What is Trauma-informed Design?

The value and opportunity for designers to learn about and understand different forms of trauma is unquantifiable and urgent.

In this session, Mary Foyder and Rachael Dietkus will share an overview of trauma and an introduction to trauma-informed practices for designers, outlining how it might show up in our design research, our team and client dynamics, our work in spaces with survivors of and those in recovery from trauma, and our overall design practice. 

Trauma has many forms and influences on people’s lives, and we’ll review a number of definitions that are especially relevant to the work of a designer. Mary and Rachael will also talk about their experience as a designer who is ‘practicing without a license’ (Hirsch, 2020) and as a social worker-design researcher. 

They also acknowledge that adopting a trauma-informed approach in design cannot be accomplished through any singular technique or checklist, however as designers we must foster compassion and build in cultural acknowledgment, care, and sensitivity in our practices—and this begins with a strong foundational awareness.

The link to the Zoom event will be sent out to you via email a day before the event and again the afternoon of the event.


About Mary Foyder

Mary Foyder is an award-winning transdisciplinary designer, strategist, versatile design leader, mom, and small adventure seeker. She loves to help clients plan, envision, and bring things to life. An IDEO alumnus, Mary believes in a human centered, trauma-informed approach to problem solving.

Her experience includes a diverse range of subjects—from designing for financial services to the creation and branding a birth control support network for women. She has worked with a broad list of clients including, The Chicago Department of Public Health, American Express, Northern Trust, Nike, Ci3 & The University of Chicago, Heartland Alliance, The 606, Bedsider, and Power to Decide.

Among the press and accolades Mary’s work has received, Bedsider garnered an IDEA gold for service

design and bronze for both research and design strategy. The Bedsider work also won a Core77 strategy and research award and was featured in the Pasadena Museum of California Art. The recent Hello Greenlight project for Ci3 & The University of Chicago was recognized for strategy and research by Core77.


About Rachael Dietkus

Rachael Dietkus is a macro-focused licensed clinical social worker and certified clinical trauma professional dedicated to trauma-conscious and trauma-responsive practices in design. After a10-year career working with social justice and human rights non-profits, she pursued her MSW and worked at Veterans Affairs across the patient advocacy, planning and construction, and housing and homelessness arenas. Since 2016, she has been working in higher education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - first as the Assistant Dean at the School of Social Work, and currently as the Associate Director of Programs at Siebel Center for Design.

She has served as an AmeriCorps member with the Red Cross, an NGO delegate to the Human Rights Council, and is a Governor-appointed statewide Commissioner with the Serve Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service. In 2020, Rachael also launched Social Workers Who Design, an advisory and consultancy service focused on integrating ethical and trauma-responsive practices in design. She is a two-time alumna from UIUC and is currently working on her Design for Responsible Innovation MFA focused on trauma-responsive design.



Students $15

Members $20

Non Members $25


Code of Conduct

By registering to attend this event, you agree to abide by AIGA Chicago Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct may be found here. https://www.aiga.org/code-of-conduct


Special Accommodations

If you need special accommodations for this event please contact Kelly 2 weeks prior to the event at kel@chicago.aiga.org.


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Special thanks to Mary Foyder and Rachael Dietkus for planning this event and to Nacho Montiel for designing the event graphics.

When & Where
Fri, May 21, 2021 4:00 PM - 6:00 PM CDT