The Community Design Studio of Winston-Salem is a not-for-profit collective of multidisciplinary designers who play a catalytic role in shaping our community.

our story

Community Design Studio is rooted in its founders' love for the city and people of Winston-Salem, and a vision for its future as a truly equitable and sustainable city.

Having experienced the power of design thinking in their respective fields of graphic design, architecture, environmental design, and industrial design, a group of designers wondered how this method of problem solving could be brought to bear on grand challenges faced by communities—issues such as homelessness, environmental degradation, and racism.

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 Meeting in the summer of 2011, these designers worked to craft a name and a mission for a unique and valuable organization, dedicated to bringing design into conversations about Winston-Salem's future. Community Design Studio was born.

Since its beginning, Community Design Studio's growth has been based in design methodology. First by researching and empathizing, learning from businesses and nonprofits practicing public interest design across the country, as well as from local not-for-profit organizations. Then designing a model that caters this knowledge to our local context. Finally, prototyping and testing our model in real time through planned events and strategic partnerships. Each time this cycle has ended, we have learned from our successes and failures, going back to the beginning of the design process to start again.

Through this process, the Community Design Studio continues to refine its place in the city and in the growing field of public interest design. In a city filled with creativity, goodwill, and numerous not-for-profit organizations, the Community Design Studio has worked to find a niche by positioning itself as an organization that convenes existing resources. A multidisciplinary design team, we are the next generation of the community design centers of the 1960s: focused on process over product; on community engagement over designer volunteerism; and on convening resources for collective impact over expertise-based silos.

Today we are secure in our mission—we believe it is more important than ever to engage diverse voices in conversations about our collective future. We have cultivated community partners who believe in the value of the design process. And we believe that the power of design thinking and prototyping, when strategically implemented to harness collective expertise, can shed new light on the grand challenges of our time.

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what we do

We facilitate
community conversations.

Through design thinking consulting such as the Design for Worldview workshop, we work with community partners, nonprofits and businesses to develop human-centered solutions to challenges our community faces. We start with helping communities articulate their needs, generating innovative solutions, prototyping those solutions, and identifying ways to incite collective action to implement those solutions.

We engage students
in the design process

Leadership by Design programming gives students the opportunity to explore firsthand how design-based solutions can address real world problems in our community. With a goal of fostering youth leadership skills and highlighting the importance of diverse voices in creative problem solving, we partner with local designers and nonprofits to prototype solutions to community issues in the built environment.

We use design as a force for good in our city.

We participate in design competitions, stage design interventions, publish writing, create toolkits, host lectures, and organize local events, all in an effort to promote the idea of design as a vehicle for positive change. We strive to be thought-leaders and action instigators in order to transform our city into a more sustainable and equitable place for all people.

our mission

The Community Design Studio utilizes the power of design to inspire, educate, and serve, working with local partners toward a sustainable and equitable community.

who we are

Elise Barrella

Elise Barrella

Founding Engineering Faculty
Wake Forest University
Forrest Causby

Forrest Causby

Creative Director
M Creative
Lauren DiBianca Frye

Lauren DiBianca Frye

Project Architect
Walter Robbs Callahan & Pierce Architects
Kristen Haaf

Kristen Haaf

Environmental Designer, Principal
Roots First Design

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