeworks shift toward addressing diversity in design is a seminal moment for the design education lab. Archeworks has spent most of its 24-year history advocating for public interest design. Having inspired change in the industry and seen firms across the country model its commitment, the project team decided to reshape their curriculum and focus on new ways to engage minority youth and students.

“Archeworks has driven change when it comes to public interest design and it was time to bring our efforts and focus to other areas of the design profession for enrichment,” said David Dewane Community Director of Archeworks. “We launched Chicago Studio to mark this change and create systematic momentum for introducing new students to the power of design. Our first year of programs has delivered exciting results, already helped change lives and has shown us what’s possible on this new path.”

The Archeworks team and students recently visited our Chicago office on Aug. 3 to share the results of its first year of programming. Students from four Chicago-area schools (Walter Henri Dyett High School for the Arts, Kenwood Academy High School, Epic Academy High School, Robert Lindblom Math & Science Academy High School) all designed and presented conceptual exhibits for The Museum of Hip Hop. Exhibits included:

  • A History of the Zulu Nation
  • Knowledge
  • Public Enemy
  • JB Skating
  • The Cutoff
  • Hunids: Hip Hop and Language
  • Hip Hop Ambrosia
  • Inside Outside

“Our museum exhibit designs all were from our individual perspectives of what hip hop is,” said Jori Pilcher, a student in the Archeworks Chicago Studio. “Creativity sparked from our own views of hip hip and our everyday life experiences. The designs have no intention of being related to one another, but they work together to paint the bigger picture of what hip hop means to the people that do it, hear it, see it, wear it and live it.”

Inspired by the students’ work in the first year under its new focus on diversity, Archeworks is exploring how the Museum of Hip Hop may someday become a real temporary installation. More importantly, the design education lab is developing tools to fuel deeper understanding of how best to engage new students and magnify their reach and impact moving forward.

“What I love about our new mission is being around these kids – because they design with such fearlessness,” added Dewane. “Yes, we’re introducing them to design and hopefully opening new doors for them and changing their lives. But, they’re also going to open our eyes to new opportunities. They’re going to challenge norms. Diversity isn’t just about engaging more people for balance – it’s about opening us up to exciting new ideas from every corner of society.”

Andrew Balster, our Chicago Office Practice Leader, shared Dewane’s enthusiasm adding, “Our Chicago team is proud to back Archeworks and their mission. We share their passion for authentically engaging our communities to bring needed diversity to design. We want to see our office, and all design offices in Chicago, more reflective of Chicago’s wonderful, rich, complex and important cultural tapestry moving forward.”

Having wrapped its 2018 programming, Archeworks now has time to reassess, reboot and prepare for 2019. Given its proven record of using the power of design to challenge social, cultural and environmental challenges in Chicago and the design profession at large – those around the design education lab are right to be excited.

“I know they want to engage more schools, more students and more communities as they build on this year’s momentum,” added Balster. “Only good can come from Archeworks new mission and focus – we’ll be here to help them on their journey to strengthen the City of Chicago.”