THE WE DESIGN ISSUE
Highlighting designers and projects from the exhibit
change through the transformative power
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES
2 Magazine Copyright © 2023 Design Museum Everywhere STAFF Maria Villafranca Interim Executive Director Claire-Solène Bečka Operations Coordinator Marie Coste Grants & Membership Manager Liana Mestas Director of Development Jocelyn Rice Director of Education & Community Engagement J.R. Uretsky Exhibitions Manager BOARD OF DIRECTORS Austen Angell Gregory Bombard Tom Di Lillo Ashley Dunn Jessica Ekong Eric Corey Freed Josephine Holmboe Leila Mitchell Larry Rodgers Alan Scott Roxane Spears Scott Stropkay Tracy Swyst George White CONNECT MISSION Give • Contribute Expertise • Volunteer Learn more: designmuseumeverywhere.org Reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org @designmuseumeverywhere @design_museum
design. COMMUNITY We are a community motivated by using the design process to create personal, cultural, and global impact.
Community-centered events, exhibitions, and publications that connect the public to the power and social impact of design. Educational programs about design and social change innovations in business, society, and culture. Career development and mentoring for students and design professionals.
We are participatory and committed to community-centered approaches. We believe in the power of design to improve the world around us. We value
and co-creation. We champion inclusive design. We strive for our internal practices, educational programs, and creative projects to reflect the equitable and socially responsible world that we want to see.
A NEW MISSION.
We’re excited to announce that Design Museum Everywhere has a new mission: to inspire social change through the transformative power of design. Why the change? We want our mission to better reflect our work now and in the future.
This new mission enables us to sharpen our focus on design that improves people’s lives and, ultimately, the world we live in. We’re energized by inclusive design practices, workplaces that are built with sustainability and equity at their core, and how the design of our government, healthcare, and educational systems can best work for the communities they are intended to serve. Through our publications, exhibitions, and educational programs, we highlight diverse creative problem solvers across the design industry who are using the design process in service of personal, cultural, and global impact.
This special edition of Design Museum Magazine is just one example of the type of work we want to do more of. The We Design Issue celebrates the intersectional identities of women, gender-expansive, and BIPOC designers and their lasting impact on contemporary design. In addition to this publication, We Design encompasses several programs: a traveling and online exhibition, conversation cards, and virtual and in-person talks.
We invite you to explore and attend all of our programs, and as a participatory museum, tell us what you want to see more of and, if you’d like to get involved, email Maria Villafranca, our Interim Executive Director, at email@example.com. In the coming months, we will continue to assess and adapt our programs to best fulfill our promise to inspire social change through the transformative power of design.
If you’ve followed our journey since the beginning, we invite you to be part of our future, and if you’re coming to us for the first time, please join us as we move forward.
Sincerely, Design Museum Everywhere Board & Staff
Essay Nicholas Xavier Fernandes
Featured Profile Gabrielle Bullock
Featured Profile Fan Bi Case Study Shannon Maldonado, YOWIE Essay Kendra Roberts Case Study Modjossorica (Rica) Elysee-Ndiaye, Beauty Lynk Case Study Maria Molteni, New Craft Artists in Action Interview Dewayne Dale Jr. Community Activities
Hope for the Future
Essay Bakari Akinyele
Featured Profile Alex Dang
Featured Profile Angela Medlin
Featured Essay Susan Piedmont-Palladino
Featured Profile Precious Bugarin
Featured Profile Oen Michael Hammonds Case Study Saba Ghole, Nuvu Studio Case Study Noèl Puèllo Hope For The Future Activities
Essay Catherine Clarke
Featured Profile MegZany Interview De Nichols Case Study Marli Washington, GC2B Case Study Liz Ogbu, Studio O Interview Candy Chang Wellbeing Activities
Have a great design impact
firstname.lastname@example.org Interested in advertising opportunities? email@example.com DEPARTMENTS
6 10 11 12
Contributors Introduction by Journee Harris From the Guest Editor
The We Design Issue
Essay Humaira Tasneem
Featured Profile Elyse Ayoung Featured Profile Fady Saad Featured Profile Tonie Esteban Featured Profile Fonz Morris Case Study Bless Mazarura, Bless By Bless/ARMY OF LUV Featured Profile Phil Freelon Interview George Aye Leadership Activities
Essay Emerson Goo Featured Profile Clint Ramos Featured Profile Taniya Nayak Case Study Ade Hassan, Nubian Skin Interview Suenn Ho Case Study Pascale Sablan, Beyond the Built Environment Case Study Lani Asunción, Duty-Free Paradise Interview Rachel Smith Visibility Activities
Coforma crafts creative solutions and builds technology products that elevate human needs. They’re impactful by design. Visit them at coforma.io.
Winter 2023 • Issue 024 DESIGN MUSEUM MAGAZINE ISSUE 024 WINTER 2023 (ISSN 2573-9204) IS PUBLISHED QUARTERLY BY DESIGN MUSEUM EVERYWHERE, PO BOX #9188 25 NEW CHARDON STREET LOBBY,
CHANGES TO DESIGN MUSEUM EVERYWHERE, PO BOX #9188 25 NEW
BOSTON, MA 02114.
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Bakari Akinyele is a strategist and artist from Washington, DC. He graduated from Howard University, in 2020, with a Bachelor's in Political Science and a Minor in Bioethics and Philosophy. His interdisciplinary practice is rooted in research, design, and cultural strategy. Akinyele's work connects design, craft, and imagination to expressing love and care.
Journee Harris is a Storyteller, Urbanist, and Community Development professional based in Cambridge, MA. She is a first-year Master in City Planning student at MIT and a proud alumna of Howard University, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Journee has worked in the non-profit sector, focusing on public space, housing, youth development, historic preservation, and equity in the built environment for over seven years.
Emerson Goo is a deaf landscape architecture student from Honolulu, Hawai’i, and will graduate in 2023 with a BLA and minors in restoration ecology and urban planning from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He is an advocate for disabled designers in built environment professions. Emerson is also a writer and film programmer interested in the intersections of film, design, and the environment, and has contributed to publications such as Film Comment, Screen Slate, MUBI, Hyperallergic, and the New York Review of Architecture. He is a 2022 Documentary Magazine Editorial Fellow at the International Documentary Association.
Humaira Tasneem recently graduated with a Graduate Thesis Award for her work in equity-driven design from Pacific Northwest College of Art with a Master’s in Collaborative Design. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the American University of Sharjah. She received a fellowship in the Equity and Social Action Committee at the Pacific Northwest College of Art and was awarded the BIPOC Leadership Scholarship. Additionally, Humaira Tasneem was the Captain of the United Arab Emirates Women’s National Cricket Team and an accomplished illustrator and artist.
Leila Lee Mitchell is the founder of LLM Design and an expert at communicating identity and information to shape experiences that connect people to place. With more than 25 years of design experience in a variety of disciplines, her process begins with engaging the collective voice and ends with a compelling story. Leila attended The University of Virginia, School of Architecture and The Dynamic Media Institute at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She currently teaches in the Industrial Design curriculum at Wentworth Institute of Technology. She is an active leader with Design Museum Everywhere Board of Directors, Mass Art’s Alumni Leadership Council and a 2023 Entrepreneur in Residence. Proud mom of three, she recently started a “Mom” band with four of her friends called The Lazy Susans.
Catherine Clarke is a graphic and information design graduate from Northeastern University, passionate about human-centered and inclusive design. She currently works as a user experience (UX) designer for Fidelity Investments.
Kendra Roberts is a co-founder of Common Ground Arts (CGA), a creative consultancy with a mission to support the vital role of artists in developing and presenting experimental, challenging, and socially conscious works of art. As the designer and creator of Kendra Studio Jewellery (KSJ), she is an award-winning artist and published writer. Roberts has exhibited her work internationally throughout the US and appeared on a major American television network. Through her vast experience as a committed arts advocate and collaborator, she brings the perspective of a self-produced working artist, curator, and arts administrator to her work as a creative producer.
Nicholas Xavier Fernandes is an artist, community organizer, and designer based in Boston. As a first-generation Queer Black American of Cape Verdean descent, Xavier's work regarding identity started from a young age and was first expressed through art. As a recent graduate of Wentworth Institute of Technology, he earned a degree in Architecture with a concentration in Urbanism. During his undergraduate career, he was the co-president of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students.
Susan Piedmont-Palladino is an architect, professor, and Director of the Virginia Tech Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center (WAAC). She is also a consulting curator at the National Building Museum and the author of several books, including companion books for exhibitions and initiatives she has curated, such as Green Community, Intelligent Cities, and Timber City
A graduate of Virginia Tech and the College of William and Mary, she has lectured on American urbanism, sustainability, and current issues in design to public, professional, and academic audiences in the US, Europe, and Latin America.
Coforma works with the government and private sector to craft creative digital solutions and build technology products that improve people’s lives. They’ve honed a modern, agile, user-centered approach that elevates human needs through thoughtfully-designed systems and products. They are a minority-owned small business and 12% Veterans, and they’ve built a diverse team that’s dedicated to improving people’s lives through thoughtful technology products and services. To date, the Coforma team has helped improve access to quality healthcare, connected families in crisis at the US border, researched improvements to Veteran care, provided greater access to civic tools, used technology to tell previously untold stories, and more. Coforma is dedicated to reshaping the way communities access and utilize technology products. Together. Visit them at coforma.io.
LLM Design is a multidisciplinary design studio with a focus on creating brand experiences through strategic marketing, creative placemaking, graphic and interior design. Our desire to do original work that effects change drives us to dig deep and pan for gold. No stone is left unturned and no seemingly off-the-rails idea turned away, until we filter it through our strategic conduit. What remains after this process is pure, refined and ready for primetime.
We thrive in the confluence of biographies, identities, skills, and interactions—it’s what gives LLM Design its unique holistic soul. Our workplace diversity encourages creativity and innovation because every team member brings their own unique background, experience, and perspective to the table. For us, cultural diversity in the workplace is about more than checking a box. With more than 70% female employees and 50% BIPOC employees, we believe that the power of intersectionality will yield a better world for us all. We are honored to deliver the We Design stories and mission through fresh new visuals in this issue.
Leila Lee Mitchell
DESIGN TEAM. @llmdesign | www.llmdesign.com | firstname.lastname@example.org
We Design: People. Practice. Progress. “This is the time of ‘the pause,’ the universal place of stopping. The universal moment of reflection.” I first discovered these words tucked away in an essay from Alice Walker’s book We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time of Darkness. The essay was published in 2006, yet the wisdom is timeless and became most relevant to me as I worked on this project, and even this introduction. “We Design: People. Practice. Progress.” was developed at a time of catastrophe and shock. Between city-wide lockdowns and quarantines from one’s own family, there was a quiet place of rest that many of us were forced to inhabit. I imagine that this is the kind of place, or rather, moment, that Alice Walker years ago encouraged us to accept—the pause. This project, at all stages, from conception, creation, to production, was an exercise in pausing and reflecting.
I joined the Design Museum as the We Design Program Coordinator in 2020, and like many folks, at the time, I was attempting to make sense of myself and the world around me. The global public health crisis exposed the crumbling foundation of nations around the world. After the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, people worldwide began investigating their complicitness, family history, political ideologies, and other ways they have contributed to the legacy of racism. And though systemic racism was not new to me (full disclosure: I am a Black woman who grew up in the South), I was new to the feeling of global urgency and collective grief. Why is this happening? How did we get here? What do we do next?
Persistently, I asked myself these questions as I settled into my role at the Design Museum. It wasn’t long before the Design Museum tagline emerged as an answer and glimmer of hope—“Design is everywhere.” And it all began to make sense. Design is at the root of every institution and invention in the world. And behind every design, a designer—a human being making decisions and solving problems, often informed and influenced by who they are as individuals. In real-time, we watch nations fail because they were not designed for this new world, where those who have been historically oppressed are finding ways to uphold power themselves. What do we do next? We pause. We listen. We look to the creators who want to design for a better world. It was upon this revelation that the concept for a We Design publication was born.
FROM THE GUEST EDITOR.
LEILA LEE MITCHELL
It was one of those late nights in the studio, taking a break from ink drawings on mylar, when I had an unforgettable conversation that still haunts me to this day. A few of us were chatting about our family backgrounds and how we grew up. A Black female student asked me “Do you connect with Black culture or White?” I answered with confidence, “I connect with both, plus many other cultures...I guess it’s a mix.” She then responded with “Well then you don’t really belong to any culture.” After 19 years of being a Chinese Jamaican growing up in the middle of Virginia, I was, for the first time, uncomfortable in my own skin. I was the kind of child that thrived on being the “only” in a group. At a Southern rural elementary school with clear divisions of the Black kids and the White kids, I was an olive-skinned girl with Asian features welcomed into all groups. What I hated most was choosing. When asked to choose “race” on a form, I checked multiple boxes, but struggled when digital forms only allowed for one. Her statement was the first time I questioned my identity.
Years have passed (dare I say decades) and my identity has continued to evolve along with my ability with straddling boxes. In the professional world, explaining that I work across multiple design disciplines can be clumsy at times, especially when the listener asks “So, are you an architect or a graphic designer?” My typical reply, “A little bit of both.” In my view, the practice of applying single labels and checking boxes undermines our individual identity and value. Instead, when we encourage others to tell their story, we build a stronger framework to identify connections, recognize differences, and generate empathy.
I am so proud to present (with the hard work of the DME staff, past and present) this compilation filled with beautiful, inspiring, and provocative stories. We Design shines light on under-represented designers and the work they do through case studies, champions leaders in featured profiles, questions historical processes through essays, and reveals intimate conversations in interviews. Five themes emerged as a way of organization and context: Community, Hope for the Future, Wellbeing, Leadership, and Visibility. There is no one way to read through this issue. Whether it is from beginning to end or jumping around, I encourage you to pause, reflect, and practice. Activities are provided after each chapter for you, your team, your students, or your family.
As I read through these stories, I found encouragement, joy, and belonging. I wish I could send this issue to my nineteen-yearold self and tell her “Culture is not found in a check box, but within our shared experiences. Stay true to yourself.”
Leila Lee Mitchell Guest Editor
ABOUT WE DESIGN.
We Design is a series of programs highlighting leaders in the design field who are using the transformative power of design for social good. The program celebrates women, gender-expansive, and BIPOC designers through exhibitions, conversation cards, and this special edition of Design Museum Magazine.
The We Design Issue highlights leaders in the design field that refuse the confines of White supremacy and are creating innovative products and strategies at the forefront of contemporary design. Edited by Leila Mitchell, founder of LLM Design, and J.R. Uretsky, Exhibitions Manager at Design Museum Everywhere. Designed by LLM Design in Boston, MA, this special issue features an introduction by urbanist and storyteller Journee Harris.
We Design Exhibition Conversation Cards include stories from creatives in a variety of design industries, along with statistics and topics of discussion around diversity and equity in design.
Both virtual and traveling We Design Exhibitions explore designer profiles to learn more about innovative products and strategies at the forefront of contemporary design. Each profile highlights design leaders who use the transformative power of design to inspire and create social change.
Contact our Exhibitions Manager at email@example.com to nominate a designer or bring a We Design Exhibition to your community.
Though I do not enjoy writing, for once, I was excited to come up with a project proposal that followed the guide of Karl Marx’s Class Conflict Theory.
I knew from the beginning that it would be about architecture and power dynamics.
ARCHITECTURE THAT IMPACTS COMMUNITY AND COMMUNITY THAT IMPACTS ARCHITECTURE NICHOLAS XAVIER
Let me tell you all about this final sociology assignment that I enjoyed. We were asked to write a paper. Though I do not enjoy writing, for once, I was excited to come up with a project proposal that followed the guide of Karl Marx’s Class Conflict Theory I knew from the beginning that it would be about architecture and power dynamics. By this point, I was entrenched in architecture theory, so to pair this with the study of social problems meant that I could take a unique look at architecture and urbanism. The topic of my paper was “The integration of White supremacy into urban planning and design.” By recalling my classes of urbanism and sociology for my project, I was able to uncover and better understand many of the social dynamics that affect my communities. The last portion of my abstract was about the power of actions performed on the urban scale. A single planning decision can affect not only the city but also the region around it. However, not every resident experiences the same gains or losses of these calls. In America particularly, the planning of urban cores have been under the influence of ideas that uphold a utopian White American society.
I came from the most diverse town in Massachusetts. Even though it was not perfect, I love my hometown, and I have so much pride and gratitude for it. Randolph was filled with many faces and cultures and a true sense of diversity that I have yet to find anywhere else. As a young Black Queer kid, it was important for me to explore the extent of my identity and try new things. I was active in my community. I played sports in my town’s recreational leagues. In middle school, I played in the orchestral and jazz bands. In high school, I was a member of the dance team, captain of the cheer squad, varsity hurdle captain, and part of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) program that allowed me to “nerd out” over science. Along the way, I discovered my happiest place in art.
On the one hand, I would say that my interest in building blocks, drawing, and painting, paired with my affinity for dense and busy urban life, were seen as two separate things. However, it wasn’t until I had an art teacher that noticed my interest in drawing perspectives. She told me how perspectival drawings are used in architectural design communication. At that point, architecture was introduced to me as a possible occupation and one that would provide a comfortable livelihood. Before that moment, I hadn’t thought about architecture, nor had I known any architects in my community.
In my graduating high school class, only three students, including myself, showed interest in architecture as an occupation. Out of the three, two of us were Black. The other Black student was a friend of mine who couldn’t afford the cost of college and therefore did not attend. The moment she couldn’t afford school to study architecture was my first interaction with the complex topic of diversity in architecture.
As a young, first-generation, Black Queer male working towards becoming a future architect, I was overjoyed yet simultaneously worried about my circumstances. After my first trip to Wentworth [Institute of Technology], I realized that the jokes I heard in high school about being one of the “token” Black students were not far off from reality. There was a distinct moment when I realized that I was one of a few Black students at the new-student orientation. I felt disconnected and out of place. Not only was I a racial/ethnic minority, but I was a Queer one too.
Walking around orientation like a deer in headlights, I was visibly lost and alone. Finally, a bright and cheerful student came up and introduced himself to me. That was the start of an amazing camaraderie between Kai and me. Unbeknownst to me, he had identified me as a fellow Queer person. He wanted to connect as he was also searching for community. Unbeknownst to Kai, I was at an important pivotal moment in my life.
Kai allowed me to express myself in a way I hadn’t done before. It gave me a sense of community. I relied on him much like two members in the same house in the Ballroom Scene.* Kai became my study buddy, soundboard, and friend to hang out with and “kiki” with. He was great at networking, which taught this introvert how to come out of his shell. He also introduced me to other Queer students. It is important to mention that my dear friend Kai was a White Queer person; with that in mind, I was still looking to meet other Black and minority students. In walks Neil.
Neil was the NOMAS (National Organization of Minority Architecture Students) copresident. He introduced himself personally and invited me to my first NOMAS meeting. Let me explain why that was
important to my collegiate experience. First off, he was a Queer Black male at a predominantly White institution—for that, I had to stan—but secondly, he also was about rallying together a community for support and progression.
It is very easy to call Neil my first mentor in architecture. We had very real conversations about life and experiences, fears and joys, and future ideas and past failures. He taught me a lot about how architecture has been inaccessible to Black and Brown people and introduced how larger city planning has intentionally created segregated cities. Finally, Neil encouraged me to run for NOMAS co-president to be his successor.
* The Ballroom Scene is a Black and Latino underground LGBTQ+ subculture that originated in New York City. Like pageants, participants design outfits according to the ball’s theme and walk “the runway” to be judged on their looks, performances, and other categories. Ball events were originally integrated. However, in the 1960s, racism experienced by Black and Latino performers prompted them to create their own scene out of Harlem, and Ballroom culture was born, with it Voguing and contemporary drag culture. Ball participants performed as Houses. Mainly comprised of unhoused, Black and Latino transgender, gay, and Queer youth, Houses would form to find shelter and support. These alternative families, led by Mothers, were a means of survival and creative spaces where LGBTQ+ youth thrived.
He had seen some sort of potential in me that I have yet to discover in myself. From there, I filled out the ballot to run. Interestingly enough, together with my friend Kai, we served as co-presidents from 2018 to the end of 2021, when we graduated.
As one of my school’s NOMAS chapter copresidents, I took the same approach when recruiting new members Neil had once done with me. I wanted to be the catalyst for creating a culture and community of people deeply concerned with the prosperity of the ones around them. This became an integral point of our planning and event coordinating. We held many events with NOMAS that mainly focused on community building and had a firm foundation in professional development, knowledge dispersal, and diversity equity and inclusion.
Fast-forwarding for a bit. At the time of my commencement, only six other Black students graduated with me. Some reasons why the retention rate was not higher for the students of color was because (1) many of them felt a lack of community, belonging and support, (2) they realized architecture was not for them or, (3) they could not afford the financial burden of college. I know several students who had professors tell them to quit architecture. Nonetheless, the remainder of the Black student population in my cohort became a close-knit group of friends. This microcommunity of young Black architects in training who understood each other’s identities and experiences allowed us to become the braces for one another under serious compressive and tensile force. This translated later to our accountability for one another to produce responsive projects that did more than fulfill the duties of the brief but also responded to the socio-cultural aspects of the predominantly non-White communities our projects were based in.
One topic we discussed in NOMAS a lot was “redlining”—the topic of a sociology paper—which is a part of planning and
urban design history that deeply interests me. It is important to remember that America is a nation built for affluent White Anglo-Saxon Protestant citizens at the expense of Black, Indigenous, other nonWhite people, and poor White people. Many actions taken by the government just two generations ago, explicitly made dogwhistle policies to undermine developments of Black and Brown communities to uphold White supremacist and capitalistic desires. The practice of “redlining” was a coded measure to ensure that Black and Brown families could not invest in housing stock and intermix with White communities. It had evolved from blatant anti-Black ordinances like Baltimore’s in 1910.
