Create the Change

Create the Change You Want to See in Our World

Artists and designers create beautiful things but, mostly, they create change. CCS alumni are changing the world by applying the skills they’ve learned to the most pressing problems of our times. From documenting history in the making to helping keep frontline workers safe, our alumni re-envision and remake what it means to be creatives in the 21st century. Now that’s beautiful

Meet some of our Alumni Changemakers

Jason Mayden

Jason Mayden '02

Hailed by Nike as one of the creative and technical masterminds behind many of the Brand Jordan sneakers, Jason Mayden is co-founder of Trillicon Valley and founder of Super Heroic, a direct-to-consumer children’s clothing and footwear startup. Mayden’s community-conscious design work underscores his fundamental belief that brands have an ethical responsibility to be equitable, diverse and inclusive of all communities of people of color.

Veronika Scott

Veronika Scott '11

Founded by Veronika Scott in 2012, The Empowerment Plan (which began as a student project) produces innovative weather-resistant sleeping bag coats, the EMPWR Coat, for the homeless — providing jobs and training in the process. During the pandemic, Scott has partnered with local nonprofits to produce personal protective equipment for frontline doctors, nurses and hospital workers.

Serge Gay Jr

Serge Gay Jr. '06

Visual artist and designer Serge Gay believes that art has a key role to play in eradicating oppression. Gay designed a custom Trucker Jacket, “Black Movement,” for the Levi’s® brand, celebrating liberation struggles from the Civil Rights era to Stonewall to today’s Black Lives Matter movement.

Ashlee Rezin

Ashlee Rezin Garcia '08

A photojournalist for the Chicago Sun-Times, Ashlee Rezin Garcia documents everyday life, music and entertainment, as well as events with historic implications, including the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and Chicago frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mario Moore

Mario Moore '09

“I don’t really like the term rewriting history,” said painter and 2018–19 Princeton Hodder Fellow Mario Moore. “When it comes to art, whoever tells their story has the power. I just like telling history.” Moore’s paintings document and celebrate African American life — including the series The Work of Several Lifetimes, portraits of black workers at Princeton University.

Rachel Elise Thomas

Rachel Elise Thomas '19

Documentary photographer and collage artist Rachel Elise Thomas uses her art to explore African American life, culture and tradition. A Documenting Detroit fellow, Thomas is one of six Detroit media makers featured in COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a part of local public radio station WDET’s StoryMakers Initiative.

Sydney James next to her mural

Sydney James '01

Visual artist Sydney G. James left her career in advertising, film and television in LA and found her purpose in Detroit, her hometown. James’ work is held in many private collections and can be found around the globe, but it’s her Detroit public art murals that are changing the landscape — and the conversation — in the city.

Bryan Thompson

Bryan Thompson '00

The Bryan Thompson Design Scholarship, established by the automotive designer and “Motor City Masters” finalist Thompson, rewards talented students who are members of, or have demonstrated support for, LGBTQ communities and want to pursue Transportation Design at CCS.

Kikko Paradela

Kikko Paradela '10

Kikko Paradela’s printed work, art and interactive designs derive their power from an unflinching commentary on race and identity, culture and gender, and capitalism and inequality. Paradela’s “Death by Police Ipsum,” is a live database that collects information, broken down by race, age, gender and other factors, on the most recent police shootings.

Students Creating Change

Our alumni aren't the only ones creating change. The projects below were student projects that made headlines because of the important insights and outcomes they've shown.

brown shells and blue glass

Zebra Glass Project

“Zebra Glass” proposes using zebra and quagga mussels, which are invasive to the Great Lakes ecosystem, as a source of calcium carbonate in the creation of region-based artisanal soda lime glass. The project seeks to transform these species from an ecological threat to an over-abundant resource that can be harvested and used for various building applications.

The project took the grand prize at this year’s Biodesign Challenge (BDC) and was a collaborative effort by CCS MFA Color & Materials Design students Mahsa Banadaki, Emily Marquette, and CCS MFA Integrated Design student Wei Huang under the guidance of adjunct professor Matthew Strong. The team also worked interdepartmentally with assistance from CCS Craft & Material Studies Chair Kim Harty and Assistant Professor and Section Head of Ceramics, Ebitenyefa Baralaye. The team not only demonstrated their creativity but also their adaptability and resilience as they worked under the added challenge of a global pandemic.

Students standing in the Cooper Hewitt Museum in front of their project

Equitable Mobility Detroit 2030

Part of a citywide effort to use user-centered design as a driver for equitable development, the Equitable Mobility Detroit 2030 project explores innovative neighborhood mobility proposals. Autonomous mobile pods bring 21st-century curriculum directly to youth in Detroit neighborhoods. Larger mobile units transform daily commutes into tailored, place-based entrepreneurship training and mentorship for the neighborhood's young adults. Mobile health units collect relevant data to generate nutrition plans and menus.

The two project outcomes, Scenario Design and Service Design, were created by CCS graduate students and featured at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in the exhibition The Road Ahead: Reimagining Mobility and at the Detroit Design 139 INCLUSIVE FUTURES exhibitiohn.

products designed by a ccs student to combat malaria


CCS Product Design student Minwoo Lee has developed the product "Aria," a portable medical product created with the sole purpose of detecting malaria utilizing infrared light.

Aria eradicates the need for medical specialists, expensive equipment and highly trained staff.

Creating Change in our Community

The public programs the college offers are second to none and help to foster a love of the arts within Detroit.

Kids from Detroit provided with free art classes each year via our Community Arts Partnerships Programs.
people annually have taken part in design events offered by CCS's Design Core Detroit 
Highly visible, long-lasting, visual art projects created within the Detroit community by Community + Public Arts: Detroit
Lecture series available to the public to foster passion in art and design
Community programs delivered annually
Jobs created in Detroit with the assistance of CCS's Design Core Detroit

Create the change

Create Change/Beauty/Stories/Impact You Want to See in our World

Start your path to becoming a changemaker by applying to CCS.

Apply Now