Design Sprints


    Leaders serving marginalized communities and design teams co-create short-term solutions for pressing neighborhood needs.


    “Design is powerful. Let’s use it for good. Let’s use it to be inclusive. Let’s use it to empower communities to make decisions about our own built environment.”
    — Yin Kong, Executive Director, Think!Chinatown and Design Sprints partner

    Design Sprints is Van Alen Institute’s newest community-led design program. Over eight weeks, a five-team cohort comprising community leaders and design professionals collaborate on short-term solutions and tools to meet immediate neighborhood needs. In our first cohort in Winter/Spring 2024, we were delighted to welcome back several partners from our Neighborhoods Now initiative and welcome two new collaborators to this model of community-led design.

    Design Sprints follows the lead of people already working towards equity and justice in their neighborhoods. Community partners identify an immediate, pressing challenge facing their area, and Van Alen shapes multidisciplinary design teams uniquely suited to those challenges. We facilitate these collaborations through end-to-end project management and provide each team with $5000 in seed funding to implement their plans.

    Why a sprint? Time-bound projects — with an attainable “definition of done” and rapid learning — help build trust between people who are often siloed from each other. Each challenge also feeds into neighborhood-scale efforts led by our community partners, and work completed through Design Sprints supports their long-term goals.

    Partner Open Call

    Are you part of a community organization interested in participating in Design Sprints? (Or do you know one?) We’re now seeking new partners for our Fall 2024 sprint. To express your interest, fill out this form. Deadline is June 3.

    82nd Street Partnership + Librería Barco de Papel

    For Neighborhoods Now, the 82nd Street Partnership, Librería Barco de Papel, and N H D M created a comprehensive proposal for the renovation of Librería Barco de Papel — NYC’s only Spanish-language bookstore and a critical meeting space for Jackson Heights’ immigrant community. To help raise funds for the renovation and make the space more visible among its community, they collaborated with Pentagram created a cohesive and culturally appropriate brand identity.

    Taking inspiration from the bookstore’s name — Barco de Papel (Paper Boat), after a work by Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén — the Pentagram team considered the tilt of a boat’s mast and how that echoed the slant of books on a shelf. They developed a flexible new logo system that captures the activity and liveliness of the bookstore and its neighborhood, and created several applications for social media campaigns, print brochures, postcards, and more. With limited resources of the bookstore in mind, the logo is black so it can be easily printed on colorful paper for different uses.


    Nahyun Hwang

    Principal, N H D M

    Jean Im

    Architect, N H D M

    David Eugin Moon

    Principal, NHDM

    Camila Pérez

    Project Manager, Pentagram

    Leslie Ramos

    Executive Director, 82nd Street Partnership

    Andrea Trabucco-Campos

    Partner, Pentagram

    Equality for Flatbush

    Founded in 2013, Equality for Flatbush (E4F) is a Black Lives Matter organization working against police violence, gentrification, and displacement in Brooklyn. Their Black Rapid Responders initiative trains Black residents to respond to community crises as an alternative to police intervention. With a trauma-informed approach, they support survivors of elder abuse and domestic violence and neighbors with immediate housing needs. Their trained responders are often women, building on their community and cultural clout to deescalate crisis situations.

    Together with designer and activist BD Feliz and young designer Khaliyq Taylor they created visually cohesive promotional materials for the Black Rapid Responders initiative. Emphasizing the core principle of showing up with love, a colorful poster campaign features E4F’s network of women rapid responders and rhyming taglines that directly address specific issues faced by community members. They also created a black-and-white version that can be printed on standard 8.5×11″ paper, a social media campaign including a video for Instagram and TikTok, and a suite of templates so E4F can easily adapt the campaign for future uses.


    Imani Keith Henry

    Executive Director, Equality for Flatbush


    FABnyc is a team of artists and organizers working to grow and preserve the cultural vibrancy of the Lower East Side. Building on their Neighborhoods Now partnership, FABnyc and Marvel created a bespoke map that demystifies New York City’s capital construction process for Sara D. Roosevelt Park and helps advocate for the community’s influence within the capital process.