Though a variety of constitutional violations made overt segregationist policies illegal, there was a strong determination to enact racist policies, which was eventually done covertly through proxy variables. “Redlining” achieved this through a grading system that ranked districts into four categories: Most Desirable (green), Still Desirable (blue), Declining (yellow), and Hazardous (red). The metrics of the system took into account amenities like access to public parks, tree-lined streets, supply of housing stock, and demographic composition, amongst others. These zones were used to determine if appraisal values of homes will remain stable and assess the risk in lending loans to borrowers and their respective neighborhoods. Though the redlining system is rooted in home loan lending, eventually, U.S. Federal Government agencies, local governments, and private entities used the practice to deny services directly or indirectly by upping prices.
During the height of the pandemic, everyone was forced to see the world outside of the tint of their rose-colored glasses. Faced with the gross racial inequities displayed in the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the rise in Asian American hate crimes, among other social issues, it forced America to engage in conversations and evaluate the
ways White-supremacist-capitalism, and the subsequent inequality plays a part in the spaces people occupy, including the field of architecture. Historically, planning has been used to segregate and oppress communities. Reimagining the design and planning profession begins with acknowledging the influence of architects on communities, architects as individuals, and the need for historical honesty and inclusion within the field.
I wish to work in design on an urban scale in the future. I love cities with all the complexity of infrastructure, socio-cultural aspects, and the potential future of urbanization. As a designer, I can affect the culture and daily lives of people in cities. I know that my experiences are impacted by architecture. Now with my architectural lens, I have a responsibility to be impactful within architecture for those in my communities. I see my life up to now being similar to Tupac’s “The Rose That Grew
from Concrete’’ which has and will add to the ecosystem of the concrete jungle. I think that my physical and social environment has shaped my direction in the field. I want to be a designer with intention. I want to focus my work on embracing and celebrating all people. I want to allow Black, Queer, and firstgeneration to see themselves in me. I want them to feel included and dispel antiquated notions of social stability and racial hierarchy from the urban context.
I dedicate this essay to all who have been underrepresented and looked over. To the Black designers whose names are unknown, the architects of pre-colonial Africa, and most importantly, those who have helped me reach this point in my life.•
Historically, redlining maps of major cities have been used to deny loans to BIPOC and other religious and ethnic minorities to prevent the mixing of races. As mentioned by Richard Rothstein in the Color of Law, “In the early 1900s, they [African-Americans] were systematically expelled from predominantly White communities in the state. Public officials supported and promoted this new racial order” (Rothstein, 2017. p.41). This was not only practiced in the South but in almost every major city that experienced the Black exodus.
Gabrielle Bullock Gabrielle Bullock Gabrielle Bullock Gabrielle Bullock Gabrielle Bullock Gabrielle Bullock Gabrielle Bullock Gabrielle Bullock Gabrielle Bullock Gabrielle BullockBullock Bullock Bullock Gabrielle Gabrielle
Gabrielle Bullock GABRIELLE BULLOCK Featured Profile
Before the accolades, the success, and becoming Principal and Director of Global Diversity at Perkins&Will, there was New York City. Gabrielle was born in Harlem and raised in the Bronx, but in 1968, her mother moved the family to Riverdale to find the best public education. Although Gabrielle did not grow up in New York’s public housing, she knew relatives and friends who did. So, she was aware of public housing conditions and their detrimental effects on those who lived there. Gabrielle’s weekend trips to her grandmother’s house in Queens impacted her tremendously. She often felt guilty about her life in Riverdale, a predominantly White suburb with diverse and well-funded schools, and how it compared to those living in public housing. New York taught Gabrielle about housing inequalities impacting her community and motivated her to do something about it.
Gabrielle’s ambition and dream to improve housing conditions pushed her to apply to the Rhode Island School of Design. She became the first person in her family to attend college. Post graduation, she worked for a variety of firms including Perkins&Will. With a move to the Los Angeles office, Gabrielle helped to set up the Pasadena and Santa Monica Perkins&Will offices. In addition, she started a large-scale project for the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and was involved with the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA). Wearing multiple hats within the industry, Gabrielle consistently emphasized equity, diversity, and inclusion within workplace culture and company policies.
Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, Camp Lakota, Frazier Park, California
Currently the Principal and Director of Global Diversity at Perkins&Will, Gabrielle works to bridge the gap between architecture and interior design while creating a more diverse interior design community. She served as IIDA’s (International Interior Design Association) President and board member from 2018 through 2019. Gabrielle is in her tenth year leading Perkins&Will’s J.E.D.I. (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) journey focusing on workplace culture, culturally competent and equitable design, and belonging within the firm and profession.
Gabrielle’s recent projects are steeped in cultural identity with representation from communities of color. Most notable are “Diaspora Grocery,” a prototype for healthy food and nutritional education in the food deserts of South Los Angeles, and “Slauson Wall,” a mixed-use development anchored by a public park. Initiated as a community response to the extension of LA’s Metro subway line, “Destination Crenshaw” is an outdoor celebration and experience of the Black community. The design process included community voices to act as an agency of content with meaningful themes, art, and stories. “Destination Crenshaw” will be completed in 2023.•
Destination Crenshaw, Los Angeles, California
FAN BI Featured Profile
At 22 years old, Fan Bi co-founded Blank Label, a retail company specializing in quality garments, superior customer service, and custom menswear. Fan was born and raised in Sydney, Australia, and always had a strong interest in sports and fashion. As a kid, he often explored apparel design by painting his canvas shoes or fading and ripping his denim, although his parents wanted him to study medicine or law. While studying at the University of New South Wales, Fan took an Introduction to Entrepreneurship class that changed his career path entirely. He was captivated by the possibility of building his own organization and designing an exciting and fulfilling career.
After earning a degree in finance, Fan studied business administration and management at Babson College in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2009, his apparel customization skills, financial acumen, and entrepreneurial education launched Blank Label. Fan and his team saw the opportunity to “build
a category-defining brand, centered around custom clothing,” and that they did. Today, Blank Label is an innovative retail space creating personalized fits that help men feel comfortable and confident in their clothing.
Fan co-founded Blank Label on the belief that business strategy is a design issue. At the core of this strategy are the needs of the customers and how Blank Label can answer the call. In 2010, Fan and Blank Label co-founder Danny Wong initiated their design process by communicating with customers and collecting data. They found that their customer base wasn’t the hip, creatives they had imagined, but rather 30-somethings with white-collar jobs. As a result, they shifted their focus from custom designs to customizing a line of work clothes for comfort.
Over a decade later, Blank Label is an awardwinning custom menswear brand with stores across the United States and online. As an established and innovative entrepreneur, Fan’s success is rooted in a strategic approach to listening to customers and remaining agile, while providing them with the quality clothing they desire.•
SHANNON MALDONADO Case Study
YOWIE is a Philadelphia-based lifestyle shop and design studio focused on curating small collections from local creatives, independent artists, and designers. Founder Shannon Maldonado has seen her boutique through several transitions since YOWIE’s online debut in 2016. With her fashion design background and keen curator’s eye, Shannon saw a gap in the market between customers looking to fill their homes with beautiful objects and working artists. YOWIE closed this gap through successful pop-up and online sales, and in 2017, Shannon opened a brick and mortar storefront in Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood.
Shannon makes a point to meet artists where they are in every stage of their careers. Responding to new artists or those new to the retail space, she lowers barriers by providing business tools and a less formal feedback setting.
Deemed “Philadelphia’s Arbiter of Cool” by Dwell magazine, Shannon’s vision to create a more inclusive space for artists to sell their works is expanding once more into a multi-use space intended as an incubator for creatives and guests. The new YOWIE will feature Shannon’s signature retail
space, a photography studio and cafe, and eleven YOWIE-designed and curated hotel rooms. In addition, Shannon hopes to provide a comfortable and inclusive environment for guests of color and those interested in creating.
YOWIE has been many things, from online sales and pop-up shops to a highly designed, unique hotel experience. Still, the remaining constant is Shannon Maldonado’s passion for lifting up creative voices and her love for Philadelphia.•
Community Public PUBLIC ART &
KENDRA ROBERTS Essay
andArt Community ublic
Our purpose, as curators, is to transform urban environments through the power of art. How do we do this? By asking questions and listening intently to those answers, which oftentimes lead to more questions, we foster purposeful partnerships through dialogue, research, exploration, and collaboration.
As curators, we think about art all the time: where we can put it (everywhere!), whose work is appropriate for a certain space, and most importantly, how we can design and craft a meaningful connection between that artwork and a specific community. We lean into questions like, what is the history of this place? Who lives, works, commutes, and visits this space? Who or what has been a primary focus and should that perspective be shifted? What current events or issues are directly tied to this place and its people? How can this artwork be seen and/or offer a new point of view? From there we research, identify, and recommend artists whose work seeks to answer many, if not all, of those questions, often asking their own. We see ourselves as matchmakers—matching artists’ voices to neighborhood, community, brand and/or company missions. We aim to design strategic programming around the placement of conscious, careful, communitybased public art experiences.
There is extensive research on the importance of art within our society. Therefore, we believe that public art is an integral part of our lives, and many of us are privileged to come into direct contact with a designed object or environment every day. Thoughtful, well-placed public art has the power to connect people and create a stronger sense of place when the work is intentionally inviting, engaging, and site-specific. Public art has the ability to bring people together by building understanding, dignity, and respect between diverse groups, and can be a powerful instrument of cultural identity expression, as well as a tool for protest and resistance. Public spaces offering safety, as well as a sense of belonging and ownership, establish more meaningful connections to each place and its people. Experiencing public art alone or collectively allows us to recognize our differences and appreciate our common humanity.
Today our society is reconsidering what histories have been amplified (or erased), and we are greatly inspired by projects
facilitating strong connections to updated histories, place, and space. For instance, “Prototypes,” presented by Converge 45 in Portland, Oregon, an idea lab and exhibition, is centered around these two questions: “What is an appropriate monument or memorial for this time and place? What monument or memorial would you want in your neighborhood?” Over 30 Oregon artists responded with artworks, projects, ideas and proposals that engage in the national reckoning of our historical markers that compound racial injustice and social inequity. The responses are varied in their depth and detail, some humorous and others stark, in their defiance of both perceived and real
threats to single bodies and whole communities (images 1, 2). This is a powerful new model for public monuments, memorials, and public art installations that we believe can and should be adopted across the board. How will this model change the public art in our neighborhoods? What vantage points and lessons would be learned and shared? Why are the stories being told within these artworks important? What or who is being served?
Our purpose, as curators, is to transform urban environments through the power of art. How do we do this? By asking questions and listening intently to those answers, which oftentimes lead to more questions, we foster purposeful partnerships through dialogue,
“Who or what has been a primary focus and should that perspective be shifted?”
research, exploration, and collaboration. Informed by those discussions and findings, we design artist-driven ideas and solutions for each distinct space and place. One recent example of our work features a neighborhood business improvement district in Manhattan that historically was the center of the print and printmaking industry. It is now home to more modern creative companies and businesses. The selected artists for this project all use bold colors, text, and patterns in unique ways. Designed for specific buildings and public spaces along a busy street, these dynamic and colorful artworks invite daily inhabitants and visitors to explore the historic district now infused with new vitality (images 3, 4, 5).
Another example highlights a site-specific project for a corporate client seeking connection with the neighborhood through the artwork. The chosen artist was interested in the history of stained glass and identified a 19th-century craftsman known for his work throughout the area. She photographed several existing windows and created her own digital versions, using the original themes in different ways and adjusting the traditional color palette. These digitally printed vinyl artworks were installed along the large marble lobby walls and thus created the effect of illuminated stained-glass windows, providing a unique opportunity for viewers to experience the artwork at eye level (image 6). Both projects present artwork that connects directly to the modern history of each place. In this way, the artwork is not merely decorative, but anchors current community members and broader audiences to those historical moments.
Additionally, we are working on a public art project in a highly designed, newly created, multi-section urban park. The name of the park is significant as it is dedicated to a historical figure known as a champion for her work in the women’s rights movement and other social causes. With this in mind, we are determined to feature female artists in this inaugural outdoor exhibition. One
of our tasks is to intentionally draw new visitors further into this new park during the evening hours in the winter months, which is not typically a time one wants to frolic in a park due to the cold. Since the environment will be dark early in the evenings during the bleakest part of the year, we look to a lighting designer to illuminate the artwork in a unique way that will engage audiences once the sun has set. Our research also involves identifying artists with experience in outdoor installations and who tell their individual or collective stories connected to nature. Many of us now appreciate our public green spaces in different ways, so we are engaging with artists who foster fresh perspectives and motivate new relationships between humans and nature. Several of these artists are intrigued with the notion that their work will degrade over time in direct opposition to the winter months leading into the spring season of renewal and rebirth.
Public art has saved us during this pandemic and offers vital benefits, including cultural awareness and identity, community and individual wellness, and greater productivity and freedom of movement. Art, in all of its forms, is essential for any civilized society. We are healthier when we are less isolated and more connected to one another. It is in this spirit that we collaborate and dream about new ways to facilitate how audiences can engage with and discover the public art around them. What are the stories being depicted through the public art in your community? What stories do you want to be told?•
Living Monument, 2018. One screen of this two-channel video by Paula Wilson contains compiled footage of the 2007 removal of confederate General Beauregard Equestrian Statue in New Orleans. The other is a video of the artist dancing on top of the aforementioned empty plinth before her forced removal by law enforcement. Seen here, are the wooden earrings and hand-painted costume she wore during her performance. Presented by Converge 45. Photo credit: Kendra Roberts.
Klamath Land Back Fuckers!, 2021. Natalie Ball creates textiles and sculptures she refers to as “Power Objects” built from materials that are found, forged, and personal. Her works allude to several narratives contemplating selfhood concerning the land, the chronicles of history, and shared cultural experiences. Presented by Converge 45. Photo credit: Kendra Roberts.
Game Inside the Game, 2019. Greg Lamarche’s wall painting at 200 Varick Street features his signature large-scale, vintage letterforms to create an abstract array of movement, tangled letters, and color. Presented by the Hudson Square BID. Photo credit: Kellie Rogers.
Keep chopping (dinosaur jr.), 2019. Brooklynbased artist Hellbent delivers a hand-painted mural on the façade of 131 Varick Street using his unique designs of interwoven color blocks and stenciled patterns drawn from classic fabric and wallpaper motifs. Presented by the Hudson Square BID. Photo credit: Kellie Rogers.
Image 1 Image 2A Image 3 Image 4 Image 2B
Katie Merz, known for her use of personal pictograms and hieroglyphs drawn from stories, conversations, and research, creates two unique printed works for 161 Varick (Hudson Square Hieroglyphs, 2019) and 181 Varick (Varick Street Verticals, 2019) using playful pictograms that reflect both the history and the present moment of the neighborhood. Presented by the Hudson Square BID. Photo credit: Kellie Rogers.
Illumination, 2020. Julia Whitney Barnes created this multifaceted large-scale installation inspired by the 19th century stained glass artist Charles Booth. Presented by Arts Brookfield at One Pierrepont Plaza in Brooklyn. Photo credit: Sean Hemmerle.
Image 6A Image 6B
BEAU LY NK
U T Y NK
MODJOSSORICA (RICA) ELYSEE-NDIAYE BEAUTYLYNK Case Study
Entrepreneur Modjossorica (Rica) Elysee Ndiaye uses her power and influence for the good of all businesswomen. She is the creator of BeautyLynk, a tech-enabled platform that connects beauty professionals and customers for on-demand, on-location appointments. Specializing in beauty services for women of color, BeautyLynk sends stylists to individuals looking to get their hair, make-up, and nails done from the comfort of their own homes.
Rica had the idea for BeautyLynk while recruiting beauty professionals for a family member in need of in-home services. She
envisioned a more extensive network of professionals and customers who could schedule in-home appointments, making services more accessible for people regardless of culture or capability.
BeautyLynk evolved into a tech-enabled platform that helps beauty professionals grow their businesses by providing a customer service system. After years of experimentation and growth, her marketplace platform now has over 16,000 professionals in its network. BeautyLynk won $50,000 in the MassChallenge accelerator in 2016, and in 2018, the team finished the Morgan Stanley Multicultural Innovation Lab in NYC. Today Morgan Stanley is an active BeautyLynk investor.
Before devoting her work full-time to BeautyLynk, Rica served as a nonprofit fundraising executive for organizations focused on empowerment and education from the local to national level. Rica also co-foundered #AtTheTable, a dinner seriesturned movement where women founders across industries can build community and share experiences around entrepreneurship. Featured in Forbes, CNBC, and Black Enterprise, Rica is a celebrated entrepreneur, sought-out speaker, coach, and advocate for female business owners.•
ARTISTS IN ACTION
CRAFT ARTISTS ACTION
MARIA MOLTENI NEW CRAFT ARTISTS
New Craft Artists in Action (NCAA) was founded in 2010 by artists and activists Maria Molteni, Andrea Evans, and Taylor McVay as a Queer and feminist art collective with roots in Boston, Massachusetts.
Through exhibitions, workshops, community projects, and publications, NCAA works at the intersection of athletics and craft. The collective engages public spaces with a combination of athletics’ discipline and physicality and contemporary art’s innovative and conceptual rigor. Their work encourages participation over spectatorship, challenging traditional social contexts, and commercial motivations often associated with athletics. Building upon DIY skill-sharing models, the collective creates dynamic learning environments and artworks that employ a range of skills from knitting, crochet, painting, and performance to design thinking and ball handling.
Nashville-born Maria Molteni is NCAA’s Team Captain and serves as the lead artist and creative director of NCAA’s most ambitious projects, including their large-scale, community-centered, public basketball court murals. Since 2015, Maria has worked with communities throughout Massachusetts to
Cosmic Court/Lunar Fire. Talbot Middle School, Fall River, MA, 2019
reimagine basketball courts as horizontal monuments and neighborhood altars that invite play while acknowledging the surrounding land and communities.
Maria works with professional artists to hand-paint massive murals that double as playable basketball courts. The colorful and enchanting final product often overshadows the athleticism and physicality of hand painting the courts with brushes. However, understanding the process and symbolism behind the courts only allows for a deeper appreciation of their beauty. “My painting education put extreme emphasis on the male artists of the Abstract Expressionist movement.” Maria explains, “As a Queer feminist, I have sought to recontextualize the notion of action painting, by which famedpainter Jackson Pollock was said to have made the canvas an arena in which to act. I aim to transform the arena into a painting, the court into a surreal multi-use labyrinth for all kinds of bodies, the monument into a horizontal commons, the ground into an altar to the sky.”
Maria hires almost exclusively femme, Queer, trans, and non-binary artists who historically have been marginalized in both athletic and creative fields. Further, what sets Maria and NCAA’s courts apart from other basketball court projects, which are gaining popularity across the globe, is their implementation of an organic and radically open, communityinvested creative process. Maria engages community members and court regulars with prompts and questions inspired by the values and creative visions of the young people who actively use the space. The themes that emerge from Maria’s collaborative approach with each community are conceptually rich, relevant, and vibrant, resulting in a visually striking public artwork that acts as a beacon for play and fellowship.•
DEWAYNE DALE JR. Interviewed
by Journee Harris
In this interview, Dewayne Dale, Jr. paints a beautiful picture growing up Navajo and finding his own identity as an industrial and footwear designer. He believes that empathy between the designer and the consumer is key to building a strong community.
JH: Tell me about where and how you grew up.
DD: So, it was on the Navajo Nation, which is a Navajo reservation. Growing up, you don’t realize that the word reservation doesn’t have the same meaning as you get older, like when you start to realize how reservations were formed. But at elementary age, you don’t really realize that you’re doing things differently than people outside of your community.
I was heavily involved in sports and most of the teams I played against came from nonNative schools. Once you start to drive back and forth over the reservation borders, it begins to hit you, you’re living in this place that’s not a different state. It’s not a different county. It’s like you’re crossing over this invisible line that separates you. So growing up in that way, I felt like I was living in these two worlds, so to speak, I have the world of Navajo culture and traditions and then everything else outside of it. I always felt like I was kind of in the middle, trying to survive and adapt to both sides because they were different.
DEWAYNE DALE JR. Interviewed by Journee Harris
I feel like it’s really hard to explain outside of just growing up on a reservation. There are limits to a lot of things in terms of resources, like water or housing was always a big thing. So there’s always a blend of many limitations, but then there’s freedom. There’s hardly anybody around. You can go where you want to go. If you drive five minutes outside of your town, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. You’re smack dab in the middle of a desert with mesa plateaus and all these kinds of cool surroundings. When I’m talking to a local or a friend about growing up on a reservation, we don’t have to explain it. There’s a mutual understanding of the lifestyle and environment. It feels slower at times, which is nice, but also so slow to where you’re just not up to speed, like when I was living in Portland. Things are happening so fast in Portland, Oregon and that’s just the total opposite from back home.
The Navajo Nation is huge. If you were to drive east and west of the Navajo Nation, that’s a solid four hours, and then north and south might be like three hours. So it’s a big chunk of land. And on that land, there’s a lot of small communities, some bigger communities; all usually have only one grocery store. So most of the time, you’re heading out to get stuff and bringing it in. In some parts, there are a lot of free-roaming cows and horses and stuff that are out grazing. It sounds liberating to a lot of people. Still, sometimes I feel like there are limitations. Just thinking about how I grew up and can do what I’m doing now. I always go back and think, man, if more of this stuff was taught to, or if more of the kids growing up in the Navajo Nation can see what’s happening, it’s almost like, their world would just grow bigger.
collaboration like this for a long time, and I already had the design. I’ve always wanted to design based on history and on early footwear. I’ve seen other companies do it and the shoes looked cool, but why do they look cool? I always knew why it looked cool because it came from these early cultures. I don’t have the desire to go out and buy a moccasin sneaker because I don’t think there are any Native designers pushing that envelope for those companies. I wanted to flip the script. I wanted to be behind the scenes controlling and curating all of that. So, Rocky left the design direction totally up to me, and I was very appreciative of him putting that faith in me. I wanted to launch something that wasn’t just taking from a culture. I’m not gonna copy what a moccasin looks like, but I want to take elements and celebrate them. The M.1 sneaker has a unique lacing system. When you look at moccasins early on, they were just looking for ways to keep them on your feet. So it would be wrapped in a certain way. If you approach a product like that, I think it’s cool because then you can visually draw someone in and they’re like, “Wow, this is really crazy. You don’t normally lace up a sneaker like this.” Also, it stays on your feet. That’s my job is to not just make it look crazy and cool, but I want it to stay on your feet. So there’s all these things that designers think about.
