An exhibition of 60 collaborative designs from throughout the United States and across borders, By the People challenges the country’s persistent social and economic inequality. Curator of Socially Responsible Design Cynthia E. Smith conducted over two years of field research—traveling to shrinking post-industrial cities, sprawling metro regions, struggling rural towns, areas impacted by natural and man-made disasters, and places of persistent poverty—in search of design for more inclusive and sustainable communities. Presented in the Barbara and Morton Mandel Design Gallery and the museum’s Process Lab, the exhibition delivers a powerful message of optimism for achieving a more just and equitable society for all Americans through design.

#DesigningAmerica

PROCESS LAB: Citizen Design

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The museum’s Process Lab gives visitors firsthand experiences with the activities designers use to solve problems and develop new ideas. Now on view, Citizen Design, which invites visitors to engage, empathize, and help envision a better America. Citizen Design was inspired by the GRAY AREA project, featured in By the People, and developed in partnership with Interface Studio Architects. Learn more about Citizen Design.

Exhibition Highlights

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Image of Devita Davison and Keba Konte speaking at Cooper Hewitt
Growing Local: Designing Sustainable Food Businesses
Design Talk with Devita Davison and Keba Konte, discussing food entrepreneurs and systems that promote sustainability and inclusivity.
Beyond Books: Redefining the Civic Role of Public Libraries
U.S. public libraries are redefining and expanding their roles in civic life to ensure community access to the vital information and tools needed to learn, create, and improve lives. Join us for a conversation on public libraries as hubs for civic engagement, with a focus on the innovative neighborhood libraries featured in the exhibition By...
Planning and Designing Beyond Equity in Cities Across America
Interview with Toni L. Griffin and Chris Reed, who collaborated on the Detroit Future City Strategic Framework—an innovative planning model for urban revitalization.
The People are Beautiful Already: Indigenous Design and Planning
Theodore Jojola, professor in the Indigenous Design + Planning Institute at the University of New Mexico, discusses the unique nature and power of indigenous design and planning.
Digital Pioneers and the Urban Environment
Across the United States, designers are using cognitive computing and data analysis to help American cities meet the needs of their diverse populations. Tiffany Chu, Code for America fellow and cofounder of the public transport data initiative Remix; Adam Cutler, distinguished designer at IBM Design; and Sarah Williams, director of MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab...
A Space to Share Ideas
Moorhead & Moorhead, the design studio that designed the exhibition space for By the People: Designing a Better America, discusses their process for creating a unique display environment.
The 21st-Century Neighborhood Library
Essay by Julie Sangborn about the changing vision for some of New York City's public libraries.
The Aesthetics of Equity: A Magic Strategy for the Healthy City
Excerpt from Mindy Thompson Fullilove, Molly Rose Kaufman, and Aubrey Murdock's essay “The Aesthetics of Equity: A Magic Strategy for the Healthy City” about the innovative urban renewal efforts in the city of Orange, New Jersey.
With Empathy and Care: Designing to Improve People’s Lives
How do designers best understand and meet the needs of underserved communities? What practices foster deeper insight and promote new creative thinking? In conjunction with the exhibition By the People: Designing a Better America, Cooper Hewitt and Pratt Institute, with additional support from CaringKind, host a presentation and discussion of these questions and more with...