“Design, Un-design, Redesign” – Naomi Tidball
“Systems of Oppression, Inequality, and Inequity are by design. Therefore, they can be redesigned.”
Antionette Carroll, Founder of Creative Reaction Lab.
In late January 2021, the Transmission in Motion Seminar was joined by Jon McKenzie, Lara Harvey, and Veronica Cinibulk from Cornell University. The event-seminar focussed on the emerging field of ‘Design Justice’ and how various performance efforts (poetry, song, interactive design) through social brought awareness to the movement #HerWholeTruth (Utrecht, 2021). The emerging field of Design Justice entails a community of individuals collaborating on reshaping design processes to benefit marginalized individuals (Hasan & Amin, 2020). My first encounter with Design Justice was at this Transmission in Motion Seminar with McKenzie, Harvey, and Cinibulk. I am intrigued and fascinated by their efforts. It made me re-evaluate various design injustices from my home country. For this blog post, however, I want to reflect on another Design Lab and how their efforts to rethink and reshape motioned a movement forward in their local and global communities.
“What should we do? How do we address the unrest and inequalities in our communities?” (Carroll, 2017: 00:01.52) expressed Antionette Carroll at a TedX conference in 2017. Throughout Carroll’s eloquent discussion on the issues of racial inequalities in America, she also challenges our understanding of current designs and their systems of inequality (Carroll 2017). Both the founder and executive director of the Creative Reaction Lab, Carroll, states:
“you know design is effective when you don’t know that it’s there, but when you’re walking down the street or you’re within a building, or the clothes that you’re wearing, those were all design decisions, and so I saw that as powerful. So, if design is shaping our culture in our world and has been doing it for centuries, then why are we not inviting designers to the table to address these social justices that are embedded within our culture.” (Ibid. 2017: 00:03: 00-00:03:27)
The Creative Reaction Lab recognizes how youths have been undervalued and overlooked in the process of change and design (The Creative Lab, 2021). Thus, the Lab provides an opportunity for “educating, training, and challenging Black and Latino youths to become leaders.” (The Creative Lab, 2021). The steps to their mission are Consciousness, Community, and Power; through these three pillars, youths from marginalized backgrounds collaborate on designing communities that challenge both racial and health inequities (Ibid. 2021).
As an emerging field, Design Justice both advocates for the marginalized and calls for collaboration between various fields. McKenzie, Harvey, and Cinibulk’s discussion on Design Justice, highlights the importance of performance and activism through various social media platforms. Moreover, design labs such as Antionette Carroll’s The Creative Reaction Lab establishes how design can empower youth participation in redesigning injustices that are embedded in our current systems.
- Carroll, Antionette. 2017. “Justice by Design | Antionette Carroll | TEDxHerndon – YouTube.” TedTalk , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFmeD3P8YKQ.
- Lab, Creative Reaction. 2021. “About.” Creative Reaction Lab, https://www.creativereactionlab.com/about.
- Hasan, Mahrukh and Amin, Sanam. 2020.“Design Justice: Why it matters and how you can apply the principle to your work,” Research World, December 21, 2020. https://www.researchworld.com/design-justice-why-it-matters-and-how-you-can-apply-the-principles-to-your-work/
- University, Utrecht. 2021.“Transmission in Motion Seminar (2020-2021): ‘Performing Rapid Response Design Justice: #HerWholeTruth, Lisa’s Song & Girl Squads’ – Jon McKenzie, Lara Harvey and Veronica Cinibulk (Cornell University, USA).” Transmission in Motion, January 27, 2021. https://transmissioninmotion.sites.uu.nl/transmission-in-motion-seminar-2020-2021-transmedia-knowledge-human-centred-design-and-engaged-media-jon-mckenzie-cornell-university-usa/.
*Image credits: Kamps, Laurens & Tidball, Naomi. “Design, Un-design, Redesign,” February 2021, Illustrator.