My end consumer was my family. When I say family, it’s like all my relatives, all my other Native brothers and sisters across the US into Canada and Mexico, all the Indigenous people. They have a culture rich in footwear. People never really say, “Oh, you know, you guys have this cool footwear. We wanna bring you guys in to make it.” No, they’ll take the picture and put it on an inspiration board and they’ll go that way without even acknowledging where it’s from.
Growing up in a place full of culture, I didn’t need to travel. I didn’t need to get inspired by Japan’s culture, Paris, or anything like that. I just need to go back and remember what was fueling my drive to design footwear. And for me, it was early footwear. It was moccasins. Not to take away from the people making them by hand, I felt like that was a product that could be elevated with modern techniques. I want something that has a stronger story.
JH: You were talking about this before, having empathy for the consumer and then the consumer also having empathy for the designer. It’s almost like you have a relationship with the people that wear and purchase your shoes.
DD: Right. I think about 800 people bought the M.1. So it’s like having 800 plus relationships and they all understand what I’m trying to do. So now, I want to create that experience when you first open it, when you put it on, when you touch it, there’s all of these cool elements that I feel like I can affect if I’m really allowed to just express myself in that way.•
THERE’S ALWAYS A BLEND OF MANY LIMITATIONS, BUT THEN THERE’S FREEDOM.
online via the QR code. 53
Dewayne’s full interview
COLLABORATIVE DRAWING: BODY BUILDER
GROUPS OF 3-4 PEOPLE
Each person gets one piece of paper and a drawing tool. Fold the paper as many times as people in the group—either 3 or 4 folds—along the short end.
Without anyone looking, each person draws a head and neck on the top fold only. This can be human, animal, alien, robot, whatever. Fold the top of the paper down to conceal your drawing, letting only the bottom of the neck show. Hand the drawing to the person to your left.
The second person draws the torso and arms, using the neck lines as the beginning point. Again, fold the paper down to conceal your drawing, letting just the bottom of the waist line show. Hand the drawing to the person at your left.
Keep going, draw from the waist to the knees. If there are only 3 people in your group, draw from the waist to the feet. This will be the last drawing for groups of 3. If you have a group of 4, fold the paper down, and pass to the left.
Draw from the knees to the feet. Fold the paper and pass again.
Reveal your collaborative body! Cue the laughter.
SOCIAL IDENTITY WHEEL
Social Identity groups are based on physical, mental, and social characteristics of individuals. Sometimes these identities are obvious and sometimes not so much. These can be self-claimed or ascribed by others.
• Download a PDF of the wheel template along with the descriptions of identity types.
• Add numbers and priorities to the asked questions at the bottom of the page.
• Discuss, listen, and welcome the conversation that comes from the group share.
THE CHAT ROOM: CULTURE OF INQUIRY
SMALL GROUPS, CAR RIDES OR “FAMILY DINNER TABLE”
Encourage a “Culture of Inquiry” by dedicating a family dinner once a week or a car ride to communicating only with questions.
• Write an interesting or thought provoking question down and hang it on the refrigerator or whiteboard.
• Is it a question that you can research as a group?
• Can you make a step-by-step path to actively investigate the question? When talking to kids try changing: "Did you learn anything today?" to "Did you ask a good question today?"
for the future.
58 Love Sourcing: Intangi Sustainability Finding LOVE SOURCING: FINDING SUSTAINABILITY THROUGH THE INTANGIBLE BAKARI AKINYELE Essay
Intangible Through the Sustainability
My multidisciplinary education in design allows for a synthesis of personal experiences into a design technique and aesthetic that supports my vision of design in the post-climate crisis future.
One year ago, my mother gifted me a vibrant, orange, and brown, hand-dyed batik cloth made by her friend, a 5th generation Ghanaian master batik dyer. The cloth travels with me everywhere. I use it to adorn my living space, and occasionally I wear it myself. A good life includes living with beautifully crafted objects in my family tradition. The value each object holds is augmented by the intangible experiences and memories attached to them. It is just as art critic Soetsu Yanagi describes in The Beauty of Everyday Things, “The importance of living with beautiful everyday objects is to experience a sense of content.” Though I am a young Black man living in the height of a climate crisis so threatening,
should be the process of discovery, healing, adding value, and developing relationships.
My understanding of design theory and material culture comes from everyday people. My grandfather learned to create his own tools. When my favorite childhood blanket became too small for my body, my mother repurposed it into a pillow. My father taught me how to build my own clubhouse from discarded plywood. When one of my favorite shirts suffered a spaghetti stain, I overdyed it to give it new life.
My multidisciplinary education in design allows for a synthesis of personal experiences into a design technique and aesthetic that supports my vision of design in the postclimate crisis future. A large part of my design process is deconstructing imagined objects and processes, to determine how to use energy and materials effectively. When designing an object or process, I ask myself what is necessary for the object or process to be relevant, valuable, and useful in the postclimate crisis future? There are thousands of physical materials available to create with, but there is only one material that is truly sustainable. Love. A love composed of intention, care, compassion, and unbounded empathy towards our environment and the users we serve with our designs.
so urgent, and so ugly, I have a right to live a life with beautiful things. Responsibility for the climate crisis is frequently placed on the shoulders of the everyday person. Communities are encouraged to use less, recycle more, and minimize their carbon footprint. While these are good suggestions, it is existing ways of design thinking that need to be critiqued. The climate crisis has been caused by design that supports the relentless exploitation of our environmental, human, and material resources. To me, design
One day in undergrad, I was sitting in my room trying to figure out what I would do with my life post-graduation. I gazed at the batik dyed cloth my mother had given me and realized I was looking at the answer. If I mastered a specific step in the process of making textiles and applied an eco-conscious, love-forward approach, I would be able to traverse a multitude of industries from furniture design and automotive design to fashion.
I had the opportunity to visit a traditional textile artisan fair in Mexico City, where I connected with talented designers, artisans, and artists from around the globe. Getting to know them and their practices, I was inspired to research the integration of traditional crafts and
The Beauty of Everyday Things: “The importance of living with beautiful everyday objects is to experience a sense of content.”
- Soetsu Yanagi
contemporary design. The more I researched, the more I became aware of the accessibility barriers to learning about design.
Shortly after graduating from Howard University with a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy in 2020 (at the start of the pandemic), I moved to Seoul, South Korea, as a Henry Luce Scholar. I spent ten months there researching design and traditional crafts practices in South Korea. I was able to observe the lineage and transformation of crafts in that environment. I had come to Korea with the intent of focusing on how craft objects, particularly soft goods like fabrics, clothes, and automobile interiors, were designed and made. My goal was to learn traditional and contemporary methods of designing that promote healing the self and the environment. I spent much of my time studying traditional Korean natural indigo dying and traditional South Korean embroidery techniques. As an artist and designer, getting the holders of my handiwork to truly appreciate the object beyond materiality is difficult. Surveying traditional crafts that had lasted hundreds of years to determine what would sustain this appreciation seemed like the obvious answer.
But great design still needs to meet changing modern needs. I conducted a market analysis of South Korean fashion trends and styles. Then, based on my research, I designed a modern version of a men’s Hanbok, a traditional South Korean garment for daily use. The garment is suitable for travel and reflects my practice as a pilgrim of design, traversing a globalized world. I taught myself how to make the techpack, 3D patterns, and material sourcing, and I carried out the remainder of the project to finish garments with the help of a local seamster.
Value lies in the practice. Materials aren’t inherently valuable; it is our relationship to the material that gives it a perceived value. Popular American media exposed me to the suggestion that fulfillment came from amassing as much as one could stuff into
their home, whether it held sentimental value or not. This practice is inherently harmful to the environment and our perceptions of use and ownership.
Yanagi believed that the appeal of using a beautiful object is that you come to love the practice of engaging with the object. For example, tea ceremonies in South Korea and Japan have become synonymous with the vessels in which tea is consumed. Materiality holds less importance when something intangible is attached to the material, such as emotions and memory. These intangible materials are critical components of my design practice and sustainability research. After reading All About Love, in which bell hooks describes her journey to understanding love, I was reminded that love is practiced in all aspects of life, including design. While material qualities and their impact on the earth are important considerations, deep feelings—love in particular—are the only things that are positively sustainable.
Then how do we communicate love through design and creation? Master artisans show us that slow making, attention to detail, and spending time with the object seems to be the answer. Sew to make sure every thread is in its proper place. Unbind as opposed to cut to preserve as much material as possible. This attention to detail communicates that the maker loved the process. As an artist and designer concerned with communicating love, I hope that the person who holds what I make explores all of the details and loves it just as much if not more than me.
The mud-dyed cloth that I have loved since my mother gifted it will eventually become an heirloom once I give it to my children or grandchildren. I imagine wrapping them tightly in the cloth while recounting its numerous stories. Alternatively, I’ll use it to set the dining room table for special occasions. Regardless, the cloth becomes a medium by which I can communicate my love for them. They’ll sit and scan the numerous lines and patterns and etch the
texture and smell into their memory. When I design an object, I try to imagine a future in which the object will still have use. The more uses an object has for expressing love in the future, the more valuable my designs become. Therefore, when I design, I reference the heirloom objects around me; as an example, an object that has survived up to the present moment and will continue to survive with care.
Heirloom objects help ethnoarchaeologists describe the values of previous societies. In addition, the techniques applied to the object teach them about the technology available, materials available, and even the maker’s values. The way heirloom objects are treated displays love as a value. Various mending techniques such as overdyeing or quilting can give a precious but damaged textile new life. Creators must design the object to allow the forthcoming generations to continue mending, caring for, and loving the object through their practices.
The mending portion is a key component to the sustainability and insurance that the object survives into the post-climate crisis future. Some materials can survive several lifetimes. However, their near indestructibility creates environmental challenges, including the disposal of hazardous waste or the slow release of microplastics into the air and water. Well-designed objects should reflect the needs and desires of the users,
time, and environment. Materials that aren’t biodegradable and survive old ideologies require a complex system for recycling that would use more energy than natural cycles provide. Mending translates the love of the current user and allows for greater adaptability and change. Even if the original designer and user are absent, these marks and stitches serve to communicate how the object can continue to be used. Even if this is not possible, the physical material choice should allow it to decompose safely.
Bakari Akinyele, Capoieristas (1825). Movement Series. Cotton canvas dyed with natural indigo, 2021.
Bakari Akinyele, Children’s Story. Cotton canvas dyed with natural indigo, 2020.
The childhood blanket, now pillow, was the first textile that I lived with consistently. It served as my mediator for sleep until I reached adolescence. Even then, I still held the memory of the blanket. When its original purpose no longer served me, my mother manipulated it to suit a new need. This example of adaptable design, mending, and love in practice makes room for the object to continue to have use in the future. Even if the blanket doesn’t make it to another user, the natural and chemical-free materials make it clean enough to be safely recycled.
My goal is to create an object that communicates my love for design. Furthermore, I want this love to transfer through the object to the user. The presence and awareness of love encourage the user to engage with my designs continuously through a practice, ritual, or ceremony, developing a relationship between user and object and supporting the continued use of the object. The moment the object breaks or becomes dysfunctional, mending occurs and continues to strengthen
the relationship and intention that will carry the object into the future.
My design journey has had unexpected lessons. I realized that part of my design practice, which involves dyeing and embroidery, is the adornment of an already constructed object. Dyeing breathes new or renewed life and color into the textile. Embroidery, with the right techniques, has fortifying and mending capabilities. The cloth my mother gave me will get damaged at some point, but this presents the opportunity to further adorn, fortify, and charge it with love. The future of design thinking should incorporate love and practice at each step of the process—for example, ideation, prototyping, making, creating instructions, and sharing. Love is the greatest tool that designers have at their disposal to create lasting and effective change. Being a steward and designer of love will lead to well-made and beautiful objects that give users a sense of gratitude and happiness.•
Designers should imagine an environment in which love permeates every area of life. In designing for this environment, I believe it is possible to find solutions to both day-to-day and larger systemic issues that threaten all life on the planet. When discussing sustainability and the future of design, it is essential to remember that love is crucial to creating beautiful objects and solving problems.
ALEX DANG Featured Profile
Born and raised in Germany, Alex Dang has turned his childhood creativity into a career designing for the future and teaching the next generation. As a kid, Alex gravitated towards hands-on activities like painting, drawing, movie making, and playing with cars. He didn’t think too much about his future career until one of his high school teachers noticed his artistic talent and encouraged him to take his creativity seriously. At 15 years old, a pivotal moment occurred when one of Alex’s art teachers invited an industrial designer to an after-school workshop. That was the first time he was exposed to an industrial design practice, and it was then that he found his direction.
After graduating high school, Alex was torn between pursuing moviemaking or design, but his passion for drawing drove his journey toward design. To become a car designer, Alex discovered that he needed to earn a college degree. He visited a university in Germany specializing in transportation design and reviewed prospective student portfolios. He saw how high the expectations were and with only three chances to succeed, he didn’t apply. Instead, he decided to build up his admissions portfolio by improving his sketching skills and doing an apprenticeship in hard and clay modeling, gaining industry insights. Despite feeling mentally and physically exhausted working many hours a day, Alex still found the time to sketch
in the evenings and on weekends. After a year at the apprenticeship, he wanted to quit, but his parents encouraged him to stay with it, convincing him that it would all pay off in the future. The skills he built prepared him for everything he is able to do now and his role as an advanced exterior designer.
Nowadays, Alex designs cars for the future and implements specific ideas and core values into his concept cars through 2D sketching, rendering, 3D modeling, and clay modeling. Even though it’s not always easy to produce with new ideas or inventions, Alex feels it’s natural and a part of the creative process. Dealing with constructive criticism is also inevitable, but he understands it’s a matter of framing it so as not to create a negative response. Alex’s advice for young people looking to go into design is to talk to professionals and students in the field, while sharing their own experiences to figure out if a future in design is for them. He recommends never to underestimate the power of focusing on one’s strengths, being open-minded, and staying committed to one’s work.•
ANGELA MEDLIN Featured Profile
Angela Medlin is an apparel designer and Founder of FAAS DESIGN (Functional Apparel & Accessories Studio). FAAS DESIGN collaborates directly with global apparel brands and Pensole Lewis College to introduce and create opportunities for underrepresented creatives of color.
Although they didn’t have a lot growing up, Angela’s family was a big support system, regularly purchasing notebooks, crayons, and markers for her. They believed in her talent well before she was even aware of it, telling her there wasn’t anything she couldn’t accomplish. A few of Angela’s former teachers acknowledged her skills as an artist by entering her in creative contests and always encouraging her to continue.
Angela attended North Carolina State University (NCSU) School of Engineering, but after her first semester, she discovered it lacked the creativity she craved. She switched to the College of Design where she met her first design mentor Chandra Cox. Cox, a phenomenal creative force herself, guided Angela towards different types of textile design, painting, and apparel education. When Angela attended NCSU College of Design, the design students of color population was less than 1%. Today, Angela is a member of the NCSU College of Design Leadership Committee and chairs a new DEI subcommittee that is working to diversify the student population and support them through their college experiences.
After graduating, she began the journey of networking while applying to a range of design-driven companies. Through meeting enough people and sharing her work, she was able to land her first job with a small but nationally trending company called Cross Colors, an urban style sportswear company that had started overtaking the Levi Strauss customers. As the assistant to the company’s VP, Angela designed graphics for t-shirts, textile prints for women’s apparel, and details for denim products. She then transitioned to Adidas, where she discovered the importance of learning a variety of tasks on the job which included designing for multiple sports, genders, and ages. She touched every part of the product creation process from design concepts to design innovation. This led to other creative leadership positions in brands that include The North Face, Levi Strauss & Co, and Eddie Bauer. Nike later hired her as the design director to modernize and grow the premium apparel category of the coveted Jordan Brand.
Today, Angela works toward a more equitable future for young designers. She coaches students on navigating the industry, from designing technical and fashion-forward apparel to working within teams, being accountable to brands, and developing their skill sets as designers, collaborators, and future leaders. Thus, Angela is equipping students for the industry while also helping them better understand themselves.
In parallel to supporting the next generation of innovators, Angela founded an ecoconscious dog brand called House Dogge. The brand is grounded in how she has approached problem-solving in design for people for over 30 years. Angela employs consumer insights to create functionally clever, minimalistic, and beautiful products for dogs and their people. The brand landed on “Oprah’s Favorite Things” list in 2020 and continues to build a following of over 15,000 supporters in just four years. This is also another design platform Angela looks forward to introducing as an opportunity for BIPOC creatives through employment and continued mentorship.•
Seesaw STRADDLING THE SEESAW SUSAN PIEDMONT-PALLADINO Essay
As I stumbled through my first year, wondering what to do with my affection for and knowledge of the past, Nabokov, of all people, illuminated the intersection of my paths.
I owe someone a thank you. During my first year of graduate school studying architecture, someone—I don’t remember who—introduced me to Vladimir Nabokov’s 1972 novella Transparent Things. I had come to architecture school with a bachelor’s degree in the history of art, useless to the real world. I was fascinated by history but put off by the past being taught as a litany of events, of one invasion, conquest, and war after another, led by one “great man” after another. I was more interested in all the extraordinary stuff we made along the way—the buildings, music, art—as the lens through which to see the past; the best, not the worst, of what we humans could do. I couldn’t really take my Machiavellis or deMedicis straight, but with a Michelangelo mixer, they were delicious. I could have dined on that feast of material culture and made a career of it, but I made the fateful decision that, instead of studying what everyone before me had done, I would try to do it myself. Instead of continuing to study the history of art in graduate school, I would study architecture, a discipline which demands that we look straight into the empty, unwritten future. As I stumbled through my first year, wondering what to do with my affection for and knowledge of the past, Nabokov, of all people, illuminated the intersection of my paths.
Nabokov begins the book with this provocation: “Perhaps if the future existed, concretely and individually, as something that could be discerned by a better brain, the past would not be so seductive: its demands would be balanced by those of the future. Persons might then straddle the middle stretch of the seesaw when considering this or that object. It might be fun. But the future has no such reality (as the pictured past and the perceived present possess); the future is but a figure of speech, a specter of thought.”
“When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation, the very act of attention may lead to our involuntarily sinking into the
history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want matter to stay at the exact level of the moment, Transparent things, through which the past shines.”
Not being a literary critic, I take what I want from this little book, which is these opening lines, and am happy to leave the rest for another time and other minds. (Designers become skilled at that—scooping up useful bits of philosophy, linguistics, sciences soft and hard, to inform, justify, or validate their work.) In the many years since I turned from the seductive past to the specter of the future, I have chewed on these passages, underlined and highlighted in my brokenbound paperback. They continue to speak to me in my career as an architect, a writer, a curator, and an educator. Nabokov was right; straddling the seesaw is fun.
In my role as a curator at the National Building Museum, I had the opportunity to interview the visionary architect Paolo Soleri for the fall 2006 issue of the Museum’s magazine Blueprints. I was surprised that Soleri, who died in 2013 at age 96, spoke in the future tense, still looking ahead, but one might expect that of an architect often described as a “futurist.” He was still actively lining up projects, even as it was clear that his life’s work, “Arcosanti,” would never be finished in his lifetime. I asked him what advice he might have for today’s architecture students, facing a future which has only become more problematic in the last fifteen years. With a bit of impatience in his voice, as if he’d had it with the whole visionary/futurist brand, he told me, “The future doesn’t exist so don’t get stuck with that. We only create the past; we never create the future because the future is nonsense. It doesn’t exist, period.” How Nabokovian.
I was hoping for some wisdom from Soleri that I could pass along to my students, something to help get them to see the instrumental role that their chosen discipline plays in this temporal dilemma. After all, the design professions are built on the bedrock
of optimism. Every fall, the start of a new semester reminds me of this foundation, as I get to see through students’ eyes and listen through their ears in a semester-long conversation of reading, writing, and talking about whatever is going on in architecture and urbanism. In my “Contemporary Issues” course, we sit together at that unstable moment between the past, which is the terrain of the history/theory folks, and the formless future. To be “contemporary,” after all, is to be together with time, as the word’s Latin roots suggest, to be in the present. That is quite different from being “modern” which once was the now, but now is then. The contemporary, then, is the fulcrum that makes the seesaw, and I invite my students to join me there.
Perhaps the only way to envision the future, then, is to look back from it to the past that we will have made. Use the future perfect, not simply the future, tense. That is what I try to get my students to do. As a class, we spend as much time outside of the classroom as possible, walking, talking, and experiencing the world as it is and asking questions: Who made this, and for whom? Why and for what purpose? By what technological and political means? And—shifting our weight to the other side of the seesaw, we ask how might we as architects make it better. The specific topics evolve from semester to semester, but the core issues are remarkably consistent: equity, the environment, power, agency, technology, communications. Have these always been the issues? Yes, but we may not have seen or
I was surprised that Soleri, who died in 2013 at age 96, spoke in the future tense, still looking ahead, but one might expect that of an architect often described as a “futurist.” He was still actively lining up projects, even as it was clear that his life’s work, Arcosanti, would never be finished in his lifetime.
named them as such. Will they always be the issues? Don’t we ever solve anything?
