Center for Social Design

Design & Health Initiative

Our collaborations in public health, healthcare and medicine focus on shifting relationships to reduce disparities in health access, inequity, and stigma, and on understanding issues related to broader social determinants of health.

Over the past decade, our Design & Health Initiative has demonstrated new ways of embedding designers and integrating the human-centered design process into the ongoing work of a variety of partners in public health, healthcare, and medicine.

In 2019, the Center for Social Design was awarded a $1million endowment gift to expand and sustain our pioneering work at the intersection of design and public health. A generous commitment from philanthropist George L. Bunting, Jr. enabled the Center to secure matching funds from the Maryland E-Nnovation Initiative Fund (MEIF), a state program created to attract and retain top innovation talent and to spur research in scientific and technical fields at colleges and universities. The endowment gift will generate partial funding to sustain and scale our work in design and health.

Case Studies

Connected Emergency Care

In collaboration with Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Connected Emergency Care (CEC) Patient Safety Learning Lab (PSLL) focuses on reducing health and financial harm caused by a disconnected emergency care system. Through this five-year project, we are working to better understand barriers to informed decision making and develop design prototypes with the ultimate goal of creating a closed feedback loop to better support physician decision-making.


In partnership with Baltimore City Health Department’s Tobacco Free Baltimore initiative, we worked to address the impact of smoke exposure in the home. Our collaboration with health professionals and families resulted in HealthiAir, a pop-up event that supports families in creating smoke-free comfort zones in their homes, identifying practical ways to get started, and connecting to resources they need. HealthiAir was officially launched at Baltimore City Hall and has received numerous awards.


CAPABLE (Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better for Living), an initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing's Center for Innovative Care in Aging, supports patients with multiple chronic conditions by shifting from disease-specific models of care to person-centered, community-focused methods that address various factors affecting health. As CAPABLE expands nationwide, they partnered with us to explore ways to tell the CAPABLE story to new audiences while capturing and spreading core principles, shared traditions, and best practices.

Baltimore HEARS

We partnered with the Johns Hopkins Cochlear Center for Hearing & Public Health to develop an accessible and affordable hearing care program, Baltimore HEARS, which includes training community health workers to deliver hearing care directly in underserved communities. Our collaboration supported efforts to extend the project into China, Australia, and other countries that strive to develop strategies to optimize the health and functioning of an aging society.

Underage Drinking

We partnered with Behavioral Health System Baltimore (BHSB) to create counter-ad campaigns focused on underage drinking. We’ve led a variety of design workshops that introduce Baltimore City youth to design and public health, pairing students from MICA with youth to co-produce ideas including: a music video, a photovoice exhibition, and a public service announcement to address underage drinking.