MA in Art & Design for Social Impact

About the Program

The nexus of the program is the PLATFORM Social Design Lab, a pedagogical model that offers courses and workshops within a dedicated multifunctional studio. The program's graduate students integrate further learning and experiences while working in tandem with UB's undergraduate students in the Graphic Design and Emerging Practices concentration areas.

Through this initiative, the MA program partners with underrepresented communities in the city of Buffalo and the broader WNY area that could not afford these design services otherwise. This support aims to help define and legitimize their identity and mission, underscoring the critical issues that are at stake. Through this assistance, communities can strengthen and develop more robust platforms that greatly aid in their advocacy campaigns and impact on policy makers.

How It All Started

Spearheaded by UB Professor of Art Stephanie Rothenberg, the program evolved from over fifteen years of partnering graphic design and emerging practices students with local social justice organizations in the city of Buffalo. These include Our Outer Harbor, Buffalo Transit Riders Union, Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, PUSH and Open Buffalo’s Emerging Leaders Mentorship Program.

This led to the development of the PLATFORM Social Design Lab where a broad range of graphic materials have been produced such as branding systems and logos, infographics and visualization, digital marketing and promotional materials.

As the growth of PLATFORM progressed, a collaboration was formed with Partnership for the Public Good, a community-based think tank based in Buffalo that provides research and advocacy support to a variety of partners. Students also have collaborated with UB’s Office of Sustainability and developed projects with faculty and graduate students in the School of Urban Planning and the UB Community Justice Clinic of the School of Law.

Business visit.
What Can You Expect?


It all begins with an idea. By the end of this program, you will be able to ideate, develop and realize a collaborative, multi-phase interdisciplinary design project.


You will learn the history of the field and an array of contemporary approaches that engage multiple disciplines.


You will participate in a team-based environment while assisting clients with design templates and maintenance.


You will translate conceptual ideas into form and effectively present them to clients and target audiences while developing an awareness and sensitivity to ethics, inclusivity and diversity within one’s field and community.

Sell It

You will effectively communicate your project ideas to clients, manage schedules, timelines, and budgets.


You will grow professionally as you identify goals and actualize your career trajectory.

Who Is This Program For?

Whatever it is, we do it together with integrity and passion.

The program is for people interested in gaining more real-world design experience to advance their careers in the field of socially engaged design and innovation. The program also bolsters a competitive edge for students interested in applying to high-ranking two and three year MFA and MS programs.

We seek students from different creative backgrounds such as the arts, communications, business and marketing, architecture, urban planning, and computer science who have a shared interest in social issues, criticality, collective action and the future of design.