For their final assignment, I challenge them to conjure a better future by looking backward. We will only know these answers in the future, if ever, so I ask them to go there and look back. The assignment is to imagine yourself 50 years from now—if you are 25 now, you’ll be 75—at a time when you are looking back at your career (or perhaps, if you are like Soleri, still thinking about what you could do next). What did you accomplish? What kind of work did you do? What are you most gratified to see? What do you regret? Is the world better for your efforts? Whom did you serve? To prime their imaginations, we sit on the seesaw and look at what the world was like fifty years ago from the present.
Straddling the seesaw in 2018, for example, when there was so much cultural reflection on 1968, we had one foot on that iconic year and the other on 2068. We could all feel how hard it was to get enough weight on the imagined future to balance that particular past. (Now with our rear target 1971, we listen amazed to Marvin Gaye’s “Ecology Song”, and “What’s Going On”—and wonder, how did he know?) In their future perfects, some students write in the form of letters to young architects, like Louis Sullivan; others write as if they are being interviewed after having won a lifetime achievement award; others still in the terse manner of news updates. One, a student of landscape architecture— surely the most optimistic of all the design disciplines—wrote movingly about taking his grandson to visit one of his favorite projects
The present can be misleading.
It wants us to think things have always been this way. The apparent stability of the made world, however, shouldn’t be construed as a permanent condition; it was not always this way, nor will it always be this way.
Those are two surprisingly difficult facts to accept, however: inertia, fear of disruption, nostalgia, all work against the recognition that change is a constant in the environment, both built and natural.
where it would have taken fifty years to reach its designed fulfillment. The students write in the past tense from a future marked by rising seas, climate change, shape-shifting materials, advanced mobility technologies— so many hyperloops and driverless cars! —and the persistence of community amid technologically induced isolation. The past is still present, though, as they know that the vision of a shiny frictionless future is itself a historical artifact. It is mostly a better future from which they report, and they are gratified that they have worked to make it so. And that keeps me optimistic.
You too can enjoy the seesaw: walk down your street and challenge yourself to see it as it was fifty years ago, now, and fifty years from now. What buildings will still stand, now beloved as elders even if they were reviled when built? Who will be living there, working there? In the District of Columbia, for example, where I live, the past sits heavily on its end of the seesaw, but abrupt and radical change has been bouncing on the other end throughout the city’s history. The past fifty years have seen entire neighborhoods erased and replaced in the creative destruction of redevelopment, always in the name of progress. Today, 14th Street in the District looks like the textbook definition of vibrant: bars and boutiques line the sidewalk, below new balconied apartment buildings interspersed among three-story masonry walk-ups. Yet you can find the clues to the 14th Street of the “pictured past” as you stand in the “perceived present” if you know what to look for. The broken glass and flames of 1968 are long gone, but you can choose to see the past in the present, the “transparent things through which the past shines.” Now, can you see the future?
The present can be misleading. It wants us to think things have always been this way. The apparent stability of the made world, however, shouldn’t be construed as a permanent condition; it was not always this way, nor will it always be this way. Those are two surprisingly difficult
facts to accept, however: inertia, fear of disruption, nostalgia, all work against the recognition that change is a constant in the environment, both built and natural. We designers have powerful tools to stomp that side of the seesaw when we throw the weight of visualization onto the future side. A plan, a rendering, whether a watercolor wash or photorealistic digital image, can open our eyes to possible futures. Once something is seen, it can never be unseen.
The 21st century used to sound like the future, yet we are still asking ourselves very 19th and 20th-century questions about the relationship between design and public health, the benefits and costs of new technologies, the right to be housed, and when the time is up on our Faustian bargain with fossil fuels. Designers need to see both the luminous past and the latent future, to imagine what a place could be. Nabokov’s and Soleri’s dismissals notwithstanding, seeing the future is our job as designers. But seeing isn’t sufficient: we have to be able to share it in our words and images so others can join us in the act of converting the future into that soon-to-be beloved past. It’s the strangely named future perfect tense—“this will have been”—rather than the simple future tense—“this will be”—that lets us escape this temporal trap.•
PRECIOUS BUGARIN Featured Profile
Precious Bugarin was born in San Francisco and raised in California’s Central Valley. Precious’s father was a teacher who emphasized community work. He focused on creating safe, educational spaces that ultimately taught Precious and her sisters how to do the same for their communities.
Precious’s childhood room was full of catalogs and magazine layouts, things she associated with advertising. She had always loved making, but lacked a creative outlet at her traditional high school. Luckily, her mother was a seamstress and artist, so Precious’s exposure to the arts often came from the home.
She realized that she, like her mother, was a creative person when she began painting on denim, making logos, making jewelry, and getting paid for it.
She attended the University of San Francisco, joining a diverse, dual admission program. Precious had a professor named Paul Tsang during her senior year, who became her mentor, creative director, and friend. For the first time, she saw design from different perspectives, not just as a creation of a perfect artifact but a tool with the ability to help others. Paul’s unique working style and dedication to humanity, nonprofits, and cultural work inspired Precious. They made her realize that she could have more freedom in how she worked.
After college, Precious worked for Paul as an apprentice, where she learned the ins and outs of working in a design studio.
Precious is a creative director, helper, and facilitator. She likes to act as a bridge to connect people through ideas and policies, work with emerging businesses, and figure out ways to communicate products to an audience strategically. She also enjoys teaching, allowing her to share opportunities with students and help guide them. In addition to running a design studio and teaching, Precious is co-advisor to COMMA—a BIPOC student group within Portland State University’s graphic design department. COMMA creates community and opportunity for students through meetings, mentorships, events, and special projects.
Precious is also working with writer Sara Guest on a teacher mentorship program called “Teach Tomorrow” that partners with business and college design programs to provide supported part-time college level teaching opportunities to BIPOC creatives. Precious is committed to opening opportunities for others and hopes design will be viewed less as a commercial tool and more as a strategy for creating futures where people can thrive.•
XY&Z OCT22 YOUR NAME: CARD#: EXP DATE: SECURITY CODE: GUEST NAMES: GENERAL $50.00, $60 at the door # x $50.00 = $ SUPPORTER $100.00 Includes 2 drink tickets # x $100.00 = $ SPONSOR $250.00 Includes 2 drink tickets and reserved seating # x $250.00 = $ ROW CAPTAIN $500.00 Includes 10 tickets and a row of reserved seating for you and your guests # x $500.00 = $ Regrets: I can’t join you at XY&Z, but I’d like to help change lives through the power of writing. Here’s my tax deductible contribution $ Make checks payable to: Write Around Portland Order tickets online at: writearound.org or 503 796 9224 Guests must be 21 and older. Tickets are not refundable. EMAIL: Write Around Portland’s Annual Fundraiser Thursday, October 22, 2015, 6–8:30PM Holocene, 1001 SE Morrison Street With Hors D’ouevres, Wine Wall, Spelling Bee and Silent Auction Short Program Starts At 7:30 PM Order tickets online at: writearound.org WRITE AROUND PORTLAND changes lives through the power of writing hors d’ouevres, wine wall, bee and silent auction7:00 PM ********************* changing
OEN MICHAEL HAMMONDS Featured Profile
Oen Michael Hammonds works as a Distinguished Design Executive at IBM. As a design executive, thought leader, and mentor, Oen coaches his business unit leaders and team members to think about the strategy from the end-user’s perspective. Oen is also an adjunct professor and serves on the curriculum advisory committee at Austin Community College. Here he helps the faculty and students map out their curriculum to ensure students are ready for the workforce.
Oen grew up in the Smoketown public housing projects in Louisville, Kentucky, nearing the poverty level. His hobbies included track and field, art, digital drawing, and designing t-shirts, poster, and brochures for teachers and friends. He followed in his brother’s footsteps as an illustrator. However, given the environment he grew up in, Oen didn’t know how to create opportunities that would grow his passion and skills. He spent a lot of time in the library researching, discovering, and planning the path for his future. Oen has had a lot of great mentors, one of whom is his mom. She pushed him to do anything that kept him from hanging out on the streets. She encouraged him to join many activities and community groups such as Junior Achievement, the American Red Cross, and Boy Scouts of America. She wanted him to keep busy, but more importantly find a path for his passions.
SABA GHOLE NUVU STUDIO Case Study
Saba Ghole is the Chief Creative Officer at NuVu Studio, an innovative, alternative middle and high school focused on teaching students to think creatively and apply their learning to real-world problems.
NuVu was conceived in 2008 by co-founders and MIT alums Saba Ghole, Saeed Arida and David Wang as an interdisciplinary innovation lab with students from diverse backgrounds to design real-world solutions to global challenges. Initially, NuVu was envisioned as a full-scale undergraduate school in Saeed’s home city of Damascus, Syria. Finding the difficulties in launching abroad, NuVu’s founding team was connected with an independent school in Massachusetts looking for a program exactly like NuVu to get them off the ground. After two years of working on educational projects for Perkins&Will on the West Coast and a successful pilot program in 2010, the official launch of NuVu Innovation Center occurred that fall. Within the first five years, the program grew from 20 students each trimester to 50 students each trimester. NuVu has now become a full-time innovation school with around 60 students.
Saba explains, “Our structure started with two-week-long intensive studios. We had studios on sci-fi filmmaking, nanotechnology, alternative and nuclear energy, even storytelling…we reached out to people doing interesting work, and brought them in to co-coach on their expertise using our studio model, and saw how much students were invested and engaged in the work, even if they weren’t interested in a certain topic.”
Since launching NuVu, Saba says, “the last few years have been focused on providing greater access to NuVu and creating more impact by empowering students to be active participants in their learning. Since 2016, we’ve been developing an initiative called NuVuX that is focused on partnerships and bringing studio-based curriculum into schools. We help design and support studio experiences in the U.S. and internationally. We want more cross-cultural exchanges and connectivity between schools and we want the studios to foster global awareness among students.”
The NuVu school model grew from a semester-away program that partnered with schools to its own institution. The model is still based on a studio pedagogy. Students work collaboratively on selfselected projects that exercise design research, problem-solving, critical thinking, and design thinking. The project culminates in a final presentation.
NuVuX emerged from other schools wanting to integrate aspects of NuVu’s pedagogy into their curriculum. NuVu developed an initiative to bring design, creativity, and innovation to K-12 schools and organizations worldwide. Saba and her team worked with each educational partner to create custom curriculum implementation plans. Using NuVu’s design-studio pedagogy and process, students explore real-world topics in a hands-on studio environment. Students work together to solve complex challenges using creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration. The NuVuX initiative is expanding NuVu’s reach. It gives students greater access to their learning model— from public and charter schools to organizations supporting refugees in the Middle East.
Like most schools, 2020 was challenging for NuVu Studio. However, Nuvu’s studentbased studio model proved successful during the pandemic. The school shifted from being on-site to virtual and hybrid. Before the pandemic, NuVu launched 1012 virtual studio programs, so the students were familiar with their online platforms. Through the virtual exchange studios, students made global connections and engaged in virtual conversations that explored their topics. Looking forward, Saba wants NuVu to be a household name and to expand the NuVuX partners offering schools access to social-emotional learning strategies and teaching networks.•
NOÈL PUÈLLO Case Study
Raised in Providence, Rhode Island, Noèl Puèllo is an artist and clothing designer who studied 3D Fibers Arts at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. In 2019, she moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to study at the Tyler School of Art, where she received an M.F.A. degree in Fiber and Materials Studies. A successful installation and video artist, Noèl adjusted
her practice to focus primarily on producing apparel when she lost her teaching job. Noèl shifted to making clothing because it seemed like there was still want for comfort and luxury. In addition, consumers had extra spending money because they were no longer shopping in stores or going out. Noel took advantage of the surge of support of small businesses in the early days of the pandemic.
Noèl Puèllo creates sculptural apparel using only upcycled and deadstock fabrics. Noèl works with these materials because it gives importance to the discarded. It reminded her how her mother would constantly repurpose clothing that no longer served the body, but could be useful in other ways, such as becoming a washcloth or a mop. The silhouettes created are fashionforward and flattering for all bodies. Designing less for celebrities and more for the everyday person, Noèl’s hand-crafted garments are versatile, multifunctional, and affordable. She attributes her attention of affordability to growing up in a low-income neighborhood and is committed to selling her works on a sliding scale.
Using online platforms like Instagram to sell and promote her work, Noèl’s entrepreneurial spirit shines almost as bright as her vibrant garments. She has taken advantage of the social media market
approach, creating excitement around limited clothing sales through “drops”. Releasing her new works on Wednesdays at 3pm CST, the 20-30 pieces she posts typically sell out by the end of the day.
Today, Noèl is a Mexico City-based artist interested in shifting perceptions of intimacy and revitalizing a sense of fantasy through the dissection of Queer and Afro-Latinx identity through clothing construction, mixed media installations, fiber practices, and video. Her work centers the power of physical touch and moves through a romanticized reality of the discarded. She poeticizes the relationships of her Dominican elders and her own stories of existing as a Queer, fat, femme, racially ambiguous, trans person.•
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
DRAWING: MAKING YOUR MARK
Fill in the squares with as many shades of gray that you can (or make a set of squares in your journal.)
Remember that textures, patterns, and line work, as well as solid values can all be used.
If you are ever feeling stuck in one extreme (this or that, best or worst) nd change through the grays where life really happens.
PERSONAL JOURNAL: LIVE CURIOUSLY THROUGH THE “WHY”
Imagine you are visiting the earth for the rst time today. Start your thoughts with “Why” throughout your day. Write or record your questions and observations.
At the end of the day, turn your observations into evaluations.
“What can humans do di erently to connect?”
“How might machines and technology positively move us through our day?”
• “What was the main ingredient in the food that made me satis ed today?”
• “What was something that was ordinary at the start of the day, and now seems extraordinary?”
Graph your curiosity moods throughout the day across places you visited.
REFLECTIONS: IMPLICIT BIAS
Implicit Bias: The process of associating stereotypes with or having attitudes toward people without conscious awareness.
Considering the unthinking nature of implicit bias, what can you do to actively become aware of your own biases?
Draw inspiration from the way you make and break other habits.
BUILDING OUR FUTURE
Think about your path that led you to your current profession.
• When and where did you nd encouragement and support from those in the
• When did you nd yourself feeling unsupported or unsure of your position?
Next, think back to when you were in grade school.
List all the times you were exposed to your current eld of profession before high school. Re ect on these memories. Get out a piece of paper or start a Google doc and make a list of all the ways that you can act as a conduit for future designers, scientists, engineers, and creatives.
“Why does my alarm clock sound like that?”
“Why don’t strangers wave and smile when walking by on the street?”
“Why is my coffee brown?”
“Why are the lines on the road dashed and yellow?”
W ell being.
CATHERINE CLARKE Essay
I’m a quiet and gentle person, and I have a lot of joy in my life. My art and design work is best described as happy: bright reds and yellows, bubbly shapes, and smiling characters.
Content warning: Mental health, mental illness, sexual assault, sexual harassment
I’m a quiet and gentle person, and I have a lot of joy in my life. My art and design work is best described as happy: bright reds and yellows, bubbly shapes, and smiling characters. It may seem like positivity comes easily for me, but I have to work extremely hard to enjoy life. I’ve been struggling with post-traumatic stress for years, along with depression and anxiety, and surviving each day can feel like a full-time job. It’s difficult to escape a victim mindset, especially after enduring sexual assault as a girl.
then extreme sadness and isolation. After surviving a pattern of sexual abuse, I had to un-learn many coping behaviors I had developed out of desperation. I had a habit of lying and withholding information from my friends and family. I thought that I was protecting myself, but I was only making things more complicated. I also fed into negative self-talk and started engaging in self-harm. Whenever I made a mistake, I was incredibly hard on myself. I had low selfesteem, so any small error made me feel even worse about myself. I would punish myself frequently, and I believed that it was what I deserved. The combination of denial and self-harm translated into perfectionism. I put so much effort into everything I did to try and avoid criticism and the subsequent self-harm. I am proud of my hardworking attitude and the progress I observed, but it set me up for disappointment. Even if I had given a project everything I had, emotionally, physically, intellectually, I would inevitably get criticism. But I saw receiving feedback as failing because I thought that if I worked hard enough, there would be no need for feedback.
Going to design school was a big risk because there is so much room for subjectivity and criticism. I have been lucky enough to participate in many design studio courses, and subsequently, countless critiques. Critique is one of the hardest parts of university for me. Putting my hard work on display and asking for feedback makes me feel extremely vulnerable and can trigger flashbacks and panic. I identify as a highly sensitive person. This realization has strengthened my focus on careful and empathetic design paired with mindful feedback.
Trauma manifests differently for everyone. For me, it was months of denial and shame,
A critique is a feedback session on a piece of artwork, in progress or completed. This process is crucial for any project because it helps expand existing ideas and provides the presenter with honest reactions and input. The feedback process can look different depending on the project’s stage and industry. In the early stages of a project, it’s often helpful to conduct empathy interviews: a preliminary, open-ended conversation with potential users. These interviews can reveal the user’s behaviors, wants, and needs and guide a designer to create a project that best suits potential clients. Once a prototype is developed based on these conversations, the designer might do user testing and ask people to try the product or service to observe their pain points. The designer would then make changes to the prototype and create a high-fidelity product based on user testing. In design school, this is typically the point where a formal critique
I identify as a highly sensitive person. This realization has strengthened my focus on careful and empathetic design paired with mindful feedback.
take place. Each student displays their hard work, and the class discusses every project, one by one. I have a lot of anxiety about this final step. I enjoy user research, interviews, and iterating because it’s usually informal and ever evolving. Still, the final critique feels physically and emotionally exhausting. Critique requires vulnerability, patience, focus, and courage, and there’s also the added pressure of getting graded or disappointing a client. People can also be harsh! Design is very subjective and personal, and sometimes a concept doesn’t make sense to everyone. I can remember a particularly tough critique when I was in my first year of university. I had spent weeks in the studio and the woodshop developing a fully fleshed-out toy with packaging and branding. I had semi-permanent goggle marks on my face and a wardrobe covered in paint and sawdust, and there were several studio sessions where I broke down in tears from the exhaustion and frustration of learning new tools. I was so invested in this project and felt proud of my outcome. During critiques, my professor wasn’t as enthusiastic. He seemed to like my project, but he bluntly pointed out minute execution flaws and areas where I ran out of time.
He asked me what I would change if I had another week, and, defeated, I said I would redo the entire project. He said that wasn’t necessary and then made an insensitive joke about how I looked angry, which embarrassed me in front of my classmates. I said I wasn’t angry, and he dismissed it, saying that my expression was impossible to read. I felt mortified. I had worked so hard to create this project, and I didn’t know how to process the harsh feedback. My blank stare must have translated to anger, and my professor thought it was appropriate to provoke me.
I can understand my professor’s intentions during this critique. He wanted to help me improve my project, and he was sure to point out underdeveloped areas. It’s logical to expose flaws so that the designer knows what to fix. The good parts of the project don’t need to change, so why bother mentioning them?
I still struggle with this line of thinking. While my professor had good intentions, he also triggered me. A trigger is a detail, like a sight or a phrase, related to a traumatic event that may turn up in daily life and cause a fear response. I was triggered when my professor scrutinized my project and joked about my blank expression. While I knew I was technically safe, my body began to react to potential danger. First, I had received some harsh feedback and was struggling to separate feedback and failure. Second, this critique followed a similar pattern to my sexual abuse. I can remember being criticized and broken down by abusers and then being mocked for my angry or upset reaction. I felt a similar kind of stress during the critique as I did when experiencing a traumatic event.
Critique is a two-way process, and poor communication and tone can turn genuine and honest feedback into terrible, triggering feedback. During my time at partial hospitalization programs, I learned about the GIVE method; an interpersonal effectiveness concept taught in dialectal behavioral therapy (DBT). GIVE is an acronym for Gentle,
Interested, Validate, and Easy-going, and it helps people create and maintain healthy relationships. In a critique setting, GIVE is an excellent guideline for providing feedback. This framework is gentle and friendly, which works to minimize the possibilities of triggering someone. It also emphasizes the validation of hard work and effort and positively reinforces good choices. There is still room for suggestions and improvements, but the tone of the conversation is never confrontational or offensive. Maintaining GIVE qualities in a conversation is not easy; it requires a lot of energy and dedication. However, it’s always better to try GIVE skills imperfectly than not to use them at all. Besides, practicing these skills will only make them easier! In the event of triggering a student or classmate, it’s best to apologize first and then use GIVE skills again. Validate their emotions and take accountability for your words. We can’t always know what might trigger someone. Some people can be triggered by certain smells, weather, songs, and more. Triggers can be unavoidable, but mindfully incorporating GIVE skills in the classroom can minimize the effects. If my professor did practice GIVE skills from the previous example, he may have adjusted his tone to be more soft and friendly, made eye contact, and given me time to explain my process. It is still possible to give critique and point out flaws while maintaining a positive and supportive demeanor. I would have welcomed any feedback he had for me because I would feel safe.
Using GIVE skills can also help prevent a culture of shame. When trying to create a mindful and inclusive critique, it’s important to be cautious with harsh words, sarcasm, and tough love. The problem with these communication styles is that it often makes the recipient feel ashamed. Shame is a complicated emotion that actually can result in a fear response, similar to fight-or-flight. Physiologically, shame is connected to the brain’s limbic system, which is responsible for automatic responses and survival. When
the limbic system is activated, the body is flooded with the stress hormone cortisol. Energy is directed towards defending and protecting yourself, just like in a physical attack. This also means that energy is not being utilized in the brain’s learning centers, such as the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for logical thinking. The only goal of a critique should be to learn and improve, but it is nearly physically impossible to learn when experiencing shame. Being gentle and validating through the GIVE method is a good start to avoid shaming others, but we also have to be mindful of other things that might cause shame. As a highly sensitive person, many things can make me feel ashamed, like forgetting a small task, running late, even asking for help. Just like it is difficult to avoid certain triggers, creating a space without shame can be
challenging because everyone experiences it a little differently. Shame may be inevitable, but a mindful critique environment can help minimize shame when learning is a priority.
