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How might we organize designers in a meaningful, inclusive and sustainable way to collaborate with communities both being responsive to immediate needs and supportive of long-term visions?

During 2020, the design community rolled their sleeves and put forward ways to help communities impacted both by COVID-19 pandemic and property damages due to civic unrest. Either through food access and distribution efforts, architectural/deign services to adapt to open dining restrictions, or outdoor temporary installations to keep business corridors active, there was no shortage of energy and generosity to help communities through design tools and skills. 

One idea that emerged from these multiple groups interacting, intersecting and realizing these efforts were overlapping was to explore a way to create a more coordinated design front of action – think of Design Corps. As City Open and Latent Design were already collaborating in the Restaurant Reopening efforts, they decided to join forces with Chicago Architecture Biennial and All Reimagining Chicago to create a planning process to develop a framework for an collective that could organize designers to work with community beyond the impacts in the built environment that public health and racial justice movement in 2020. 

The planning process consisted in 6 sessions, and convened architects and designers from multiple types of practices – private, non-profit, and government. The goal was to develop the scaffolding for an organized effort that could also wouldn't depend on volunteer work only, but ways to connect with resources to support with design services to communities:

  • Mission / Values 

  • Organizational Framework

  • Network / Outreach

  • Programming 

Through this framing and planning process, the Chicago Design Collaborative identified the Design Trust Chicago as the platform to shape this effort – Design Trust was initially launched as part of Latent Design’s 10 year anniversary programming, and the organizing team decided to align efforts to further develop this emerging initiative. 

This collaboration process also included learning from other efforts and organizations such as Open Architecture Network and their collaboration with The Available City project through Under the Grid and Urban Hack workshop focused on North Lawndale – westside of Chicago. Another guest was NYC x DESIGN: Design Corps that were organizing to support reopening of businesses during pandemic. 

Fall 2020


Alan Baker

Brian Hayes

Cassandra Rice

Chandra Rouse

Craig Stevenson

Elle Ramel

Ernie Wong

Grace Liu

James Silvestro

James Young

Katherine Darnstadt

Kathryn Hurd

Kerrie Mistry

Maria Villalobos

Mark Sexton

Monica Chadha

Paola Aguirre

Sarah Herda

Tess Landon

Tiara Hughes

Tom Jacobs

Partner Organizations:

Latent Design

Chicago Architectural Biennial

All Reimagining Chicago

Visit project website:

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VIDEO: Kick-off Planning Session (August 13, 2020)

Chicago Design Collaborative_Session #2_
Chicago Design Collaborative_Session #4_

VIDEO: Planning Session #4 with Case Study guests NYC Design Corps (October 9, 2020)

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VIDEO: Public Presentation (November 13, 2020)

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