    Extending across 7.8 acres between Houston and Canal Streets, Sara D. Roosevelt Park is often perceived and used in a fragmented way. The team created a 24×72” map that emphasizes the park as a unified space, with individual overlays that show current uses by residents and local organizations, the land’s history, current and upcoming capital projects, and cultural activities. FABnyc is now using the map as an engagement tool at community board meetings, in discussions with elected officials about capital planning, and other forms of community advocacy. Made of durable, water resistant plastic canvas that quickly rolls up, they can easily transport the map to meetings and outdoor activities.


    Ishita Gaur

    Associate, Marvel

    Ryan Gilliam

    Executive Director, FABnyc

    Juan Guzman Palacios

    Associate, Marvel

    Guido Hartray, AIA

    Founding Partner,


    Eduardo M. Llinas Messeguer

    Architectural Designer, Marvel

    Ari-Duong Nguyen

    Programs Assistant, FABnyc

    Jaime Palacios

    Junior Landscape Architectural Designer,


    Loisaida Center

    The Loisaida Center is the home of Loisaida, Inc., a Puerto Rican multidisciplinary arts and culture community development organization founded in 1978. The Loisaida Center provides space, mentorship, resources, and opportunities to emerging community leaders, artists, and creators working in diverse disciplines. With Pentagram, they created a suite of communications tools for their Ecolibrium project — which analyzes hyperlocal environmental conditions in lower Manhattan to improve public health.

    The team carefully considered how to balance Ecolibrium’s advanced scientific work of with its grassroots identity, landing on a bright color palette and unified icon styles for the project’s various activities. They applied this identity to an upcoming website redesign, social media campaign, poster templates, and concepts for merchandise. To better inform neighbors and peers about Ecolibrium’s efforts and invite them to take action, the team also created a slide deck that communicates the project’s breadth in a concise presentation.


    Sewon Bae

    Project Manager, Pentagram

    Raul Barreneche

    Senior Brand Strategist, Pentagram

    Patrick Crowley

    Art Director, Pentagram

    Alejandro Epifanio

    Executive Director, Loisaida Center

    Paul Garrin

    Program Director, ECOLIBRIUM

    Luke Hayman

    Partner, Pentagram

    Gracia Lee

    Designer, Pentagram

    Promise Gladys Jimenez

    Administrative Assistant, Loisaida Center

    Antonio Nogueira

    Senior Designer, Pentagram


    Think!Chinatown is an intergenerational nonprofit in Manhattan’s Chinatown that works at the intersection of neighborhood engagement, storytelling, and the arts. With Farzana Gandhi Design Studio and fwd | A+U, Think!Chinatown created an exhibition concept and community engagement activities to explore placemaking/placekeeping strategies, authentic vs. staged cultural production, and the history of Paifang (ornamental gateways) in Chinatowns across the United States. The exhibition responds to the upcoming city-led redevelopment of Chinatown’s Kimlau Square, which proposes a new Paifang as a gateway to the neighborhood.

    To build residents’ capacity to engage with city officials regarding Kimlau Square’s redevelopment, the exhibition and accompanying activities will prompt visitors to consider the uniqueness of Manhattan’s Chinatown, the myriad ways it might be represented, and alternate forms of gateways. Pentagram is continuing to collaborate with Think!Chinatown to create the exhibition’s design and graphic identity.


    Sewon Bae

    Project Manager, Pentagram

    Meg Chew

    Programs Coordinator, Think!Chinatown

    Kerri Culhane

    Board Member, Think!Chinatown

    Kate Dunham

    Urban Design Consultant,

    Fu Wilmers Design | Architecture + Urbanism

    Jonie Fu


    Fu Wilmers Design | Architecture + Urbanism

    Farzana Gandhi


    Farzana Gandhi Design Studio

    Luke Hayman

    Partner, Pentagram

    Jenny Hung

    Associate Partner, Pentagram

    Yin Kong



    Ben Law

    Graphic Designer, Pentagram

    Chad McCabe

    Art Director

    Patty McKee

    Landscape Architect + Project Manager

    Fu Wilmers Design | Architecture + Urbanism

    Institutional Partners

    Collaborators providing support across multiple team projects in 2024:


    Jan – Feb 2024


    Teams define their projects and metrics for success.

    Feb – Mar 2024


    Teams engage in a collaborative co-design process.

    Mar 2024


    Teams fabricate their designs and create a final suite of products for community partners’ use.


    The New York State Council on the Arts is dedicated to preserving and expanding the rich and diverse cultural resources that are and will become the heritage of New…