This article was originally written by Design for America’s Allison Chen on the Design for America blog

This year, Design for America has been lucky enough to work with XPLANE, a strategic design consultancy in Portland that applies human-centered design principles to drive organizational performance.

One of our wonderful alumni Sara Mesing, who co-founded the Case Western Reserve|Cleveland Institute of Art Design for America studio, currently works for XPLANE. In January, Sara pitched DFA to be selected as XPLANE’s social good client for 2015, and we have been working together ever since.


The engagement kicked off in April with a 2-day, in-person, session with the DFA National team, advisors, and DFA student founders. After a lively day of mind mapping, analyzing, and goal-setting, we identified key insights regarding our internal decision-making process and DFA experience. Since then, DFA and XPLANE have been working together to better define roles within our organization and identify the ideal student journey.

The DFA Student Journey outlines the essential activities and components of the DFA experience. Not only is it a great guide for newcomers to the DFA network, but also helps us set goals and highlight important components of the model as we scale in the future. Check out the final illustration!


This effort culminated in a final 1-day, in-person session, during which we evaluated our internal roles and activities along several impact scales. We uncovered the activities that are essential to sustain organic growth and how we might scale our organization to meet higher growth targets.

Evaluating and prioritizing activities

Talking about different aspects of our organization

Brainstorming new ways to meet our goals

Prioritizing new activities

Working with XPLANE has been a wonderful experience for us! We’re so thankful for their guidance and support over this year, and very excited to put our plans into action.

Interested in learning more about XPLANE? Contact us at!