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Online Civic Design Challenge to Help San Diego Address COVID-19

Initiative from UC San Diego’s Design Lab invites the community to think through problems and create solutions together

D4SD graphic San Diego cityscape


  • Inga Kiderra

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  • Inga Kiderra

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Human-centered design can help San Diego address the COVID-19 pandemic and put our city on course to be more sustainable, too. That’s the basic premise of the 2020 edition of the city-wide design challenge from UC San Diego’s Design Lab called “Design for San Diego,” or D4SD for short.

Running now through mid-May, D4SD 2020 is open to all for free. It features weekly online “design jams” on Fridays, beginning April 10, and culminates with an online summit on May 15. San Diego residents can participate at a variety of levels – from voicing their concerns and volunteering feedback to joining design teams working on solutions.

Challenge questions that design teams might focus on include: How might we help all San Diegans live healthy and active lives (during and after the pandemic)? How might we ensure that everyone in San Diego has reliable access to nutritious and affordable food? How might we re-imagine housing to meet the needs of all San Diegans?

Steven Dow

The D4SD initiative is being led by Steven Dow, associate professor of cognitive science at UC San Diego and a member of the university’s Design Lab.

“Our goal is to tap into San Diego’s collective intelligence, energy and creativity,” said Dow. “D4SD presents a unique educational opportunity where people of all stripes can gain hands-on experience with design and design thinking while helping our city address real problems.” 

D4SD also aims to build connections and community. Participants will learn from a range of local design educators and gain experience with human-centered design, a creative process for innovating new products, services and experiences.

Top proposals will earn opportunities to interact with leaders in civics, business and design for further mentorship and, possibly, funding or partnership to help realize their ideas.

Here’s how to get involved:

Don Norman, director of the UC San Diego Design Lab, is excited because “D4SD has pioneered our lab’s model for community-driven design where we bring together students, residents, professionals and key leaders around a common purpose, and we facilitate creative problem solving to tackle the important issues facing the San Diego community.”

D4SD 2020 was made possible with support from the UC San Diego Design Lab, the National Science Foundation, IBM, ScaleSD, DowntownWorks and the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research at UC San Diego, and in partnership with an alliance of local design educators. 

D4SD graphic San Diego citscape

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