Building more successful cities the focus of Parsons School of Design project supported by Knight Foundation in collaboration with design firm IDEO

Press Release

February 25, 2015


Civic innovators from Charlotte, N.C., and Detroit to gain insights on how to take their project from idea to execution

NEW YORK — Feb 25, 2015 — To provide civic innovators in U.S. cities the know-how to build out and implement ideas that add to the success of their cities, Parsons School of Design at The New School will pilot an Urban Prototyping Lab in collaboration with the award-winning design firm IDEO. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is supporting the initiative with $107,000.

The pilot will bring students from Parsons and IDEO staff together with civic innovators in two cities where Knight invests—Charlotte, N.C., and Detroit—to design and prototype ideas that focus on key drivers of city success: attracting and keeping talented people, expanding economic opportunity and creating a culture of engagement.

The work includes a prototyping boot camp, which kicked off in January. Teams from the two cities created and tested prototypes of their ideas with help from IDEO and student fellows trained in human-centered design, an approach that incorporates feedback from users when developing new ideas, so audience needs are built into the innovation process.

In March city teams will work with Parsons students and IDEO in Detroit and Charlotte for a four-day follow-up. They will build and test their ideas on the ground and gather feedback from local residents through an inclusive, participatory design process. They will work side by side with city stakeholders on a real-world problem, contribute to a tangible idea, and see real impact through user testing.

“Knight seeks projects that lead to transformational, sustainable change, which is very much in line with the New School’s mission and core beliefs,” said Jamer Hunt, associate professor of Transdisciplinary Design in the School of Design Strategies at Parsons. “Not only will students be able to work in collaborative teams with civic innovators in Knight cities to see their ideas realized, but together they’ll be able to help implement them in a way that positively transforms the urban environment.”

“There are a host of civic innovators in our cities with great ideas but moving from ideas to execution can be difficult,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation vice president for community and national initiatives. “The Urban Prototyping Lab has the potential to help these innovators develop and scale their projects through a design lens—with community needs in the forefront. We look forward to seeing the impact of the pilot and engaging Parson’s students in work that is vital to the success of our cities.”

The program includes students in Parsons’ Transdisciplinary Design, Design and Urban Ecologies and Theories of Urban Practice graduate programs.

Support for Parsons School of Design at The New School forms one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to invest in in civic innovators who help cities attract and keep talented people, expand economic opportunity and create a culture of engagement. The foundation believes that designing places to achieve these goals is crucial to city success.

About Parsons School of Design at The New School

Parsons School of Design at The New School is one of the world’s leading institutions for art and design education. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century. For more information, visit

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more information, visit

About IDEO

IDEO is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow. For more information, visit


Scott Gargan, Press Officer, Parsons School of Design, 212-229-5667, ext. 3794, [email protected]

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]