design for the wellbeing
of black women™

A hands-on healing experience in building self-recovery
and transformation through design


The creation of Design for the Wellbeing of Black Women™ was birthed Oct 2017 from the insights within the personal stories of Black women in Baltimore through in-depth interviews during my Social Design thesis. They bravely shared what it is like to live with a mental health challenge and ways to cultivate a compassionate culture. Their stories enabled me to learn that we want the impact of race and gender on our health outcomes to be addressed and we’re also interested in having a leadership role in determining how our healthcare experiences should look and feel.

Black women have been integral to the wellbeing of their families and communities, yet lead the nation in health disparities and remain one of the most undertreated and undersupported groups. But the state of Black women’s health, lack of access to holistic treatment and culturally relevant approaches is not only a health inequity but also a design injustice, as healthcare interventions are designed without the voices, experiences and creative ideas of Black women at the center.

How might we CENTER Black women as leaders in the design process to reimagine collective wellbeing, creatively and holistically?

Launched Fall of 2017 as part of North Avenue Knowledge Exchange and featured in Baltimore Beat, Design for the Wellbeing of Black Women is a hands-on healing experience in building self-recovery and transformation through design. The first experience of it’s kind, participants (Black women and non-binary femmes) look at design’s role as a transformative tool that can support their healing process and collective wellbeing.

This distinct experience provides a safe space for Black women and non-binary femmes to:

  1. share health concerns that they have for themselves and other black women in their families and communities.

  2. Identify inner and outer support needs using a mind, body, soul, space framework*.

  3. PROTOTYPE AND DESIGN personalize healthcare and self-care tools to utilize in their every day lives.

*The mind, body, soul, space framework is adapted and inspired by the language of Black Girl in Om

References: The Status of Black Women in The United States


participants on new skills
+ knowledge gained

Design is everywhere.
That black women do desire to heal.
How to process and reflect with a new, empowering and validating perspective.
Sense of self, sense of place, sense of community.
That being a Black woman means that I’m essential, but that I shouldn’t be expendable.
How design and mental health connect, and are important to connect.
Prototyping. Design is for everyone!
That my experiences aren’t isolated.


A group of abundant Black women in Baltimore who participated in community pop-up sessions formed the first Design for the Wellbeing of Black Women 2018 Cohort. Throughout the cohort program, we center our lived experiences and creative capacity to develop the tools we need to be well, individually and collectively. We look at design’s role in supporting the healing journey, explore preventative, holistic health practices with local practitioners, and design personalized, inexpensive healthcare and self-care tools to build wellbeing into our every day lives.


This gallery of images captures our overall program experience while engaging in design education and health sessions. Final prototypes created as a result of the program and stories about the cohort behind the designs will be shared on our upcoming platform.



“How Might We” questions are seeds for ideation that can address our deepest challenges and create transformative possibilities. Below are the questions our 2018 Cohort reflected upon, designed for and are continuing to actualize throughout Baltimore.


Design for the Wellbeing of Black Women™ is the core offering for a collective I’VE BEEN building with Black women CREATORS + HEALERS in Baltimore.

We look forward to sharing more about what we’re cultivating
on a website coming soon.



design + healing journey

As creator + cultivator of Design for the Wellbeing of Black Women, I have been designing the experiences and continued engagement with the women who have participated in the introductory sessions and collaborating with others who share a heart for this work. One of those amazing people, N’Deye Diakhate, co-facilitator and friend, is a multidisciplinary artist and designer with a love of people, design thinking, and liberation, who brings a passionate perspective to realizing the holistic health and wellbeing of Black women throughout Baltimore. They have played a meaningful role throughout the design and healing journey. It has been a gift to learn and grow alongside them, and with the Black women who have participated in this distinct and emergent experience.


N'Deye Diakhate, Session Co-facilitator

“It’s been a blessing to meet and work with Denise on D4WBW. A few years ago before I dropped out of school, my Graphic Design thesis was heading in this direction: to discuss the perspectives of black women around mental health. But due to my own mental health, I had to put these ideas on the backburner. So for years later, to see her poster for her own thesis in Social Design surrounding mental illness and BW, I knew I had to talk to her. Diving in was almost too easy lol. She has so much research and vision, but what really got me was the idea of switching from just creating space for discussion and healing, to designing and developing tools that can facilitate that healing. Bouncing ideas and tackling this from a design perspective with a fellow black femme designer was an outlet I didn’t even know I needed. I’m so excited to create and develop more work together!”


to your community

if you are a community leader interested in bringing A SESSION to a black women’s group that you serve, I would love to hear from you.