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Publicolor: Summer Design Studio

Shifting from in-person instruction to digital remote teaching high-risk students math and literacy skills through product design

Photo of Natasha Seng
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Publicolor's Summer Design Studio is a 7-week summer learning loss prevention program immersing high-risk students in math and literacy through product design. We believe everyone has the capacity to impact their community and SDS is a time where our students use design to become creative problem solvers. This summer, SDS will be taught remotely due to the unprecedented scale of COVID-19, but our students will learn the foundations of creative and innovative design programs and 3D rendering software.

This year’s theme is, Democracy as a Design Problem and students will create tools to transform the difficult and discouraging process of voting to a more accessible one. Students will work collaboratively; creative collaboration harnesses the power of diverse perspectives and skill sets to develop innovative solutions to create a more meaningful voting experience.

What is the need are you focusing on?

Offering disaffected youth crucial employment and work experience while providing an antidote to summer learning loss, the leading contributor to the learning gap between high and low-income students. 

Which type of submission are you sharing?

  • Identifying a gap that needs to be addressed

Describe the business pivot or adaptation in 3-4 sentences.

Our staff are providing one-to-one academic and mental health supports every day, connecting with parents, and delivering meals and stipends each week to our students. The stipends students earn tremendously helps their families pay rent, bills and purchase food and supplies needed to get through this crisis. Our program's weekly workshops and tutoring sessions are now conducted virtually, and will continue to do so through the 2019-2020 school year. Summer Design Studio, in previous years, took place on campus at Pratt Institute specifically to have students feel comfortable on a college campus and involved enrichment trips throughout the city and painting under-resourced but vital neighborhood facilities. This year, we will conduct this program remotely due to the unprecedented disruption of COVID-19, providing our students with the ability to engage in learning and to earn a stipend especially since summer youth employment in NYC was canceled.

Do you plan to implement this solution?

  • Yes

Describe the impact that this solution will create in the world.

Summer Design Studio will offer 110-150 students from all five boroughs, a 7-week paid educational summer program immersing students in math and literacy through product design, during a time when there is a lack of summer youth employment opportunities in NYC. Our students will be focused on Designing for Democracy, interviewing community residents, family members, friends, teachers, and designers via zoom to hear their feedback on what in the voting arena can be seen as a design opportunity. Students will also be speaking to members of the community across the 5 boroughs to see what they can design to engage more people to register to vote.

What is the name of your business or organization?


What does your business/company do? Whose needs does your business/company address? Who do you serve?

Publicolor fights poverty and youth disconnection by engaging low-income students at high risk of dropping out of school in a continuum of project-based, design-focused programs to encourage academic success, college preparation, job readiness, and community service.

What is your profession?

Director of COLOR Club & Design Education

Where are you located (country)?

United States

Where are you located (region)?

  • North America

What industry is your business/company in?

  • Education
  • Non-Profit/Philanthropy

How many people does your business/company employ?

  • 11-49

How old is your business/company?

  • 10 or more years old

Which classification describes your organization/business?

  • Nonprofit/NGO

What kind of stakeholders and partnerships are needed to pursue this solution?

  • Funding- Grants
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Private Sector
  • Stakeholders/Partnerships- Government

Do you need help building partnerships and finding partners?

  • Yes

If Yes to the above, please share 1-2 sentences describing the specific help you desire.

We are always looking to add to our generous coalition of funders to be able to continue supporting Publicolor student programming and scholarships.

What do you think are the main barriers to implementing this solution?

Funding, broadband and digital device inequity

If you are currently working on a pivot, what have you learned so far?

We are learning of many challenges that students and their families face while adapting to remote learning. In speaking to students and their families we have come to discover many are living in one-bedroom apartments with 10-12 family members, and sharing only one bathroom. Many families are also suffering from delays or halts in government assistance programs, ie., food stamps

Are you aware of any open source efforts, hackathons or other collaborative efforts related to your solution? Are you participating in these efforts?

Not at this time.

Website URL


Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Hi Natasha Seng  great to have you share your idea for the challenge. It is really exciting to learn that are moving our in-person summer program to virtual.

You might also consider joining the COVID-19 Reimagine Learning Challenge here: where you could share your idea and insights, and enjoy some feedback and collaboration from the OpenIDEO community

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