The recipient of a critique can also engage in mindful behavior to alleviate automatic stress responses and manage potential triggers. It’s important to accept that you cannot control the tone of a critique, and sometimes people will not use GIVE skills. While this scenario is not ideal, difficult critiques still happen, and it’s important to plan accordingly.
learning, and action steps when facing a critique. When I had that challenging critique, I stayed up too late in the studio, neglected my laundry, forgot to drink enough water, and deprived myself of relaxation time. I will not excuse my professor’s triggering remarks, but if I had reduced my vulnerabilities by getting more sleep and focusing on selfcare, I might have been able to accept the harsh feedback a little easier and could have interpreted the comments differently. I still might have been triggered, but at least I would have been in good health and in better shape to recover.
I like to cope ahead. This technique helps calm future stressors by priming your body and mind for a challenging interaction. For example, suppose I’m anticipating a difficult critique. In that case, I need to use all the coping skills I can ahead of time to prepare myself for potential triggers. This can start a few nights before a critique with a coping skill called Reducing Vulnerabilities.
Vulnerabilities are simple things like sleep, nutrition, hydration, and movement that create a strong foundation for productivity and learning. When I only get six hours of sleep, for example, I am chipping away at that strong foundation and am more likely to fall into a crisis situation. Prioritizing basic self-care ensures a healthy state of mind. In addition, it promotes active listening,
Another way to “cope ahead” is to actively practice a growth mindset. As defined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, an influential researcher in this area, people with a growth mindset can develop their talents through hard work, good strategies, and input from others. The opposite of a growth mindset is a fixed mindset, which describes someone who believes their skills are innate and cannot improve in a meaningful way. People with fixed mindsets avoid failure and feedback. Instead, their success depends only on the confirmation and validation of their existing skills. I believe most people have a combination of both mindsets, as these examples are the two extremes of the spectrum. However, it is important to lean towards a growth mindset in any critique setting. Having a fixed mindset during a critique is incredibly painful since any negative comments or suggestions can evoke a sense of failure and shame.
Practicing a growth mindset can be difficult, especially for people dealing with trauma. Enduring traumatic events heightened my protective tendencies, manifesting in hyper-vigilance and paranoia. Survival and self-preservation became my priority, so I had a hard time understanding that being vulnerable and exposing my weaknesses would make me a better student. I found that practicing a growth mindset in small ways during my day helped me build up a healthy mindset for critique. I
like to challenge
I found that practicing a growth mindset in small ways during my day helped me build up a healthy mindset for critique. I like to challenge myself when I begin to feel those protective boundaries creeping up in safe situations.
myself when I begin to feel those protective boundaries creeping up in safe situations. For example, I’ll cook a new dish and allow myself to feel vulnerable by asking my family how it tastes. I’ll actively listen to their comments and keep reminding myself this will make me better. They love me, I am safe, and it is a privilege to hear their feedback. Sometimes I need to repeat this mantra every few seconds. A growth mindset does not come easily for me, so it helps to remind myself why I’m choosing to be vulnerable.
There are also ways I like to cope during a critique. In Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), self-soothing through your five senses can help in a tense situation. This technique allows me to take a break from my surroundings, connect with my body, and focus on something comforting. I enjoy using taste, as appropriate. A small snack is comforting to have, such as a piece of fruit or some dark chocolate. If eating is not
permitted, drinking tea, coffee, kombucha, or water is another great option. I also like using touch by wearing soft, comfortable clothing or bringing a small item, like a smooth rock or stress ball, to hold.
I also try to turn off my emotional mind and act as an observer during a critique. I take a lot of notes to process the feedback later, in a comfortable and private place.
During critique, I am simply writing a transcript for my future self, which takes the pressure off my present, more vulnerable self. Once the critique is over, I still have a lot of work to do. I have to process and analyze pages of notes and diagrams and decide which changes I want to implement, which can be difficult, but it’s much better than facing a crisis during critique. This technique helps me use my wise mind. In DBT, the wise mind is the intersection of the reasonable mind and the emotional mind. It helps us operate with balance and intuition. During the critique, I try to only use my reasonable mind by processing logical observations and facts. This helps me detach from the situation and allows me to feel safe and protected during a vulnerable experience. After the critique, I allow my emotional mind to analyze the information in a safe and comfortable space to decide which comments I agree with and the changes that I can make while staying authentic to my vision. I can also give myself space to feel proud, angry, frustrated, or inspired. Finally, my wise mind takes over and helps me balance the emotional connection to my project and the logical feedback from the critique. As a result, I am also able to create reasonable action steps and improve my project.
It’s vulnerable to offer your hard work to feedback. If you love what you do, it makes sense to take feedback personally. Dealing with mental health issues only makes criticism harder to process, but there are ways to make the design space more safe and inclusive.
We need to gently guide students and employees through the critique experience using mindfulness and evidence-based communication techniques. We need to validate good ideas. We need to be sensitive to possible triggers. And we need to remind ourselves that mindful feedback is not
Illustrations by Catherine Clarke
Triggers for PTSD
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/ syc-20355967
GIVE Skills and DBT
Science of Shame
easy and that it takes a lot of practice to communicate effectively. My identity as someone with post-traumatic stress has helped me prioritize healthy communication and mindful design. I believe we can make design feedback safe for everyone.•
Dr. Shapiro TEDx Talk
DBT Crisis Skills
MEGZANY Featured Profile
MegZany is a street artist and curator widely known for her street art and public service campaigns promoting equality and creativity. Described by CMT (Country Music Television) as “50% bright-eyed, 50% bad-ass,” she is one of the most dynamic artists working today. MegZany’s career as a street artist started in her hometown of Los Angeles in 2016 and has since expanded into a multidisciplinary art practice that centers the rise of higher consciousness—listening to your inner soul, being one with nature, understanding there is more to life than a rat race, love and be loved, and helping others. Her work urges viewers to act out of courage and purpose as a way of self-care. This call to action is evident in MegZany’s infamous self-sanctioned street art pieces “Courage Has No Gender,” “Women Are All The Things,” “Swim To The Beat Of Your Own Current,” and “Your Imprints On Others Echo The Halls Of Eternity.”
Interviewed by Journee Harris
De Nichols shares her rich journey and experience carving out her identity as a designer, social activist, entrepreneur, and author. Currently a Senior Product Inclusion UX researcher on the YouTube team at Google, De Nichols reflects on finding balance between work and well-being, while nurturing love of family and community.
JH: I wanted to ask about balancing being an organizer and working full-time. How do you take care of yourself? Can you speak a little bit about how you support your livelihood balancing all of these identities, and all that you do?
De Nichols: The livelihood part came easy by being an entrepreneur, by having a design firm centered on not just the aesthetics of what something could be or the theory of what something could be, but the strategy and action. We took a BOGO approach. We asked our clients to help select which one of the initiatives we’re working on on the ground. Do you want us to use a portion of this revenue to support? By instituting this sense of all of this money that we earn, a portion of this goes back to the community. That was a sustainer. That was a model that worked very well. Because that meant that not only could I dedicate my time to being on the ground with people being pro bono, but also meant that I wasn’t just bringing my time; I was bringing money. I was bringing resources, skills, and sometimes other people along the way. But it came with a lot of sacrifices. I was not always good to myself. Back then, burnout was real.
Interviewed by Journee Harris
WHAT THEY NURTURED IN ME WAS THE POWER OF THE NARRATIVE IN LEARNING HOW TO WRITE AND BE A STORYTELLER. I GOT THAT FROM MY TEACHERS.
such a workaholic back then and didn’t allow space to be soft. I was always just focused on everything else. I thrived, I was celebrated, and I had a lot of fun. I traveled a lot. I loved the freedom of that, but that came with that sacrifice of nurturing something that it took me so long to realize what’s missing and that I needed that sense of companionship, someone to come home to and just be with without an agenda. It made me realize that there were a lot of folks in my life who I was valuable to only because of what I could do for them or what I could create with or for them. That became too transactional for me. And so, my mental health was not well with making all of those realizations. And my physical self was not well.
Throughout all of that, I had fibroids and very bad endometriosis. And a lot of stressinduced gut issues that I still feel to this day. And by the summer of 2019, I ended up getting a hysterectomy because the fibroids had formed around my ovaries so dramatically that it was pressing on my bladder, pelvis, and all of these other body parts. I was in excruciating pain all the time. I was just forcing myself to push through the pain, and I cracked. I realized something had to change. This life that I’ve made that I’ve
at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
I ended up getting the fellowship at Harvard and quit everything and ended up getting the hysterectomy in the summer of 2019. And that changed my life. Wow. The sense of energy and focus clarity around who I wanted to be manifested itself. Entrepreneurship is no longer for me. This hustle, this grind, it’s not what I wanna do. I wanna make space to be still and able to do this work with passion. But not be burdened by carrying so much of the load and wearing so many of the hats and my role now, at Google, I got one job, research, you know, like do this one thing and do it well. And I’m just in a better place because of that.
JH: I want you to speak about the pros of stepping away and stepping away from your pride, even working with or working for someone else that gives you more time to have a life.
De Nichols: I mean, for me, it is a balance. I realize that I can let go of my ego, of my name being on everything. I can let that go. I have done well with my journey. I am proud of the work that I have done with others, and I can allow myself the grace to not always be that person,
be that version of myself. So stepping into this pivot has been seamless. It has been liberating to go work for someone else. Primarily because everything that I’ve done has led to this point, has equipped me for this role.
My role is brand new to this company, and I get to be an entrepreneur. I get to help create something within this space that will have just as much impact if not more because we’re scaling, you know, we can scale globally. So I think it is less of a give and take, like what did I lose? What did I gain? And it’s more of like, how do I balance, how do I hold this? Going to work for someone, I had to articulate my conditions to make a case for me being there and it being a fit for me. And part of that was, I’m not gonna wear more than one hat. Here’s the job description. I will do this part well. Here’s what I feel my value is. And they, if you’ve heard about Google, they are generous. They, whew. Perks, perks. I earned more than I would’ve ever earned by running my firm. And I can say that and not feel shame or embarrassment about that because this is a huge company. But the thing that I would say to someone is you have to know yourself, you have to know where you are in your life and what will fulfill you in this life. And in whatever season or chapter that you’re in. For me, in this chapter, I wanna nurture love. I wanna nurture and cultivate family. I want to breathe a little bit. I don’t wanna hustle all the time.
A lot of that back then, and still now, is glorified. Burnout culture, being booked and busy, people glorified that stuff. What I realized after doing it for so many years and being on the go all the time was that rest is just as important. I am no good if my tank is empty. Finding the position that will allow you to exist and bring your full self to any space, is the goal.•
GOOD IF MY TANK IS EMPTY. FINDING THE POSITION THAT WILL ALLOW YOU TO EXIST AND BRING YOUR FULL SELF TO ANY SPACE. I THINK THAT IS THE GOAL.
Check out De Nichols’ full interview online via the QR code. 115
Maryland-based designer Marli Washington took issue with the lack of safe and comfortable chest binding options for individuals looking to bind. As a University of the Arts Industrial Design graduate, Marli used his experience in product design and his background in textiles to create accessible, comfortable, and safe binding options designed by trans people for trans people. Being a trans man of color, Marli found that most chest binders were uncomfortable or inadequate compression shirts designed for cisgender men. Further, it was challenging to find binders that matched a variety of skin tones. So, in 2015, Marli founded gc2b, producing binders that were the first garments designed and explicitly patented for gender-affirming chest binding. Marli created the first line of “nude” binders in five different skin tones. Further, gc2b carries a variety of binder sizes ranging from XS to 5XL to ensure access to binding for all bodies.
Over the past three years, gc2b’s mission has evolved from a brand that offers stylish, original, and gender-affirming apparel to a fixture in the LGBTQAI+ movement. Today gc2b has incorporated a philanthropic arm to the company called 2b care that actively donates to LGBTQAI+ organizations. Through the 2b care program, Marli’s company has donated over 6,000 chest binders to people in need. Further, gc2b collaborates with local and global organizations committed to positive change for trans and non-binary individuals, ensuring that all people have access to comfortable, fashion-forward clothing that celebrates and affirms their gender presentation.•
LIZ OGBU STUDIO O Case Study
Liz Ogbu is the founder and principal of Studio O, a multidisciplinary design practice working at the intersection of racial and spatial justice. A designer, urbanist, educator, and activist, Liz is an expert on sustainable design and spatial innovation in unjust urban environments. Her involvement and education in design have been comprehensive and wide-ranging. She studied architecture at Wellesley College for her undergraduate degree and earned a master’s in architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. She was also among the first group of Innovatorsin-Residence at IDEO.org, the sister nonprofit of international design giant IDEO. Liz has also been an Aspen Ideas Scholar and TEDWomen Speaker.
She has written for and been featured in publications such as The New York Times, Bloomberg, CityLab, the Journal of Urban Design. Liz’s writings center the stories of historically marginalized communities and how they are affected by the spaces in
which they live. In her 2022 article in U.S. News and World Report titled “Reckoning and Repair in America’s Cities,” Liz explains, “Space has often been used in this country as a system of control and exclusion. The American landscape is physically shaped by historical injustices dating back to its earliest
days as a country, when land was stolen from and used to warehouse Indigenous people and plantations were platforms for the enslavement and dehumanization of Black people.”
Liz employs the power of design to work with communities in need to catalyze healing and foster environments that support people’s capacity to thrive. When working on a project, Liz immerses herself in the historical context of the community and the physical space where the organization is working. She tries to forge genuine human connections with the people she works with and to build trust by focusing on cultivating relationships and avoiding transactional interactions. For example, as a project for Public Architecture, where Liz served as director of design, she led the design and development of “The Day Labor Station,” an innovative design and advocacy campaign working with day laborers across the country seeking to address critical issues of space, dignity, and community. At the time, over 110,000 people looked for labor work each day in the US. Their role in the informal
economy often forces them to occupy spaces meant for other uses. “The Day Labor Station” was designed to be adaptable and capable of being deployed in various locations to provide a sheltered space for the day laborers to wait for work and community resources such as a meeting space, classroom, and garden. Though not built, the project served as an effective advocacy tool for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and continues to be a much-cited project within the architectural community. “The Day Labor Station” is just one of many projects that highlights Liz’s creative approach to community-centered design.•
Interviewed by Journee Harris
Interviewed by Journee Harris
PEOPLE’S REFLECTIONS MADE ME FEEL PROFOUNDLY LESS ALONE, AND THEY GAVE ME THE COURAGE TO FACE MY OWN STRUGGLES.
work you do today is unique and deeply sentimental. Walk me through the journey of your formal education and how it led to your current art practice.
CC: I loved architecture, but I didn't want to wait until I was an old lady to design something. That's when I first heard of graphic design, and it was empowering —I could make my own experiments and websites. So after college, my friends and I started a design firm and record label. We made minimal techno and wheat pasted posters of our records around downtown New York, which got me into street art. It set off the mischievous side in me, and I had fun imagining all the things I wish existed in my neighborhood. That made me more curious about how the city works, and when I couldn't figure it out on my own, I went to school for urban planning.
As I made money through design, I sought out grants and opportunities to do civic experiments with communities worldwide.
The “Before I Die” wall grew in ways I never expected. I saw a wider range of humanity out in the open. I saw humor and joy mashed up next to pain and redemption. I saw heartbreaking things you don't typically tell a stranger like, before I die, I want to…get through the grief of my divorce, overcome addiction, forgive and be forgiven, bring peace of mind to my mom. People's reflections made me feel profoundly less alone, and they gave me the courage to face my own struggles. I saw my neighbors in a new light, and it made me think about the value of anonymity to be more honest and vulnerable without fear of judgment.
Since then, I've become passionate about creating more infrastructure for the soul— to reflect, to forgive, to atone, and to see ourselves in each other. When we talk about healthy communities, we often neglect our psyches. Loneliness, stress, and anxiety have all been called public health epidemics. Those feelings can easily grow into addiction,
depression, or self-destruction if we ignore them. As the world feels more uncertain and alienating, there's a lot of space to reimagine how our communities can better serve our psychological health.
JH: Through public installations you have become a “caretaker” of other people’s reflections. What have you learned about being a caretaker?
CC: I spend a lot of time bearing witness to the longing and pain of thousands of strangers, and it feels very meaningful to me. They tell a different story than the one we often see on our screens. Our most popular online public spaces are designed to encourage facades, judgment, extreme opinions, and public shaming. I see a profound amount of reflections on loneliness, fear of judgment, pressures to be performative, distraction, addiction, and anxieties about our political polarization.
I now have over a million handwritten reflections from people around the world, and I want to be a good steward of them. They feel like a more honest portrait of our society today and where we need help. They make me braver in my own self-examination and relationships. They teach me what helps us hold on and persevere. They make me infinitely compassionate and nonjudgmental. So I’m working on ways to return them to the public through archives, videos, and paintings. It feels like an act of devotion to these writers and their scribbled aches, like composing a hymn of our psyches in the early 21st century.
JH: How do you think design will change in the next ten years?
CC: Design will become more merciful as the design world becomes more diverse. The more perspectives, the more we might see ourselves reflected in the world.•
AS THE WORLD FEELS MORE UNCERTAIN AND ALIENATING, THERE’S A LOT OF SPACE TO REIMAGINE HOW OUR COMMUNITIES CAN BETTER SERVE OUR PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH.
Check out Candy’s full interview online via the QR code. 129
Stand rmly with your feet slightly apart and hands to your sides. Keep breathing slowly. In and out. In your head identify:
taste 4 Things
5 3 2 1 130 ACTIVITIES. WELLBEING
Things you can touch Things you can hear
you can smell
you can see
• Find an object in the room.
• Trace the outline with your eyes.
• Now trace that object with your nger.
• Next try to create an outline of that object on a piece of paper.
• How many times did you have to look back up?
MIRROR IMAGE PARTNERS
Make (or take) an image that represents you.
Ask a friend or partner to make (or take) an image that represents you.
List 3 main qualities that describe you.
Have them list 3 main qualities that describe you.
Discuss. Notice the di erences between your internal perception of yourself and the self that others see.
134 Empathy and Leveraging Design Through Leadership LEVERAGING DESIGN THROUGH LEADERSHIP AND EMPATHY HUMAIRA TASNEEM Essay
As an athlete, I think of design as a team sport. The leader has to guide and inspire the team to win games, giving everybody their roles and responsibilities while supporting them to bring the best out of them.
As an athlete, I think of design as a team sport. The leader has to guide and inspire the team to win games, giving everybody their roles and responsibilities, while supporting them to bring the best out of them. A team captain also prioritizes inclusivity because everyone has different experiences that need to be acknowledged. From my personal experience as the captain of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Women’s cricket team, I know that every athlete and designer has a drive that motivates them to keep going. Finding the correct problems can streamline the collaborative design process. Problem identification begins by asking the right questions, strategic thinking, tactical, technical, communication skills, creativity, and curiosity.
from then on. I used it in all aspects of my life, especially when I became the captain. I always went the extra mile to put myself in my teammates’ shoes if they were late to practice, messed up a team strategy on the field, or didn’t show enough energy.
As designers, athletes, leaders, and people, as human beings with souls, we have to constantly empathize and understand the importance of designing with the people, not for the people. Regardless of age, gender, class, race, ethnic group, abilities, all leaders should be empathetic. Imagine a world where empathy was a part of the job description for leadership roles. How can one lead, serve, and strategize for others when they cannot imagine themselves in the shoes of the people they serve? How do you solve a problem from the perspectives of the people experiencing it and not from convenience?
Why this comparison between sport and design? I learned important skills and lessons through playing cricket and basketball when I was 13 years old. When somebody made an error and got yelled at, I saw some teammates blaming the person by saying, “It’s your fault we lost that point.” This attitude was new to me; I only played for fun before, so I did not know we would be chastised for making mistakes. So when mistakes did happen, I put myself in my teammates’ shoes, asking, what if I messed up in a game? How would it feel? How would I feel if somebody was pointing fingers at me? This realization helped me
Where was the focus on diversity and inclusion before the civic unrest of 2020? More companies are adding equity departments, and hiring practices only drastically changed after the civic unrest in 2020. Have you wondered why inclusion is being talked about so aggressively these days? Have you looked around you? In your team? Have you considered including people from the global majority in solving problems? The BIPOC representation in a design team offers different experiences, perspectives, and approaches for the products and services of tomorrow. BIPOC designers can help creative teams become more empathetic and human-centered designers. A global and diverse perspective assists in discovering various viewpoints and pain points that otherwise take triple the time to unearth. As a person who has pushed to understand different cultures and surround myself around people that make me grow, I can vouch that my brain is more creative than a person who has only been around people who look and talk like them. I am more focused on solving problems that are causing harm to communities that are not rich and capitalistic. I’m a Hijabi Muslim woman, a
The leader has to guide and inspire the team to win games, giving everybody their roles and responsibilities while supporting them to bring the best out of them.
person of color, a designer, an international cricketer, an artist, and a millennial dedicated to serving a purpose within my communities. I want to offer principles of accessibility and equity in my work and push myself to design with the people I am helping.
