SAIC Faculty Members Receive $10,000 TED Prize for Crowdsourcing Transit App Project “Designing Chicago”

Chicago, IL—George Aye and Sara Cantor Aye, faculty members in SAIC’s Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects (AIADO), have received a $10,000 prize from TED. Their City 2.0 grant will support Designing Chicago: New Tools for Public Transit, a project from the Aye’s Greater Good Studio that leverages public participation and design to improve citywide navigation. The award is part of a $100,000 yearlong effort to support online platforms devoted to making cities function better worldwide.

Designing Chicago was conceived in the summer of 2012. At the project’s onset George and Sara received a wide range of input and endorsements from individuals working in transit, urban planning, and design—including City of Chicago Chief Technology Officer John Tolva and legendary New York City subway signage designer Massimo Vignelli, among many others—and consensus formed around the idea that widespread public involvement would be essential to creating a new smartphone app that would improve on existing tools like HopStop. Designing Chicago is currently gathering a team of transit riders, dubbed Urban Agents, to work with them on the project’s research and design.

Greater Good Studio, which operates under the motto “design for citizens,” was founded in order to use design methods to solve social problems. New York–based design blog Core77 describes the studio as a non-profit “with the mentality and business acumen of a for-profit institution.” Past projects from the studio include a Chicago school cafeteria redesign project, conducted by SAIC students and faculty this past spring, as well as designing prototypes for next-generation public bus interiors.

"We believe that public transit is a vital part of a sustainable future, and that whether you take it because you ‘want’ to or because you ‘need’ to, it's a force for positive change in society," said Sara Cantor Aye. George adds, “As a professor, I have to unpack everything I know and do instinctively, so that anyone without training can learn how to do it themselves intuitively—that’s teaching in a nutshell. For this project to be a success, we had to devise a way to teach on a much bigger scale. We like to think of the city as our classroom."

In 2012 the annual $100,000 TED Prize was bestowed upon an idea rather than an individual—The City 2.0. The $100,000 prize was broken into 10 grants of $10,000 each, to be given to a variety of projects spanning areas like transportation, education, housing, health, public space, and food. Seven of the grants have been given out to date.

About George Aye and Sara Cantor Aye

Sara Cantor Aye co-founded Greater Good Studio with George in 2011 to apply her design research and innovation practice to the social sector. Formerly Research Director at IA Collaborative, Sara works as an advocate for the user across every step of the design process. In addition to being an instructor at SAIC, Sara also teaches at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Institute of Design at IIT, and Lake Forest College.

SAIC Assistant Professor George Aye co-founded Greater Good Studio as a way to increase the impact of his user-centered design practice. Before joining SAIC he began his design career at IDEO Chicago and currently holds nine patents. After seven years at IDEO, George became the lead designer at the Chicago Transit Authority, where he explored the intersection of design and public policy by envisioning the design of a new bus system for Chicago. George also spent a year as Creative Director at IA Collaborative, building a new industrial design team, before transitioning to academia full-time.

About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate and graduate degrees and post-baccalaureate programs to nearly 3,200 students from around the globe. SAIC also enables adults, high school students, middle school students, and children to flourish in a variety of courses, workshops, certificate programs, and camps through its Continuing Studies program. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC has an educational philosophy built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields. SAIC's resources include the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern Wing; numerous special collections and programming venues provide students with exceptional exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances. For more information, please visit

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