top of page

Grassroots DesignFest

Participated as part of the core organizing team to adapt DesignFest for a virtual audience, and later expanded and scoped the future scaling of the initiative.

Organizing Team, Resident Design Consultation

My role

MICA, T Rowe Price

Credits/ Team
  • Maya Kosok, Lead Organizer 

  • Kevin Griffin Moreno, MICA Liason 

  • Sabrina Thornton, Brittany DeNovellis, And Jeanne-Marie Patella, T Rowe Price Liasons

The Project in detail

Grassroots DesignFest is an annual event sponsored by T Rowe Price and MICA, which brings together smaller, local nonprofits and builds capacity with volunteer design support. Nonprofits propose the design solutions at the start — from logos to school mascots — and designers from the Baltimore area collaborate throughout the event to move the nonprofit closer to their design goals. Design teams are comprised of a Design Coach and 3-4 student and professional volunteers.


Design Challenge | 'We are living in a virtual world'

While DesignFest had utilized a hackathon model for their day-long, in-person event, in the wake of COVID-19 and the growing virtual need, I was brought on the team to scale the event to a digital collaborative space.

Alongside the organizing team, my work consisted of running point for our technology (running the Zoom), as well as creating facilitation material to support Design Coaches in the digital space.

Insight + Value: Keep momentum without creating burnout

I knew our agenda would be shaped by the limitations of technology available. Early conversations centered around how best to keep the momentum created in the day-long event, where the creative chaos helps facilitate design, while not creating fatigue for participants in the virtual platform.

We adapted the model to take place over a week, while highlighting the key experiences in the process: the first meeting, the check in, and the hand off. In designing facilitation material, I also focused on the key user as the Design Coach, because of their role as the point of contact for nonprofit partners.

Process map:

The First Meeting, Saturday, 4 hours: Designers and the nonprofits first interactions and getting in depth with the design brief. We chose to emphasize meeting each other, asking questions, and getting a feel for the people behind each respective part of the work. After two hours, we asked nonprofits to leave to give designers time to start their process and set goals for the event.

The Check-in, Wednesday, 1 hour: At the end of day 1, designers had the opportunity to divide the work and start sketching, and the check in became a way to carry the work between the two Saturdays. Working outside of design time was optional, and nonprofits were primed to expect sketches and advise on the direction of the work.

The Hand Off, Saturday, 4 hours: This is where the team placed the bulk of the design time and created moments for feedback from fellow design teams (The Design Consult) and organizing team members. Nonprofits joined for the last 30 minutes of the day to get an overview of the progress made and receive materials and advice on next steps from the designers.

View the process maps:


Design Challenge | 'Braiding in the feedback; refining the flow'

With the pandemic still limiting public gatherings, the team assembled in late October to talk about what the offering would look like this year and how to refine the digital DesignFest offered last year.

My work focused more on leveraging feedback from 2021 and integrating it into our programming. Namely, providing more education to nonprofits about design, giving more time for design teams to gel, and re-imagining the handoff process for future implementation.

Insight + Value: Balancing education about design and production

Tension: Design Coaches and designers found themselves providing more support scaling with nonprofits, rather than working on design collateral.

I worked to generate interview guides and organized meetings with the nonprofits accepted into the event. These meetings, Scoping Calls, would center around fleshing out the original asks made by the nonprofit in their application, and provide insight into what would be need prior to the event to make that possible. Where applicable, I integrated questions from designers from previous years in order to get a feel for the average need from design coaches once in the room.

Tension: Design Coaches and designers had little time to gel and figure out their working dynamic prior to the event. Moreover, meeting with the nonprofit immediately created a feeling of 'starting from behind' rather than a sense of curiosity an ownership.

While we are trying to keep in mind the ask from participants, we also wanted to give designers an opportunity to meet based on feedback from 2021 Design Coaches. The Wednesday Prior to the event, we opened a space for designers, Design Coaches and the organizing time to meet and review the asks from nonprofits.

Preliminary results: We observed during the event that designers started generating content earlier in the process, had more confidence asking questions of the nonprofit and could self-organize better once they had their own team dynamics established.

Insight + Value: Building capacity not creating more work

Tension: While design teams handoff materials at the end of the event, the results are widely varied — mocks, final concepts, or preliminary sketches. Because of this, the implementation component looks different for each nonprofit.

After reviewing previous projects, talking with design coaches and the organizing team, I created an interactive infographic for nonprofits to engage with as they scope their next steps. The infographic linked out to additional resources, and made suggestions about hiring designers for continued work.

See the process map 2022 + Implementation chart:

bottom of page