The core of any design solution is diversity in the design team. Diversity does not only mean race or ethnicity, even though race is a major part of that word. Diversity in terms of accessibility, in terms of languages, in terms of experiences, in terms of personality. If you want real criticism and good feedback that helps you grow as a designer and person, you need to be intentional about including people on your team who are not similar to you as a person. It’s important that we make intentional decisions or even go out of our way to include people that do not define the general population. If people different from you can’t be found in your community, use a virtual network! The pandemic helped us understand that connecting online is an excellent way to communicate with others. My dad would always say, “Whatever it is, don’t make excuses.” and my mom would always say, “If you don’t do it today, then when?” These things did not resonate well with me when I was a kid but these are my
life mottos as an adult. And to amplify this topic of “using time efficiently” further, my husband says “You can’t say there’s no time. You need to make time.”
We need more BIPOC designers on teams and as leaders to represent the various cultures and races forgotten in the design process. Our beliefs should emphasize the importance of inclusion, while appreciating and utilizing our differences. Ideally, future products and services should be designed by a team representing the global majority to understand a problem from all points of view. This way, the design will be usable by various BIPOC and marginalized groups.
I saw this theory come to life when I chose to do my master’s topic on inclusion in a predominantly White city: Portland, Oregon. Let me backtrack a little. I completed my Master’s in Design Systems in Portland and my thesis work involved creating an online community platform to connect individuals of color, so we can find each other in a densely White city. Oregon is one of the few states known for its Black exclusion laws and its liberal nature. The city gave me firsthand experience of the alienation that one can feel if they are not of the same color as the majority
in a space. I understood the significance of risk-taking and how such a simple topic of risk is not a privilege for everyone. Cultures and ethnicities, income, race, gender, and access divide people so that they can or can not take risks. I realized that the risks I was taking were not only risks, but they also represented me as a Hijabi Muslim and as a Brown person in the classroom. Suddenly, I was not just a student, I was more. I was a hijabi-Muslim-Brown-international-studentdesigner-athlete. I realized how much work I had to do to include my experiences in classroom conversations. My experiences in life influence the direction of classroom conversations, design work, my school work, and my thesis in a surprising and unique way. I noticed that some experiences, like feeling alienated in Portland, were in my unconscious mind and needed to be acknowledged in order to understand the problem that affects many like me and create a solution that also affects many like me.
Having more BIPOC representation would have certainly helped me feel comfortable and less drained of my emotional labor. I felt like this has been an ongoing story in my life—feeling the odd one out. When I was in the UAE women’s cricket team, I was also the only hijabi Muslim and felt like I needed to put in more effort and talk about myself in a hijab. This wasn’t about discrimination, this was about me feeling the odd one out and expecting myself to put in the extra effort to explain myself. There was already the added frustration of doing extra work to express different cultures because I am an Indian, born and raised in the UAE. Additionally, tiresome interactions with White men who assume they know more than me have taken their toll. On top of this, I was frustrated being in an educational setting where risks are a part of learning. If I said or did something wrong, I would embarrass my people and get judged for my actions. And “my people,” my Muslim family of this world, my “ummah” have already been through a lot historically. The emotional drain of frequently putting
in more effort than anyone in my class because I was scared that any mistake could only harm my image and the image of my people. I realized then how much of an effect it would have made if my team members reflected some of my cultural identities. So, as a BIPOC leader, I intentionally decided to increase the representation of people of the global majority on my teams to grow creatively and take previously unimaginable risks.
I am passionate about leveraging my skills to create more resources for BIPOC people. As an outsider, I spent the last year uniquely positioned to understand the problem because I experienced being hyper visible, isolated, othered, and alienated in the city. In addition, the people I interviewed opened up to me because they recognized that I have similar experiences, if not the same. Who will design better for marginalized groups if not oppressed people? Who would I design for then, if not the very people who brought me here? It is of utmost importance to me to constantly push the boundaries when it comes to including BIPOC people in my team, my designs, my surroundings, and my work. I try my best to take responsibility as a leader of my soul, be empathetic, and learn on the way. The last iteration of my thesis is an online community platform designed to provide support to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color residents by building community and connections in the online world. Representation in a design team helps discover innovative viewpoints and historically ignored pain points more efficiently than majority-White teams. It is important always to do the extra work of questioning and accounting for the forgotten ones in the capitalistic design process. How are the people in your team feeling about risks? Have you had a conversation about taking risks regarding the type of life a person has lived?
Let’s come back to the real question: How are you pushing yourself to ensure that the people around you are not the same as you? Are people welcome? This isn’t to say that only design leaders are responsible for
creating inclusive and diverse spaces. It is the responsibility of every individual to work towards creating an equitable relationship with their designs.
It is important for a design thinker to thoroughly understand what motivates and frustrates the people they are designing for. As a result, the final design should be accessible and scalable, accommodating users with disabilities while also accounting for various languages and cultures. It is of utmost importance that wherever I go in the future, whatever I turn out to be, I am constantly pushing the boundaries when it comes to the inclusion of BIPOC people on my team, my designs, my surroundings, and my work.
Ensuring others that “I am not racist, my best friend is Black,” is an unhelpful defense mechanism. “I collaborated with my best friend who is Black and has a better perspective when it comes to designing for a target audience of Black-identifying individuals,” is a more equitable approach to design collaboration.
Design is similar to a team sport. Let’s take cricket as an example. There are batters and bowlers with diverse skill sets on the team. Everyone has different roles and responsibilities in the game and we all have to collaborate in order to win. We come up with strategies and plan A, B, C so that we are preconceive and have a plan for any challenge that arises. The more conflicts there are, the more difficult it is to create an environment of a winning team where everyone feels like they contributed. If we put this same situation in a design team, a team will have varying degrees of skill sets and professions. But if most of them are batters, you have one bowler and maybe a few specialized fielders, that one bowler has a lot of pressure and labor to succeed and those few specialized fielders will be running the team.
BIPOC identifying designers will not merely work on a design or a product, but we will work on changing the foundation that we rest on—a system that was never designed for us to succeed. With more of us in design and even more in leadership positions in design, we can begin to create equitable systems, which I know will lead to a better tomorrow.
Ultimately, design leaders set the tone for how the next generation of designers conduct themselves as leaders at work and as individuals. Unfortunately, under capitalism, it is possible to lead without morals. It is an uphill challenge to put empathy and ethics first. However, it is a challenge that all leaders must commit.
Design is similar to sport in that they both help us express ourselves freely and push us to converse with people from around the globe. Through these experiences, we meet people from various cultures, ethnicities, and races who speak different languages, behave differently when they win or lose, and show respect in various ways. So how are we as leaders pushing our teams and the people around us every day to make this world an equitable place?•
Design is similar to sport in that they both help us express ourselves freely and push us to converse with people from around the globe.
ELYSE AYOUNG Featured Profile
Elyse is currently an Associate Interior Designer at the global design and architecture firm Gensler. Before finding her way into architecture and design, she spent her childhood years in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, building, creating, and fascinated with the idea of placemaking. Her first opportunity and form of access came in elementary school where she was one of a few students nominated by their teachers to enroll in a summer intensive program by the Steppingstone Foundation that prepared urban youth for entrance into one of three Boston Public exam schools. As a result, she was accepted into Boston Latin Academy where along with her standard studies, her creativity and passion for art and design were nurtured by a very committed art teacher.
As a first generation American and one of two children born to immigrant parents from Trinidad, a college education after high school was greatly emphasized. Elyse’s parents encouraged Elyse to attend college, while also supporting a career path she was interested in. That path led to her earning her BFA in Architecture from Massachusetts College of Art
SAAD Featured Profile
Fady Saad is the founder and general partner of Cybernetix Ventures, a venture capital firm leading the way for investment into early-stage robotics, automation, and AI start-ups. He is also co-founder of MassRobotics, the first and largest robotics and AI start-up escalator in the world. He was born and raised in Cairo, Egypt, and as a young student, he did well in school. His mother placed a strong emphasis on education. She encouraged Fady to attend the American University in Cairo, where his brother studied mechanical engineering. Fady wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps by attending the same university and becoming a mechanical engineer. During his time in school, Fady took on leadership roles and got involved in the National Federation for Scouts in Egypt. In addition, he helped organize meetings and events at his local church and spoke at several international events.
After graduating, he worked as a teaching assistant for his college professor and advisor, Lotfi Gaafar. Together, they reconstructed an industrial engineering lab to make it more hands-on for students. After collaborating with Gaafar, he started working for Nokia Siemens, where he met Khaled Rabie, a leader and VP of the company. Fady felt an instant connection with Khaled, which grew as they worked together at Siemens. Gaafar and Khaled’s mentorship, along with his background in industrial engineering, design, and business, inspired Fady to seek his graduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, focusing on how complex systems, technology, and management can guide companies and solve problems.
TONIE ESTEBAN Featured Profile
Tonie is the Associate Principal and part owner at BRIC Architecture in Portland, Oregon She currently lives in Portland with her two children and husband. Tonie was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area with roots in Mexicali. Encouraged by her grandparents and inspired by her cousins with engineering degrees, Tonie attended the University of California, Berkeley, to study architecture.
With the help of her friend and fellow architect Karina Ruiz, Tonie landed her first junior architect job out of college, where she worked for three years before pursuing a graduate degree in urban architecture from the University of Oregon. After earning her degree, she reunited with Karina at Dull Olson Weekes Architects, working as a Project Architect. In 2009, Tonie acquired her architecture license and started to design Franklin High School, a grueling four-year endeavor. After completing the project, Karina and Tonie left the firm and started BRIC Architecture, one of Oregon’s few majority women-owned architecture firms.
Franklin High School, Portland, Oregon
MORRIS Featured Profile
Celebrated by the New York Post as a “jack of all trades,” Brooklyn-born Fonz Morris is an entrepreneur and self-taught designer. He is currently based in San Jose, California, Fonz works as a lead product designer at Netflix. Before Netflix, Fonz led a design team at Coursera, an online platform that offers courses, certifications, and degrees in a variety of subjects. Fonz’s team led Coursera’s transition to a publicly-traded company. Further, he was the Lead Designer on Coursera’s new homepage, degree platform, and internal advertising tool, which brought the platform’s users to 20 million.
Fonz also works with various organizations on re-entry programs for the formerly incarcerated, offering free educational opportunities for individuals re-entering society. His work on developing re-entry programs is one of many collaborative projects initiated by Fonz. He has also collaborated with music producers and worked on design teams worldwide.
BLESS MAZARURA ARMY OF LUV Case Study
The ARMY OF LUV is a non-profit organization funded and operated by the Bless By Bless fashion brand. The man behind the brand is Bless Mazarura. Bless is an artist, self-taught fashion designer, and advocate for change who grew up in rural Zimbabwe. He moved to the United States to study at Montserrat College of Art and now resides in New York City. The Bless By Bless brand offers timeless wardrobe essentials, with minimal asymmetrical silhouettes mainly consisting of convertible, genderneutral, ready-to-wear capsules influenced by the traditional African garments of its designer’s heritage. At the brand’s core is a focus on empowering and unifying.
Finding commercial success in the States, Bless has collaborated with Eddie Bauer, Ducati, Moschino, Target, Ferrari, MTV, J.Crew, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Macy’s, Guess, and more. However, Bless wanted to do more with his brand. He noticed that in the States, there were few movements promoting love. Those that did, represented
love as weak and never powerful. He wondered what it would be like to form an army of people with pure, good intentions. The West’s “go, get, crush” mentality starkly contrasted the “Whatever you don’t have build it,” attitude of his African roots. So, Bless founded the ARMY OF LUV. This community-based platform employs a tribal mentality consisting of accountability, family, and emotional support, where individuals can get wellness coaching.
Established in 2019, the ARMY OF LUV’s first goal was to provide philanthropic support to children attending the Mushimbo Primary School in Mushimbo, Zimbabwe. Proceeds from the ARMY OF LUV clothing line have already funded the education of several children in Zimbabwe.
Today, ARMY OF LUV is looking to collaborate with schools, colleges, influencers, artists and celebrities to co-design loungewear and limited edition collections. Further, Bless is working with software designers to construct the next phase of the organization—THE ARMY OF LUV ACADEMY, an app and online community that provides free emotional
intelligence training. The ACADEMY will inspire diversity, unity, love, and equality in a world divided by emotional illiteracy. For Bless, emotional intelligence combines self-love, self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and social skills. Humans need to belong and require the influence of love to believe in ourselves; however, there is little training around self-love, especially in the luxury fashion worlds of New York City, Los Angeles, and Boston.
Bless’s attitude of resourcefulness and innovation in the face of western capitalism, combined with his unabashed optimism, makes him one of the most compelling fashion designers of our time. He designs for an army of lovers, advocating for common humanity. Bless isn’t just selling fashion— he’s offering a tribe.•
PHIL FREELON Featured Profile In Memoriam 1953 -
Phil Freelon is best known for his work as the lead architect of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and later as design director of the Perkins&Will North Carolina practice. Born and raised in Philadelphia, where exposure to arts and culture was easily accessible, his family encouraged Phil to immerse himself in creativity. While a freshman at Central High School, Phil was introduced to a drafting course by a friend. He quickly excelled in the class, enjoying the combination of the arts and sciences that architecture provided. Phil headed to Penn State’s architecture program on the advice of his teachers to seek out an accredited program. After a few years, the head of the architecture department recognized Phil’s talent and urged him to transfer to a the more rigorous program of North Carolina State University (NCSU), where he eventually completed his degree.
Phil began his career in Houston, Texas at the architectural firm 3D/International and later at O’Brien-Atkins. Within seven years of hard work, Phil became O’Brien-Atkins’s Vice President. In 1989, he was one of ten recipients of
Motown Museum Rendering, Detroit, Michigan
Interviewed by J.R. Uretsky
As the Director of Innovation and Co-founder of Greater Good Studio, George Aye has spent years critically examining and applying human-centered design for social change. With a little bit of advice and a lot of reflection, he talks to J.R. Uretsky about his experience.
J.R.: Why are you so invested in this particular way [human-centered design] of thinking?
GA: I think there’s a few different threads here. One is that I was shown, by my family and my dad in particular, that there is a pursuit of earning a living that specifically creates as little harm as possible and to make your money in a way that helps others maintain their principles. So one interpretation of that was I should probably become a doctor one day. I struggled thinking about this in high school and not making it through to
Interviewed by J.R. Uretsky
WHAT WE’VE BEEN TRYING TO WORK ON IS ASKING WHAT ADJACENT PRACTICES ALONGSIDE HUMAN-CENTERED DESIGN SHOULD WE LEARN FROM?
almost no way of avoiding it. So a good 10 years of my career was spent doing that before I realized that I don’t know if I wanted to keep pretending that it wasn’t bothering me. I started to notice how it was a little weird that we would speak publicly about the work we do that has some social benefit and then the other stuff like designing for BP or frozen pizza companies—we just conveniently didn’t talk about as much. That’s weird. Isn’t it? That we are deliberately vocal about the good stuff. Why does this have a social cache? And this one doesn’t? So when I worked in these commercial studios, I kept noticing this double logic, and it just didn’t seem to compute with me anymore.
J.R.: You mentioned your family before. Can you tell me where you grew up?
GA: I grew up in the south of England. We moved as a family when I was very young from Burma to the UK. One of only a handful of Asian faces. There was a lot of assimilation to a British culture and upbringing which has its own issues. I had a real attraction to wanting to draw or build things, but I don't think I'd understood that was a career path but I was carrying over so much of this strongly felt desire to fit into an Asian immigrant mode of becoming a doctor.
some money in order to live in this world. So figuring out how I can marry some of those goals together has been a struggle.
But what's interesting now is that I don't design stuff. If design is capable of shaping and influencing context, the question becomes, what should those things be? Is it enough to simply design stuff anymore, but rather the systems in which stuff is created or the systems in which people operate were definitely not something I thought you could do. When I was a kid, there's no pretense of wanting to be a systems designer. But I was surrounded by a lot of really smart system thinkers when I was at this big design studio and that really helped shape and continues to influence the role of what a designer can be. I've benefited so much from them, learning how to be a designer. If you apply the ability to create new things to a career, could that not then shape what you do with design that you've been studying or training in? I think you can. And that's where I've ended up thinking maybe we should design other things rather than injection boards, plastic objects, apps or phones and such.
J.R.: Were there any experiences from your schooling that particularly stick out as something that informed where you are now, whether that's in your job or in your life in general?
GA: I never did my masters, I only had an undergrad degree. I don't have a lot of schooling as compared to a lot of my teammates, actually. I might reference what we talked about earlier, like test prep and disentangling some of the self-image one has based on test results. I think it's less important to describe the impact on me, which is that it wasn't great, but actually just how common it is that so many people have a self-image based on these test scores. They can haunt you for a very long time. In some other families, test prep and scores weren't as sticky, so those kids aren’t burdened by those stories as much, and perhaps therefore are given new or different chances. So I can't help but think about the work we do as a studio—how much of the work we do in the social sector is about designing against harmful narratives about people. They have nothing to do with one's inherent worth, but actually to do with random things like taking a test one day or getting a parking ticket, or getting arrested for failing to stop at a stop sign, all of these random events can shape and influence people’s views, especially groups of people. A lot of our work is about trying to get below the story that everyone knows. What is the actual story happening in this particular case with this family at this moment? And a lot of those stories are very different from the more common story that’s out there.•
IF YOU APPLY THE ABILITY TO CREATE NEW THINGS TO A CAREER, COULD THAT NOT THEN SHAPE WHAT YOU DO WITH DESIGN THAT YOU’VE BEEN STUDYING OR TRAINING IN?
Check out George’s full interview online via the QR code. 169
INDIVIDUAL OR TEAMS
Put together a list of core values that resonate with you or your team. Choose your top 3 core values and rank them in order of importance. If you are struggling with agreeing on only 3, group values with similar meanings and weigh these in terms of importance.
Can you create a single sentence that describes you / your team using these 3 values?
A few words to get you started, but add more as needed.
Humility Harmony Friendship Excellence Justice Adaptability Reliability
Power Playfulness Peace Nature Travel Tradition Transparency
Teamwork Time Self-Respect Respect Resourcefulness Love Joy
E ciency Collaboration Initiative Community Truth Wellbeing Unity
THE CHAT ROOM: ROLE MODELS
PAIRS, SMALL GROUPS, OR “FAMILY
• What makes a positive role model?
Making a di erence Education Con dence Inclusion Independence Individuality Creativity 170
• What are the qualities and actions that make a person a positive role model?
• Is there anyone in your life (personal, academic, or professional) that you have considered to be a role model?
• Do you see yourself as a positive role model? Why or why not?
COLLABORATIVE DRAWING: TELL & SHOW
MATERIALS: paper, pen, pencils or markers
Find an original (or not widely known) image, drawing, or design. Keep it straight forward and not too complex.
Designate a “Director” and the other team members will be "Artists."
Goal of the game is for each person to create a drawing from the verbal directions given by the Director and see how close the artists' drawings match the original.
Director: Provide clear verbal descriptions to the artists so they can visualize in their minds what the image looks like. The directions should also be given in some type of sequential way to help the artists build their drawings.
• There should be at least 8-10 steps or directions to get to a nished drawing.
• Once all directions are given, everyone (individuals within a team or across a group of teams) compares their drawings to see who came closest to replicating the original.
• Talk about the di erences and similarities as well as the challenges between the directions and artist’s interpretation.
for an Invisible City
Nothing about my appearance immediately reveals that I’m profoundly deaf. I have what some would call an “invisible disability,” but that is perhaps a misnomer.
AN INVISIBLE CITY EMERSON GOO Essay Nails
“Good design is invisible.”
How many times and in how many forms has this common-sense aphorism been repeated? The phrase makes a tidy example of itself: it is flexible and memorable enough that it has become an ideal for anyone doing creative work, but few can say where it originates from. Like the design it promotes, it is seamless, betraying no mark of authorship, and integrated into its environment as if by unseen hands.
Nothing about my appearance immediately reveals that I’m profoundly deaf. I have what some would call an “invisible disability,” but that is perhaps a misnomer. If you scrutinize how I walk, talk, and look at others, it would become apparent that I move differently through a world not designed for me. Nevertheless, since most people never look that closely, my deafness is de facto invisible. In my interactions with hearing society, I have a choice: to pass as hearing or to disclose my deafness. Passing comes with the convenience of knowing no one will treat me differently just because I’m deaf. But it is also isolating. Simple, routine interactions can be lipread, but spontaneous, in-depth conversations—the stuff of social life—are not possible.
Disclosure has its own cost-benefit analysis involved. Announcing my deafness makes me vulnerable to others, and responses aren’t always congenial. To many institutions, it represents a liability. But disclosure helps me access accommodations that allow me to work, learn, and communicate effectively as a deaf landscape architecture student.
This essay is a disclosure, but it is not a rejection of invisibility. The rhetoric of diversity and inclusion often champions representation in the form of visibility, but denies the unseen and the imperceptible as a source of agency and self-determination. Identity cannot be reduced to a desire for identification any more than invisibility can be reduced to a neutral precept of “good design.” Invisibility is a multidimensional
concept, at turns limiting and liberating, and should trouble notions of what makes design “good.” It is a critical tool for designers interested in advancing social justice in the built environment.
Invisibility and accessibility
Architects and landscape architects have long stressed the importance of designing for all the senses, not just vision. But design for whom? In The Eyes of the Skin, one of the most commonly assigned books in design curriculums, Juhani Pallasmaa laments a modernist culture that has turned architecture into imagery, neglecting its aural, olfactory, and tactile qualities. “The hegemonic eye seeks domination…to weaken our capacity for empathy, compassion, and participation with the world,” he writes, appearing to gesture toward engaging those with different sensory abilities.1 But in a later essay, “Stairways of the Mind,” Pallasmaa claims that, “Today’s planning regulations, which aim at helping the handicapped, tend to eliminate steps of the townscape and public buildings altogether, and thus deprive architecture of one of its most powerful expressive means. We are all becoming handicapped.”2 Pallasma defends stairs as a romantic, truly “feeling” architecture, excluding disabled people from sensory pleasures in favor of ableist norms. The nondisabled, it seems, are the only ones in reach of a total aesthetic experience: the legitimate clients of a multisensory architecture.
