Carlos Escobar

2013 SMA | Carlos Escobar | MassArt




If we wanted to make the argument that all design is local—just as all politics are said to be—we might cite Carlos Escobar’s Northeast District Student Merit Award-winning work as strong evidence to support our case.

At the time of his birth in Colombia, Carlos’ mother, Alba Luz Escobar, operated a clothing store in Pereira.  After starting a group for women business owners and hosting events to raise money for education, she ran for public office and ended up serving in several positions for nearly 19 years. She now works to raise funds to support various education initiatives.

“In Colombia, a lot of kids don’t get to go to school. I was lucky,” he noted. “When I was growing up, my family would adopt teenagers to live with us for a couple of years while they finished their studies. My mothers still works with young kids in Columbia to raise money and create projects that buy books and shoes so kids can go to school.”

For Carlos, his mother’s work in politics served as a powerful example. “I’ve wondered, ‘What’s my place as a designer?’ Maybe there’s a way for me to use my skills to give back to my community.” During his time at MassArt, Carlos used two projects to demonstrate how design can achieve very local solutions.

For his senior thesis, he thought broadly about the user (Generation Y) and topic (healthcare) he was assigned. “I travel a lot,” he offered. “And it’s really challenging to adjust to new places. I’ve learned that little things—like little touches of home—can help alleviate the stress of travel.” He interviewed his peers who also travel and people who work in the hospitality industry to explore ways to make travel less stressful and more healthy.

What he came up with was a concept for a service he called Compass that would offer heavy travelers the ability to create a care package for themselves to include essentials like familiar toiletry, medication,  clothes, electronics accessories and even an alarm clock. This care package would be stored and transported by the service on behalf of the traveler so they could arrive at a new destination with a piece of home already waiting for them. “I wanted to provide a service to make travelers feel healthier and enable them to keep to their routines,” he said.


More in line with his mother’s influence, Carlos also developed a storytelling project to help change the world for the better. When he learned that a friend was HIV Positive, Carlos went to work figuring out how he could contribute to work involved with raising awareness and finding a cure. His first inspiration: the iconic AIDS quilts.

“Seeing things and putting things together creates a feeling of doing something good,” he reported. “Small things can touch a person’s life. Just like the metaphor in the Powers of 10, everything you do will multiply.”

Carlos figured that wearing an awareness ribbon was a nice gesture, but wasn’t enough to solve the problem. So he came up with the idea for a small sewing kit featuring a red button. A person who donates to AIDS and HIV research would receive the kit, then sew the button on an item of clothing. When asked about their new funky red button, they’d explain the process and invite others to make donations as well. He says “Sew to find the cure, is a way to enable people to believe that a humble gesture such as sewing a button can touch other people deeply.”

He prototyped a number of the sewing kits, and he mocked up a digital platform to support the physical experience during the summer between his sophomore and junior years. “I didn’t get an internship that summer,” he remembered. “My mom and I made 100 or so of the kits. We gave them away and asked people to make contributions to AIDS and HIV research.”

In addition to finishing up at MassArt this spring, Carlos works at Northeastern University where he provides creative and design service to business students and has been developing design projects with them. He also works with a gallery that imports Cuban art.

“I enjoy research and strategy,” he offered. “In the design process I strive to find a successful combination of user research and form to create beautiful lasting solutions. I am always hoping to create a special connection between people and the products I design.” “It has always been in my mind to do things for young people in my country. Maybe that’s my place as a designer.”

For more information on Carlos or his work, visit