Design Justice in Cultural and Artistic Production
Facilitated by And Also Too
Design justice centers communities that are systematically excluded from and harmed by conventional design processes. How might we use a design justice lens to shape cultural and artistic production around data? This was the question we set out to explore in a 2-hour workshop with the participants of the ADA-DADA Residency on February 9, 2021. In this workshop, we discussed the Design Justice Network principles and invited participants to consider whether and how they might shape their works in alignment with these principles.
A tool for understanding power imbalances in design processes
We began by asking participants to share their memories of the first time design touched their lives. What was the design? Their stories varied widely—from first becoming aware of patterns in tapestry, to wanting to make their own clothes, to being puzzled over the delineation of borders in cartographic maps.
We asked participants to make a list of everyone who was touched by their residency projects—who was involved, who it was about, including themselves. Then we asked them to redraw the venn diagram seen in the image above, and to place everyone they've listed in the appropriate place in the diagram.
This power analysis tool, developed by And Also Too creative director Una Lee, helps us see how and where power and oppression come into play in a design process or outcome.
Conventional, capitalist design processes tend to look like the image above. There is little overlap between who participates, benefits, and is impacted. Most communities who are impacted negatively by particular design outcomes don’t benefit from or don’t participate in the design processes that lead to those outcomes. This helps us visualize instances of design injustice.
In contrast, design justice aims for those who are impacted by design to also participate and benefit. This idea has a direct lineage in the demand advanced by the disability justice movement: “nothing about us without us.”
We spent the rest of the workshop discussing the Design Justice Network Principles and generating ideas to put them into practice. We talked about the challenges of producing work funded or backed by institutions that often reproduce the harm we are trying to address, and how mainstream design institutions, pedagogy, and narratives contradict design justice. We also talked about how design justice felt very intuitive to some of the artists, as well as contradictory to the ways that some artists practice.
And Also Too is a co-design studio for social justice visionaries. We work to redistribute power in design by co-creating with communities that are too often excluded from decisions that will directly impact their lives. We practice co-design according to the Design Justice Network Principles. We prioritize care, deep listening, and joy.