There is nothing romantic about a lack of access, as disability activists demonstrated when they crawled up the steps of the U.S. Capitol in 1990. Their protest catalyzed the passage of the ADA and the adoption of accessible design standards. But even these standards fixate on vision disabilities, and disabilities that are visible (namely wheelchair users). Deaf landscape architect Alexa Vaughn-Brainard found that the needs of deaf people in public spaces were not addressed by the ADA. In response, she developed DeafScape, a way of applying DeafSpace principles to landscape design.3
One DeafScape principle considers how deaf people may be startled by someone suddenly approaching them from behind without warning. Vaughn-Brainard suggests managing sightlines by creating enclosed outdoor spaces: for example, using highbacked benches or walled planters to block back views, ensuring that people in the space are approached from the side or front. For Vaughn-Brainard, DeafScape principles exemplify universal design that, “[goes] beyond the bare minimums of the ADA to create more access.”4 If designers want space to be truly multisensory, accessibility must be a logic of universal design that manifests in both visible and invisible ways, not merely a tacked-on afterthought.
Invisibility and care work
Frank De Lima, a popular comedian in Hawai’i, has a bit that goes like this:
Question: In what neighborhood on O‘ahu are three languages spoken fluently at different times of the day or year?
Answer: Kahala, where English is spoken at night, Tagalog during the day when the residents leave for work and are replaced by Filipino gardeners and maids, and Japanese during Golden Week. 5
This joke is emblematic of Hawai’i’s ethnic humor, which often casts Filipinos as a racial punchline. Kahala is an upper-class neighborhood dominated by East Asian and White residents and a common source of clients for local landscape firms. Working over the summer for a landscape maintenance company, I saw this daily rhythm play out myself, not in Kahala, but at on-base military residential communities. Inspecting countless irrigation controllers, drip lines, and spray heads, I began to wonder whether residents would notice I had made any changes or repairs to their irrigation systems. If design is visible work, maintenance is invisible work: an essential process done out of sight and mind. When people leave home for the day, we roll in, and by the time they’re back, we’re gone. To unexpectedly see someone pruning
hedges or kneeling over a valve box is a faux pas, embarrassing because it bluntly reveals the racial and class relations embedded in landscape architecture, and shows us just how manufactured and manicured our gardens have to be to look the way we want them to.
If I saw anyone at home while working, they were mostly mothers and children. I began to notice overlaps in the rhythms of landscape maintenance and domestic labor. Both were unseen forms of housekeeping, the big difference being that I was getting paid, and these mothers weren’t. Though I’d like to think they were! The concept of wages for and against housework has been central to Marxist feminist organizing around domestic labor. Today, material gains have been made worldwide for wives, mothers, and the childcare workforce. Compensation, however, is only part of the picture. Perhaps our desire to keep maintenance and care work in the background is a problem in itself and not one that money alone can solve.
Perceptions of care work often oscillate between being selflessly noble or a costly burden, and neither can sustain a politics of care. For example, despite Affordable Care Act (ACA) reforms, American healthcare is frequently unable to provide long-term care to disabled and elderly populations. When patients can no longer stay in the hospital, family assistance is usually sought out. What if employers and the state cared for carers and helped workers orient their commitments around caregiving, instead of leaving them to find time off the clock to do so? As Professor Shannon Mattern notes, “If we apply ‘care’ as a framework of analysis and imagination for the practitioners who design our material world, the policymakers who regulate it, and the citizens who participate in its democratic platforms, we might succeed in building more equitable and responsible systems.” 6
Invisibility and the tourist gaze
As “post”-pandemic tourism in Hawai’i intensifies, and our state makes proclamations about economic recovery while placing extraordinary pressure on Native Hawaiians and local residents (many of whom work in the tourist industry), I find myself pessimistic. Why must we choose between the equally undesirable prospects of economic austerity vs. perpetuating an extractive industry? Whatever we gain in awareness and publicity from tourists who spend their money here and enjoy a Native garden at a resort, or read an interpretive sign in a landscape about our history and culture, we undoubtedly lose more in the strain they place on our natural resources and degrading public infrastructure. There is a colonial violence inherent in the tourist gaze, which demands our hyper-visibility. We are made to offer others a paradise that doesn’t square with what we need for survival. Could we refuse this gaze?
Commenting on the imperial history of photography, Teju Cole proposes we adopt as a human right “the right to remain obscure, unseen, and dark.” 7 I’d say the same applies to landscapes. While uneven access to natural spaces is a pressing issue, accessibility isn’t always appropriate, and I oppose claims on the grounds of identity that we are automatically entitled to any space, or that any space should be made “public.” If I appear to contradict what I’ve previously written about access, it’s because our colloquial idea of what is public is already contradictory and tied to market forces, encompassing anything from a city park, to a conservation easement, to a sports facility that is free to use but nevertheless privately owned. All these spaces, by design, select their public and exclude others. From homeless sweeps to prohibitions on large gatherings (often racially coded), to the dispossession of Native land to build national parks, arguably America’s greatest ideal of public nature, this selection occurs everywhere. As designers, we are complicit in this selection process. We must work to build community control over it
to create a public realm that is both equitable and oriented towards environmental justice. Accessibility and visibility are not binary states, but movable thresholds that cannot and should not include everyone at all times.
Invisibility and the carceral state
When the artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi began his voluntary internment at Arizona’s Poston Internment Camp in May 1942,8 the first thing he remarked upon was the “eye-burning dust.” The heat, the haze on the horizon, and the dust dramatized his unclear mental state. In an unpublished article for Reader’s Digest,9 he wonders why he came in the first place. Noguchi felt sympathetic to the American-born Japanese, but also questioned where this sympathy arose from. His experiences as a cosmopolitan artist during the interwar period were vastly different from those of the internees. Was it merely because they looked the same as him?
If Noguchi hoped to turn in an uplifting article about finding a sense of ethnic belonging and a shared Japanese identity at Poston, he found the opposite. The Nisei internees were “pathetically American” and knew nothing of their heritage, which they regarded as peculiar. But here they were, refused by their country, alienated from history and nationality on both sides of an ocean. What Noguchi found was a voiding of identity, a dislocation so profound it was indescribable.
The life of anyone incarcerated is an invisible one. Incarceration segregates people from society, but also settles them within it, inducting them into a prison system which justifies its presence through the systemic neglect of marginalized communities by the carceral state. Prison abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore calls this “organized abandonment.” 10 As Noguchi learned firsthand, no one wanted to deport the JapaneseAmericans at Poston, only to eliminate them as a threat at the expense of their freedom. And yet, he details their intense yearning for a better world and how they articulated their hopes despite having very little. They gardened, took up the arts, and applied for furlough to learn new trades: “We have moments of elation only to be defeated by
the poverty of our actual condition…We plan a city and look for nails.”11
Before starting college, I remember having conversations with my parents about what to do if pulled over by the police. Don’t reach for the glovebox or start talking and signing unprompted—that can get you shot. You need to make yourself pliable, stop what you’re doing, calmly say you’re deaf, and hope the person behind that badge is listening. Police encounters are situations in which disclosure is life or death. Too often, deaf people, especially Black deaf people, are murdered or beaten because they cannot respond to what is often an impossible demand: to immediately follow orders without accommodations available. Training programs have made some officers better at communicating with deaf individuals, but cases of abuse still occur and outrage the Deaf community when they make the news. This is the flip side of the structural invisibility engendered by systems of prisons and policing. On the inside, there is no expectation of privacy, no chance to be individually invisible, whether in the cellblock or the temporary carceral space of the traffic stop. You must render everything about yourself visible and in the manner that is demanded.
Life as a disabled person requires navigating paradoxes and double binds. There is no monolithic experience of deafness, which creates problems when we have to measure up against legal and governmental standards of disability, and even the standards of our own Deaf communities. I am thinking of Noguchi’s invisible city, dreamt up by an invisible people somewhere in a desert that blinds its inhabitants. What would it take to build this place, where the body is free from normative standards, where disability can be as visible or invisible as it wants to be, where we don’t have to always prove our lives matter? Maybe we have to first think of invisibility as not one thing, but many, like nails in the structure of this city. We need to divest invisibility from the ways it causes harm, and refashion it to do many things and be many tools. Most people won’t know we’re doing this work and won’t think of
it as anything unless they can see it. But we have to do it, have to feel it—for ourselves and each other.•
1. Pallasmaa, J. (1996). The Eyes of the Skin. Wiley.
2. Pallasmaa, J. (2000). Stairways of the mind. International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 9(1-2), 7–18.
3. DeafSpace is a set of design guidelines created by architect Hansel Bauman of hbhm architects in conjunction with Gallaudet University. The guidelines address five main elements: space and proximity, sensory reach, mobility and proximity, light and color, and acoustics, with the aim of creating an accommodating sensory environment for deaf individuals. DeafSpace has been applied in various campus design and planning projects at Gallaudet.
4. Vaughn-Brainard, A. (2021). “Design with Disabled People Now: Including Disabled People in the Design Process” [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.lafoundation. org/resources/2021/07/2021-symposiumvideos-part-2
5. Labrador, R. (2004). “We can laugh at ourselves: Hawai’i Ethnic Humor, Local Identity and the Myth of Multiculturalism.” Pragmatics 14.
6. Mattern, S. (2018). “Maintenance and Care.” Places Journal.
7. Cole, T. (2019, February 6). “When the Camera Was a Weapon of Imperialism. (And When It Still Is.).” The New York Times.
8. The passage of Executive Order 9066 in 1942 enabled the incarceration of JapaneseAmericans in concentration camps. Poston was located on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, despite objections from the Tribal Council who did not wish to do to the Japanese-Americans what had been done to them. Noguchi, already a well-known artist, entered the camp intending to improve morale and living conditions. He stayed at Poston from 1942-1943, working on various art and community planning projects, of which only a handful were ever realized due to a lack of supplies and support from the War Relocation Authority. In 2017, the Noguchi Museum opened Self-Interned, 1942: Noguchi in Poston War Relocation Center, an exhibition of his work from this time period.
9. Noguchi, I. (1942). “I Become A Nisei.” Reader’s Digest (Unpublished), 1–12.
10. Gilmore, R. W. (2007). Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. University of California Press.
11. Noguchi, “I Become A Nisei.”
CLINT RAMOS Featured Profile
Clint is a Filipino-American stage and film designer, educator, equity and social justice advocate, and creative producer. Although his childhood years were spent in an incredibly tumultuous period in Philippine history with increased violence and economic slowdown, he also was surrounded by art and design.
His mother’s deep appreciation for design and aesthetics influenced him. For example, she would transform their house with holiday decorations. Growing up, Clint would watch in awe as his mother got dressed and styled herself, a process that greatly impacted Clint and his appreciation for beauty and design. In addition, his uncles and great uncles were experienced painters and composers who played significant roles in Clint’s creative journey. As a young recluse with an artistic family, it was only a matter of time before Clint discovered his path as an artist and activist. Still, it also allowed him to stumble upon a direction that he had no intention of
Costume Design for Here Lies Love by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim, 2013. The Public Theater, NYC, NY.
taking: the opportunity to design sets, costumes, and props for theaters, operas, and dance productions.
Clint found his calling when he encountered political street theater as a high school student. He witnessed actors and performers engaging in protest theater on the streets and running off when the cops came. Catching a glimpse of this unique form of theater affirmed his decision to study theater arts at the University of the Philippines. After receiving his BA, Clint moved to New York City to attend graduate school. A Gary Kalkin Memorial Scholarship recipient, Clint earned his MFA in design for stage and film from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.
Clint’s dedication to the arts, supportive mentors, and hard work made him the first person of color to earn the Tony Award for Best Costume Design for a Play in 2016 for his work on the Broadway production of Eclipsed. Since then, he has been nominated for 4 more Tony Awards. As an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC communities, he hopes to inspire young people to explore a career in design, regardless of race. Clint’s passion and love for shaping young minds motivated him to take on teaching positions at several universities such as the ART Institute at Harvard University, SUNY Purchase, and Fordham University where he recently held the position of Head of Design and Production. Aside from his numerous Broadway projects, he recently designed Respect for MGM films and Lingua Franca for Netflix. He is also the Producing Creative Director at New York City Center Encores! Ultimately, Clint feels that design, theater, film, and the arts provide a deeper understanding of the world and allow young people to find their voices.•
Costume and Set Design for Eclipsed by Danai Gurira, 2016. John Golden Theatre, NYC, NY.
TANIYA NAYAK Featured Profile
Taniya is an interior architect and Founder of Taniya Nayak Design, Inc. She was born in India and raised in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. Although being culturally in the minority while growing up had its challenges, for Taniya, she believes her experiences in Weymouth made her more openminded and understanding.
Taniya received her undergraduate degree in business marketing from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She had always wanted to be an architect like her father, but as a small business owner working very long hours and missing out on valuable family time to meet deadlines, he encouraged her to venture down a different path.
Luckily her marketing degree came in handy long after she returned to school for a master’s degree in interior architecture from Boston Architectural College. She felt she had to follow her heart, and it’s a good thing she did.
Many doors started to open for Taniya at the tail end of graduate school. She landed a role on a national television series on ABC Family called “Knock First.” Taniya then went on to host several shows on HGTV, Food Network, and ABC.
In 2005, she launched her own design firm, Taniya Nayak Design Inc. The firm’s focus is on restaurant design and luxury condo developments nationally and new construction homes and renovations.
Taniya believes that communication and motivated employees are crucial to the firm’s success. She enjoys seeing her team work passionately and encouraging each other to succeed.
Taniya and her husband Brian O’Donnell also own (and designed) several restaurants in the Boston area including Yellow Door Taqueria, Lower Mills Tavern, and Madre Osteria and Bar. Taniya is currently designing several Ruth’s Chris Steakhouses across the country. She has launched her own sustainable wallcovering line with MDC Interior Solutions and Lentex. She is also featured on two HGTV series (“Build It Forward” and “Battle on the Beach”) and is the featured designer on Food Network’s “Restaurant Impossible” with Robert Irvine. Taniya is a regular guest on “The Rachael Ray Show.”
Taniya advises young professionals and adults looking to pursue a career in the design industry to be open to different experiences, encouraging them to listen and learn from mentors. Taniya is a strong believer that it is never too late to follow your passion and to do what you love!•
ADE HASSAN NUBIAN SKIN
Nubian Skin is a brand of lingerie and hosiery that provides skin-tone undergarments for women of color. Founder Ade Hassan and her friends were frustrated by the lack of nude clothing and undergarments for people of color. Ade devoted herself to creating new colors for garments by talking to cosmetic professionals who specialize in the skin tones of women of color, comparing swatches from Pantone’s skin tone library, and testing the shades against herself and friends. “Still today, no fabric manufacturers have these colors, and they had to be custom dyed,” Ade said.
Despite having no fashion experience outside of some sewing classes and growing up in a fashion-forward family, Ade knew she needed an excellent product and a beautiful website to have a successful brand. With these goals in mind, Ade obtained a developer, a factory, materials, and hired an expert in intimate apparel manufacturing to help her navigate the complex world of the clothing industry. With her consultant’s guidance, she started attending trade shows and having face-toface meetings with manufacturers to learn the business.
In October 2014, Ade and her team launched the Nubian Skin website and posted a promotional photoshoot to Instagram. At the time, their account had only 50 followers; four weeks later, it had over 20,000. Today they’re at 163K and counting. Among the many successes of the brand, Nubian Skin was honored by the Queen of England. Ade and her team created the undergarments worn by Beyoncé and her dancers for the singer’s 2016 “Formation” concert tour. Nubian Skin has redefined the meaning of “nude,” expanding it beyond its assumed White supremacy by offering various skin tone options for bras, underwear, hosiery, and shoes.•
Interviewed by J.R. Uretsky
The Garden of Surging Waves in Astoria, Oregon, is a community space that uses storytelling to highlight the history of Chinese heritage in Astoria. Designing the garden was a harrowing eight-year undertaking. Throughout the process of negotiating a location change, finding funding, and organizing local Chinese elders, designer Suenn Ho was determined to create a community space worthy of Astoria’s rich history. The result is a contemplative space driven by custom-made art and eclectic architecture.
J.R.: Can you talk about what you mean by “how to do it right?” How you were able to explain “how to do it right?” to the municipality that you were working with?
SH: “How to do it right?” Maybe I will focus on the Garden of Surging Waves. First, I did not want it to be a reconciliatory really sad story. I wanted to pay homage to the people before us, the people sitting on the project committee, and the elders. Only sixty or so Chinese live in Astoria today, as supposed to the thousands before. They are holding onto stories, history, and their relationship with
by J.R. Uretsky
WHAT ARE VALUES
GENERATION TO GENERATION?
HARDSHIP COMES INTO EVERY COMMUNITY AND EVERY RACE.
CHINESE EXPERIENCED HARDSHIPS, BUT YOU MUST UNDERSTAND THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE CONTEXT OF WHERE THIS CULTURE CAME FROM.
IN THEIR SOCIETY THAT WE ALL SHARE AND
So, how to do it right when the City wants to build a classical Chinese garden? To do that right, I had to clarify to the City that I wasn’t qualified to design a classical Chinese garden. I needed to do something that I knew could be authentic, honest, and respectful. Generations of families were sitting on the same Chinese Park committee. A grandfather and granddaughter. They all sat there staring at me, asking, Okay, if we don’t do classical Chinese garden, what are we gonna do?”
How do we tell their stories? They still wanted a pagoda and a moon gate. These features are typical in a classical Chinese garden, yet this was a modern project. How do we do that without making it almost like a fake theme park?
To do it right for this project, you have to understand not just the history and the culture of the Chinese, but you also have to look at what Astoria is. It’s a river town located at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. The marine climate is extremely hostile to any material.
The City introduced the project to me by saying that they didn’t have any money and I couldn’t use anything that would rely on extensive maintenance. That meant to me that we needed materials that would last, not just last, but could be celebrated for aging. Can we say, “You know what? This thing is rusty, and that is beautiful!” This material has a patina and drips onto the ground and makes stains. We celebrate it. It’s like the elders sitting in front of us who are aging. You want to honor them. And I think for this project, to
do it right, I needed to capture that Chinese value so they could relate. That’s what I mean by doing it right.
J.R.: How did quotes become a visual element of Garden?
SH: I wanted to tell the stories of the Chinese contribution to the building of Astoria. Yet… the voices from the Chinese community just were not there in any archival documents.
I asked the elders to provide me with some quotes about themselves. None of them wanted to say anything. To them, there was nothing to talk about. It’s just hardship. It’s ugly. Then I asked their children—my generation of helpers, members, and collaborators— and they said, “Dad and Mom never told us anything. And we didn’t think of asking them.” And then, I panicked. I thought, “Okay, this is not good. I need to have their voices.” So I said, “Okay, elders, don’t talk about yourself. Tell me about your parents, your grandparents, your families.” I didn’t know that would open up the floodgates. That’s why all these quotes coming through so beautifully. Here are a few, if I may read them.
“My grandfather brought home salmon cheeks, a delicacy to the Chinese but a waste to the cannery owners.”
“After arriving from China, my dad took a year to save enough money working in San Francisco. And he then walked to Astoria.”
“My mom butchered the frog, put the skin over little peach cans, and let it dry to make drums.”
“My mother graduated with a college degree, but Chinese women seldom had job opportunities. So she settled for a housekeeping offer.”
“Grandma said that dad was so sick on the boat from China that he would have been fed to the fish if he had died. Now a seafood lab is named after him for the fish feed that he and his team developed.”
“He prepared clocks with great skills and built cuckoo clocks with everyday materials.”
These are just a few stories that differ from newspaper clippings or census data. These stories are relatable between generations. It’s like when you are on a bus or walking on the street and overhear someone talking. The story didn’t have a beginning or end, but you capture a little bit of what’s been heard, and it gives you a moment to ponder—what is that? That pondering moment is what I would like people to experience. Time to ponder and be self-reflective. That’s how the quotes came to be on the story screen, which begins the experience when you pass through the gate and enter the Garden.
J.R.: Did all of the quotes come from Astorians? Are they mixed in with Confucius quotes and other references?
SH: The story screen features quotes from the elders and some of their children. One of them stated, “without this project, I would have never heard these stories from my dad.” She’s in her late fifties, and this was the first time she heard her dad’s story about his parents. And I thought, “well, that’s great because everybody can relate to the project.” So these are the quotes of so-called modern-day Chinese community members. I don’t want us frozen in time, only talking about the ugliest moments. Chinese history has thousands and thousands of years of civilization, literature, science, arts, and craft medicine.
Hardship comes into every community and every race. The Chinese experienced hardships, but you must understand the difficulties in the context of where this culture came from. What are values in their society that we all share and pass on from generation to generation?
So three bronze rows horizontally intersect the vertical story screen, including quotes from Confucius, Lao Tzu, and a 13th-century nursery rhyme. They’re all in Chinese and English. Hoping that allows one’s awareness of the fact that we, as a community, tie to something beyond us that brought us here today with that sense of pride, value, and sensibility.
People argued that the vertical screen would drip rusty steel water onto the bronze below and have this chemical interaction, causing it to rust. Isn’t that the life of an immigrant? Isn’t that why they came to a different place, a new home that picks up a few different things? That sums up the awareness that we live in a society that focuses on perfection. It has to be flawless. It has to be stainless. And yet, I think we forgot to look at grandma’s wrinkles and the gray hair we eventually all have. Don’t be shy about showing them off because, like one old friend told me, “yeah, I can always gain more experience. But I have also brought in a lot of experience. I shouldn’t be judged based on what I don’t know but valued and honored based on what I already have and can share.” This is what I would like the Garden to achieve.•
Check out Suenn’s full interview online via the QR code. 197
BUILT BEYOND ENVIRONMENT
PASCALE SABLAN BEYOND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT Case Study
Pascale Sablan is an activist architect advancing the design field for the betterment of society. She brings visibility and voice to the issues concerning women and BIPOC designers. In 2020, Pascale was voted President-Elect of the National Organization of Minority Architecture, the 5th woman to hold this leadership position in the organization’s 50-year legacy. Her work was recognized with the 2021 AIA Whitney M. Young, Jr Award and she is currently a senior associate at the Adjaye Associates’ New York office.
