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Build Studio Community


Build your studio community by create a strong culture within your studio. Hold events and engage with members to build a network for them to connect and share ideas, experiences, and opportunities. Magnify the knowledge available to all members!

Output: Hold 1 project event and 1 studio event.

Effective ways to build a happy, strong studio community:

  1. As a leadership team, discuss how you want to maintain a happy studio.
    • What are your goals for this term? What do you want your members to learn and gain this term?
  2. Create an events calendar + Share with your studio.
    • Mix in project events and social events. Connecting teams together outside of project work gives members a chance to interact in a non-work related setting to build studio ties and to have a good time.
    • Have an event at the beginning, middle, and end of the term. Kicking off the studio with an event or activity for the studio members, new and returning, to get to know one another will set an open tone for the whole term. Holding events in the middle of the term maintains studio momentum and lets people relax from classes and project work.
    • Bring members in the planning process to not only get help but also identify potential leaders!
  3. Hold 3+ project-related events.
    • Welcome new members: Provide an interactive overview of HCD and welcome members to the DFA community.
    • Mid-term studio critique: Great time to present your work and receive feedback from experienced members, community partners, users, experts, industry professionals, faculty advisors etc. Check out "Set up design critiques" for more info!
    • Final event: Celebrate hard work by holding a final expo and thank your network
    • Weekly all-studio meetings: Great time for people to meet members in different projects and see your DFA studio! Great of time to do: project work, design process workshops, user research, panels, professional development, etc. Start with an ice-breaker or community building activity!
  4. Hold 2+ social events.
    • For informal events, think of game nights, studio brunch, welcome socials or end of the year socials, dress-up-like-your-prototype-day, ice cream socials, food club, weekly open hours with leads and members, etc.
    • For formal events, think of a speaker event on or off campus related to DFA, book club, studio retreat, regional meetups, etc.
  5. Review and iterate on how the events are supporting your studio's projects and members.
    • Close an event by asking members to share their “I like…”s and “I wish…”s. This is a quick and efficient way to get feedback from members!
    • See "Reflect and plan next term" for more information on effective ways to review.

Network Best Practices

Introduce each other like DFA USC

DFA USC has a great warm-up activity, called 3x3. The 3x3 is a three minute presentation that one member gives to the other members of the studio, presenting three unique insights about themselves. USC made the studio tool to foster a sense of trust within the studio. By giving members a chance to be vulnerable and to present about themselves, the members learn more about each other, build trust among each other, and invest in the #DFAmily community in the end.

Create a social calendar like DFA Northwestern

DFA Northwestern made a social events calendar for their Spring 2015 term. The calendar included a Design Panel with local design professionals and a trip to a design firm in Chicago. These events were scheduled to provide more ways to learn about design on top of projects and explore the local design community. Download their calendar that they posted on their Facebook group!

Go on a Studio Retreat like DFA Rice

In Fall 2013, DFA Rice held a Lock-In where their studio members spent the night in their DFA studio, spending many hours dedicated simply to getting to know each other. DFA Rice’s Lock-in in 2013 provided the opportunity to get to know studio members in a non-team context.


Get studios in the network together like the Midwest Meetup

In Fall 2015, DFA Michigan State University hosted the second Midwest Meetup where “6 schools, 65 students, and over 30 different majors from freshmen to alumni united to continue the tradition of sustaining the vibrant Design for America network of the Midwest.” Check out their blog post to see how you can plan a Meetup in your region! (In Fall 2016, DFA Cincinnati hosted a third Midwest Meetup!)

Hold mid and end of term events like DFA RISD|Brown and Case Western|CIA

When the weather was looking great in Spring 2015, DFA RISD/Brown got together to eat a huge breakfast outside and make some custom DFA swag using lasercut stencils and fabric paint. Fruit, pancakes, swag, and a random dog always helps your studio bond.

In Spring 2014, DFA CWRU|CIA held a studio bonding session where the then-Studio Lead, Bailey, shared her screenprinting skill to the whole studio! And what a surprise, they walked out of the session with their newly-made DFA shirts. Rumor has it that the studio flittered away to a local ice cream joint sporting DFA on their shirts.