In 2018, Pascale founded the Beyond the Built Environment organization to involve everyone, specifically those marginalized in the architecture field, in the design process. Pascale employs an “engage, elevate, educate, and collaborate” strategy to her advocacy work with Beyond the Built Environment. Pascale’s belief that representation is essential to achieving equitable diversity in design has fueled the organization’s initiatives, including programming that engages diverse audiences with conversations about equity in the architecture field. Additionally, Beyond the Built Environment drives awareness with programs such as “SAY IT LOUD,” a collaborative community series of exhibitions that have profiled diverse designers from around the world. These exhibitions elevate the identities and contributions of underrepresented designers. Pascale extended the exhibits into an online platform by creating the Great Diverse Designers Library. This growing resource provides access to hear the stories of designers who identify as female (regardless of ethnicity) and Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC). The database is a repository of the 30 “SAY IT LOUD” exhibitions and all those featured. It employs a self-submitting process, empowering each designer to control and curate their own narrative. “SAY IT LOUD,” and the Great Diverse Designers Library are platforms to dismantle the injustice
embedded in the design field, while inspiring future designers. Today, 770+ designers are featured in “SAY IT LOUD” exhibitions and the Great Diverse Designers Library.
In addition, Beyond the Built Environment works to bridge the gaps of inequity in architecture and design by providing educational opportunities for future designers. The “SEE IT LOUD” camp connects students with mentors and introduces them to architectural projects by diverse designers in their city.
Beyond the Built Environment has several significant calls to action to dismantle the injustices in the architecture and design fields. “SAY IT WITH - MEDIA” is a program that works with digital, print, and
broadcast outlets asking them to commit to reporting the percentage of diverse designers featured in their publications annually. A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is signed with each with each media outlet that they pledge to increase the representation of diverse designers by 5% annually until 15% is achieved. The MOU also pushes media platforms to create more content that highlights explicitly diverse designers, further research and develop historical content based on the contributions of diverse designers, to commit to uplifting Black experiences in
the field, and to educate the masses on how architecture has been historically used as a tool of oppression. She has secured eight publications to pledge with combined monthly impressions of 353,000.
Pascale is a force in the architecture community and Beyond the Built Environment is at the forefront of elevating the voices of female and BIPOC designers, while holding media outlets accountable for building inclusive spaces for representation.•
PARADISE LANI ASUNCIÓN DUTY-FREE PARADISE Case
As a Boston-based multimedia artist, Lani engages public spaces with performance and socially engaged artworks, employing video, sound, costume, and movement to communicate a visual language rooted in their Queer, multicultural, Filipinx identities.
In the 1920s, Lani’s grandparents immigrated from the Philippines to the island of Oahu to work on the sugar plantations. When Lani first moved to Boston in 2017, they found themselves living near the historic family home of James Drummond Dole, the man credited for establishing the Hawaiian pineapple industry built upon stolen land inherited by his cousin Stanford Dole. Stanford Dole was involved in the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy.
Lani’s multifaceted project titled “DutyFree Paradise” is a multimedia exhibition and series of performances that play on the tensions between lived and imagined Hawai’i. Through the lens of eco-tourism, around which the islands’ economy heavily circulates, this work explores the contradictions between perceptions and realities of island life as a constructed paradise through American pop culture,
down to the flora and fauna, underwritten by militarism and biopolitics.
One of the ways Lani has explored, drawn attention to, and reclaimed the tensions between lived and imagined Hawai’i is through bright and highly designed athleisure wear. Drawing on advertisements of the 1960s created to drive tourism to the islands, Lani designs clothing that is
a simultaneous play on and critique of eco-tourist essentials. Their clothing line includes flip flops, swimsuits, sundresses, and even a beach towel featuring a redesign of the iconic Dole Plantation maze and plants endemic to Hawai’i. The clothes are yellow and white to signify caution of racism still plaguing Filipinx inhabitants and the whitewashing of the Kanaka Maoli’ of the Hawaiian Islands.
Though the clothing line is just one part of the Duty-Free Paradise project, they highlight Lani’s keen eye for graphic and apparel design. The use of everyday objects, such as flip flops, or slipas, to undermine a long history of colonialism is just one of many things that make Lani Asunción a premiere creative working at the intersection of fine art and design.•
Interviewed by Journee Harris
Rachel Smith is one of many creatives who is navigating a world of predetermined career narratives and labels. She shared her journey as a young girl growing up in a small town, to changing majors in college in New York City, to building her own personal “dream job.”
JH: Can you please unpack what you mean by “dream jobs don’t exist?”
RS: Some people know they want to be a doctor at six years old and then they become a doctor, and that’s great. But a lot of people have many interests and want to do many things. I am like that, but I think that very early in life I was conditioned to expect that I would have a job and that job would also be my identity. So I was constantly trying to figure out what that one thing would be that I could take all the way. When I learned that there’s a job where you develop content for museum exhibits, I thought, okay that’s my dream job, because it was about research, design, writing, space, and the stories of real people. It checked all my boxes.
I had an idea of what it entailed. It just seemed so cool, and then I started doing it and I realized that there was so little about the actual work of doing it that was enjoyable. That was a huge disappointment. It had to do with both the environment and the organizational culture, but also the work itself was solitary, slow, undynamic, and there wasn’t a lot of interest or assessment of
by Journee Harris
how real people actually engaged with the work once it was in a museum. So I realized that many dream jobs are made up ideas of what a job will feel like based on what it looks and sounds like. They’re based on assumptions. And I think it can be hard to acknowledge this once you’re there. People may get their dream job and find they’re miserable, then think there’s something wrong with them. Because how could they be miserable in their dream job?
But we also get into trouble because we expect our jobs alone to make us feel whole and happy. I’m a person who has a family and friends and a dog and interests that take place entirely off screen and will never pay me a dime, but are no less important to who I am. And right now I have three or four different things that I call “work” and they don’t necessarily have anything to do with each other. To me, this is the only kind of dream work scenario I think I can believe in, where I’m paid to do things I don’t hate, that I’m decent at, that do some good for the world, that continue to shift and change, and that give me time and energy to do some other things I care about. For me, this arrangement feels sustainable because I no longer feel hemmed in, so I don’t feel the need to escape.
JH: So at what point did you transition into freelancing? Can you connect the realization that the “dream job” doesn’t exist with the move to freelance work?
RS: There’s a really important transitionary time that I haven’t talked about, which happened after I left my non-dream job. I actually left with nothing planned because I just had to get out of there. I was looking in architecture and built environment spaces, and I really did all the research that one
can do around what organizations existed, what companies would hire someone like me, where I could pitch myself. So I was applying for jobs for a few months after I quit, and I weirdly ended up with two job offers on the same day. One was for a traditional architecture firm, where they offered me a job titled editorial strategist, but the job description read more like press release writer, as in writing press releases for skyscrapers going up on Central Park South that would block all the sunlight. And I was like, “What am I doing? I don’t care about this work. I spent two years in grad school studying how things like this are bad. How did I already get to this point where I’m making these kinds of compromises just to fit a made up idea of what success looks like?”
I had another job offer that was for less money, but it was space planning and research in workplaces. I had pitched myself to them as a content person because they didn’t have one, but I’d just wanted a way in. I didn’t actually want to do content stuff, because I knew it would probably be mostly marketing. I wanted to be a researcher, but I figured maybe I could transition later. So I worked there for three weeks and then I quit because I was miserable again. They were having me lead business development sales meetings. At this point I was pretty devastated, because I thought I knew everything about the opportunities that were available to me, and I still couldn’t figure out how to find work I wanted to do. I felt so trapped, like I had somehow exhausted all my opportunities, which is ridiculous. Of course I hadn’t, but I was still holding onto this particular identity with its particular boundaries. I wasn’t seeing that maybe working in this industry in this way wasn’t working because it wasn’t for me. So I was unemployed again. After a few
weeks I decided to teach myself how to code, which was totally different from anything I’d done before. I always thought of myself as a soft-skills person. But I’d been seeing more jobs related to content design, which fit my skills and interests, but were focused on digital work.
There was a lot of interesting work starting up in government at that time focused on digital content, led by design folks and civic design folks. And so I thought I could bring a lot of my museum design thinking experience, which is essentially creating systems of organization for information, to that work, and also being able to write for broad audiences. So I actually got hired at the City of New York, to work on their digital strategy team. The title was something like communications associate, but the job duties were pretty broad. Within a few weeks I’d convinced them to let me change it to “content” instead of “communications,” because communications just didn’t describe what I was doing. I really don’t know anything about traditional marketing or communications. It was also clear to me that the mayor’s office that I was working with didn’t need communications or press help. They needed to be able to support city agencies in making their websites work better and presenting information in a way that all New Yorkers could understand. So I made that my job. I had an incredible case of imposter syndrome when I started, because I didn’t feel like I was an expert in this stuff. The woman who hired me really helped me with this. She said, “You are the expert because you are the one here who wants to be the expert. That’s not always the case in the private sector, but we’re here in government. Whether or not you feel comfortable with it, you’ll be the expert on this stuff in most of
the rooms you walk into in this job. You can provide people the information that they need, even if it’s not the most expert opinion that anyone’s ever had about it.” So I really started to see myself that way. And I started to become that. I was the expert in the room very often, which was an amazing motivator to learn as much as I could.
After two years, I reached that point of wanting there to be someone who could really teach me some things that I wasn’t teaching myself. I decided I wanted to go somewhere where I could just be a part of a team and have guidance and mentorship.
So I went to work for a big private company, which felt like the opposite end of the world, to do essentially what ended up being a two-year bootcamp in learning design. I got a lot of what I wanted, which was structure and support in a new area of knowledge and learning. But at the end, I realized this was another case where I had said, “This job is the right next step for you and makes perfect sense. You’re going to love it for these reasons,” and hadn’t been totally honest with myself about the things I probably wouldn’t like. In the end it didn’t fit for a lot of reasons. And that’s okay. It taught me more about what I need in a work environment, and a team, and it taught me a whole new skillset. I now had broader skills and new experiences that I could bring together.
At this point I really thought I could do freelance, and was realizing I might never be happy just being one thing, or just living with the very basic constraints of a full-time job that requires you to be somewhere from this hour to this hour. I wanted to try life without those constraints for a while and see what happened. The work I do now is quite varied, but it’s generally stuff that I like to do. Although last night I was thinking about how the flip side of not being beholden to a workplace is that as a consultant I’m always on my own. I’m always expected to be the competent expert who doesn’t need too much advice or too much support. So that’s
the other side of the coin. This is why being part of a team and a workplace can be nice, but it’s a trade off. No dream job. Yeah, no dream. There’s always a compromise, always the other side.
JH: Can you provide advice to people who are learning how to craft their personal and career narratives and/or separate their identity from their career? You talk about certain things not fitting into your narrative, and you had a clear idea of your identity from when you were young. What advice would you give to someone trying to figure that out?
RS: For people who are trying to figure out what to do with themselves or what they should be doing or who they are, know that we can over-intellectualize this stuff. We overthink it and overanalyze all the different pieces to try to find the perfect solution, our perfect path. We think we can be like some kind of algorithm, using all the things we know about ourselves as inputs.
Instead of doing that, pay attention to what things actually feel like. Then follow your nose. At some point, I started paying close attention to the things I liked and the things I didn’t like, and the things that made me feel alive and the things that made me feel dead inside. Broad observations like, I enjoy doing work that helps people, and specific ones like, I’m energized by one-onone conversations. I followed those things, as opposed to narratives I’d created about being a design researcher or a writer in the architectural field. I stopped pursuing those paths and instead started pursuing what felt good every day.•
Check out Rachel’s full interview online via the QR code. 211
INDIVIDUAL OR SMALL GROUPS
String (3-5 feet long)
Magnifying glass or phone with camera and zoom
• Head outside. Try to get to a hiking trail or park.
• Place the string over the most interesting ground you can nd.
• Take a magnifying glass or zoom camera to shrink down to the size of an ant or small animal. Feel free to get down on the ground to really zoom in.
• What kind of world am I traveling through right now?
• Who are my closest neighbors? Are they friendly? Is that spider going to eat me, or take me for a ride?
• What are my obstacles to survive? To travel from one end of the string to the other? How long would it take?
REFLECTION: INCLUSIVE DESIGN
Inclusive Design: A design methodology that enables and draws on the full range of human diversity including learning from people with a range of perspectives.
Think of something you have designed that could have bene ted from more perspectives during the design process.
• How might the design have been improved with a larger range of contributors and reviewers?
THE CHAT ROOM: SHARING TRADITIONS
PAIRS, SMALL GROUPS, OR “FAMILY DINNER TABLE”
Share a family tradition that you remember from when you were a child.
• Was there food involved, special clothing or a song?
• What did these traditions represent in your family? In your community?
Be as descriptive and speci c as you can with the memories you share. Feel free to belt out that song or get up and dance.
• What are some ways you have connected with people of the same culture in your workplace?
• How about the people from di erent cultures?
• Are there ways to share celebrations and traditions across communities?
PERSONAL JOURNAL: GOING THE DISTANCE.
Get up and look out your window.
• What’s the farthest thing you can see?
Close your eyes.
• How many things can you hear?
• What is the farthest sound you can hear?
Journal your ndings, thoughts and re ections. Do this 2x a week for a month.
Try di erent windows and di erent times of day.
Activities compiled with contributions from Leila Mitchell, Josephine Holmboe, Jocelyn Rice, Claire-Solène Bečka, The Book of Beautiful Questions by Warren Berger and How to be Happy by Lee Crutchley. Illustrations by Que Nguyen.
A Six-Part Model for Systematically Improving Access to Government Services
six parts as part of an interconnected, continuous cycle
Imagine being frustrated with government’s limitations and overwrought processes that don’t seem to have room for new approaches to getting things done and making things better for more people. In Coforma’s early days as an agency that was determined to help improve people’s lives through digital services design and delivery, we knew the path to impact would also involve paradigmatic shifts within government.
Coforma’s owners both brought deep experience working in government. Our CEO, Eduardo Ortiz, had served as Creative Director at the United States Digital Service (USDS), and our CXO, Ashleigh Axios, was Creative Director for the Obama White House. Both leaders also brought extensive private sector expertise in experience, service, and digital design. They knew how government worked, what needed fixing, and where private sector firms could collaborate and lean in to help improve processes.
Design is both a noun and a verb. It is both process and output. It is both framework and philosophy. Knowing where and how you can wield positive influence over the many design touchpoints within digital services delivery to the public is key to enabling holistic, systemic change that has the power to impact people’s lives.
Our six-part model demonstrates where and how Coforma has had success in using systemic influence that leverages human-centered design for real change–all with the goal of improving access to government services.
Find the indirect path to influence Reframe key processes with key people
We bounced ideas around about how to make inroads with government as we ramped up our contract operations as a newly-minted Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB). With our initial team including designers and a marketing professional with a shared passion for civic change, our conversations were collaborative, calling on multiple disciplines for ideas. Today’s content marketing strategies employ the idea that businesses should give some information away for free because it helps potential buyers make initial decisions about what you can offer them and provides value up front. Combined with an education model Coforma was already using to instruct students studying design, we came up with the idea to offer the government a low-cost training on how to leverage human-centered design thinking to improve their contract process with private sector businesses.
Our contact at the target government agency for this opportunity was surprised to hear our proposal, noting that they had never done anything like that. But they were interested, and at the low price point it wasn’t impossible. With solid buy-in from one key stakeholder who championed our proposed training for a team of contracting specialists that served multiple agencies, we were able to get the training approved.
Once in the door, we introduced a common language around human-centered design processes, exposed the attendees to a framework applying its concepts, provided real world examples so they could associate the concepts with their own work, provided homework exercise to practice on, and then challenged them to identify opportunities in their work today where they could apply what they had learned.
In turn, the newly informed and empowered government staff who had influential roles in the government contracting process were now not only in a position to make change, but they were also motivated to make changes across their respective agencies. Why? Because they had seen first hand the impact they could have.
Angela Palm Hopkins Senior Director Marketing and Communications for Coforma
The result of training the individuals who structure the contract acquisition process and assess and evaluate teams and agencies for design work in government was a process that’s better informed by current industry practices, collaboratively designed, and primed to prioritize offerors whose approaches align with those industry practices.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)’s Customer Experience DevOps and Agile Releases (CEDAR) contract vehicle has embraced a collaborative approach to working with vendors who were selected to perform work under the vehicle in part because they demonstrated a proven humancentered approach to digital services development and delivery.
As one of four vendors performing work under CEDAR, Coforma has seen firsthand the positive impact informed, aligned contracting personnel can have on co-creating services with vendors. From a contracting process that was designed using potential vendors’ input to quarterly hands-on check-ins, collaboration has driven CEDAR’s success.
Center users holistically
Government and private sector collaboration on CEDAR has led to the creation of digital tools that are more Veteran-centric. This is a natural output of a system that’s impactful by design because it consults and centers Veterans across the project lifecycle, and the vendors are selected based on their ability to prioritize a Veteran-centric approach.
From the demonstration of human-centered design experience in the vendor selection process, to the intentional inclusion of a range of Veterans on our delivery teams and as research and testing participants whose real-world experiences and challenges help shape what we’re designing, we’ve worked with government to ensure the diverse needs of Veterans and their caregivers and providers are met.
As an example, as part of Coforma’s first project awarded under CEDAR, we built on a suite of clinical decision support tools to create Lung Cancer Screening (LCS), a clinical tool for lung cancer coordinators to care for and track their Veteran patients at high risk for lung cancer. Our work built upon the tools and processes created by the VA, with the goal of creating a unified national process that can be standardized across all VA medical centers. The solution aggregates patient data and allows coordinators to interact with it as they care for their patients. We brought a research-based, user-centric approach to LCS by working alongside radiologists, nurses, and clinicians to develop it.
Impact multiplies for real users when their voices are heard at each stage of the design process, and their diverse needs are met as a result of thoughtful approaches–meaning, we don’t focus on delivering solutions that work for some, but take into consideration and meet the needs of all user types. It’s not enough to only talk to clinicians or only look at healthcare system data to determine the path forward. Understanding what each type of user needs and what’s challenging for them from beginning to end, then testing proposed solutions with them are critical steps to crafting successful, inclusive solutions.
Collaborate to co-create systems that prioritizes people-centered approaches
Coforma’s Director of Customer Experience, Veterans Affairs, Rico Rivera and VA’s Mary O’Toole sit at a group of desks with two other meeting participants.
Identify success stories that focus on people
Oftentimes, government contracting officials ask companies to provide past performance when competing for work, which relies on ratings and details largely provided by the government. But when companies like ours (who don’t yet have extensive records in delivering large-scale government services) are given the chance to present their experience through storytelling and demonstration as part of the project competition, more small businesses who advocate for and provide inclusive design practices are able to have influence on the services that the public uses.
Case studies allow businesses to “show their work,” much like the traditional design portfolio. This approach is being built into some procurement processes as a way to select vendors, including CEDAR. For CEDAR, following guidelines provided to us by the VA, we illustrated our approaches and their human impact, leveraging storytelling and artifacts to show the government evaluators what we could do. Of this approach, Joshua Cohen, a Contracting Officer for the VA’s CEDAR IDIQ said in a recent panel conversation: “It allowed us to touch upon some of the work [vendors have] done, but to do it in what we considered to be a more meaningful way. The artifacts . . . allowed vendors to tell a story.”
This opportunity gave us (and others) a chance to demonstrate our expertise and how it impacts the communities we serve. A benefit to the government is that it allows them to more quickly down-select— or narrow down their pool of potential vendors—by seeing whether we’ve really done similar work in the way we’re proposing.
Success stories in the hands of HCD champions give them the details they need to make the case for change with others who may be less inclined to try something new, creating a virtuous cycle of influence at the systemic level.
The Digital Services Coalition (DSC) is an organization comprised of agile technology and design firms who are redefining how government does digital. Many of the organization’s member firms are small businesses competing for or teaming to compete for the same work, as is the case with CEDAR. Despite competition, the DSC champions collaboration among firms and advocates for improvements in how services are procured and how people’s needs are centered within those services.
The DSC’s recent CEDAR chat was a great example of how all of this effort to use design thinking and collaboration to shift government converges and feeds back into the contracting process. It brought together government representatives and members of the four companies working on CEDAR—all small business leaders in design and development—to offer attendees insights around CEDAR’s approach to the contracting process, best practices for vendors and government alike, and learnings from their experiences thus far (just one year into the awards to be issued).
With an audience of government contracting personnel from agencies interested in implementing some of CEDAR’s tactics into their own contracting processes, Coforma is confident we’ll see more opportunities to collaborate with government, tell human stories that demonstrate the capabilities of small businesses, and provide expertise around centering people’s diverse needs in the creation of tools designed to serve them.
Enable champions who create a virtuous cycle of improvement
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Stool designs rendered using Keyshot by Wentworth Industrial Design students in Prof. Simon Williamson’s CADD class.
image by Wentworth Industrial Design Professors.
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ABOUT THE COVER ART.
When tasked with designing a new cover, our team at LLM Design felt strongly that the artwork should be the “hero” with minimal text. After multiple concepts and conversations about how to visualize the topic, we circled back to that prevalent image of the skin tone palette. But that was too static, too simple for the complexity of the subject. The final artwork was made from a moving scan of the palette grid. No two scans were ever the same. Peaks and valleys, overlapping transparencies, new colors, and happy surprises were all part of our process.
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