Designing Under Pressure

Hi October, it’s me, your fellow libra. I’ve been busing working on a few fun things this past month; namely, going to Mexico and staying up for 24 hours.

Yup, 24+ hours to work on one project tackling emergencies from a design perspective.

I voluntarily did this as part of a workshop put on by CENTRO University in Mexico City, and Wanted Design called Design Under Pressure. This brought 30ish students from 8 design schools throughout Mexico, Los Angeles, NYC, France, and El Salvador to reimagine the role of designers during times of crisis. This was particularly fitting, as it was the one year anniversary of the earthquake that hit CDMX in 2017 and caused major devastation in the region.

Diablito.png

The 4 day workshop consisted of learning about social impact initiatives around the city, the surrounding neighborhood, a 24 hour design sprint, and formal presentations. We spent most of the time together, but were split into four themes (mobility, health, communication, shelter) and two scenarios (earthquake, flood.)

On team mobility, led by Jose Allard, our brief focused on how people might be able to move (things/people/other) during an earthquake. With a group of student designers with various backgrounds like product, industrial, environmental, strategy, and coding, we went to work trying to understand how the community we were in might face a major disruption that forced them to rethink their everyday travel.

24 hours isn’t a lot of time to design, mind you, so we had to improvise a bit. But the things I’m most proud of was our ability to create while designing, to adapt and really focus on the local community, and our attempt to come up with both high level and on the ground concepts. What does this look like? Think repurposing old boxes instead of making a right size one to save on time. Or scrapping the idea of public bikes because no one in your community uses them. Or trying to design a city wide initiative while also realizing that those things don’t always happen, and trying to design with what you can find next to you.

What came out of it was a diablito, better known as a handcart, that had a DIY box you could pull together in times of crisis. Our high tech idea came in the form of wayfinding lights, which used iconography to signal what was happening and the way to the closest safe space. To accompany them, Los Diablitos was born, similar to the White Hats, which would aid the community in times of emergency, hoping to give agency to those living in this impoverished neighborhood.

But in reality, what I really took home was the idea that design has the power to change perceptions of what can be done. Excluding the notions of the role of a designer in these spaces, design itself is an amazing tool/theory/whatever you want to call it to get people to be creative together and is truly something everyone can do (#decolonizedesign).

On a purely personal level, I’ve never been to a workshop like this and I was floored at the instant comraderie, interest, and passion in using design to figure out large challenges. Parson’s is a unique beast and although TD has a lot of this as well, it was amazing to see what a group can do having only known each other for 72ish hours.

What is the role of the Designer in emergency situations? Designing for emergency means: 1) Design centered on people. 2) Adding shared value through collaboration and co-design 3) Integrating and connecting communities 4) Questioning what has been done 5) Focusing on the local 6) Using simple solutions 7) Focusing on the small things 8) Using strategic thinking 9) Being resilient 10) Being intuitive

What is the role of the Designer in emergency situations? Designing for emergency means: 1) Design centered on people. 2) Adding shared value through collaboration and co-design 3) Integrating and connecting communities 4) Questioning what has been done 5) Focusing on the local 6) Using simple solutions 7) Focusing on the small things 8) Using strategic thinking 9) Being resilient 10) Being intuitive

Many many thanks to Mariana Amatullo who wrote my recommendation letter that allowed me to go, and to CENTRO for helping me get to CDMX financially. To learn more about the workshop and CENTRO, head over to their website.

Reflections on TD: Year 1

Reflections on TD: Year 1

2. Design is a mindset. 

Graphic design, product design, social design, design this, design that, blah blah blah. Design is a terrible catch-all right now for pretty much anything creative and as a result, no one knows what you are talking about half the time. However, the way you approach problems, and the way you include and reference people, is a mindset and at the core of design. Learning this, and how to communicate with others in a creative way, is a true strength of the program.

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The Gift of Print

The Gift of Print

A couple years ago, for a birthday or a holiday, my dad sent me a subscription to a vegan magazine. 

I'm not vegan (although I have participated in #veganuary), but my dad knows that I love to cook and find new veggie friendly recipes. Not only was it chock full of great content, but it was drop. dead. gorgeous. 

I mean, just look at it...

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On Ethics and Politics in Design: A Selected Bibliography

On Ethics and Politics in Design: A Selected Bibliography

During my first year Seminar course, we were tasked with tons of readings ranging all over the map on the other factors that influence design. Design is not created in a vacuum, and so we discussed topics like platforms, cooperatives, power, agency, futures, humanitarianism, and ecosystems and their relations to our work. 

It felt like my first year honors class ethics seminar all over again. 

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3x1: Writing & Design

If I'm being honest, I had given up on writing. Coming home from work, I was in no mood to think, let alone write. I had broken my habit and didn't know how to get it back, and every day that passed made starting up harder until it became a mountain I couldn't bear to look at. 

Going back to school was probably the best thing that could have happened for my writing. It forced me back into it, albeit slowly. We were reading so many things on topics I had never explored. From blockchain to emergence to design and politics: it was overwhelming and exhilarating. 

So below, you'll find the blog posts I had to do for my seminar class. I've captured snippets below, but you'll have to follow the links to read the whole thing (until I decide to move them all over). 

For me, they capture a new way of seeing the world. For you, I hope they let you in on a bit of what we've been learning. 

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Reflections on Semester 1

All in all, I spent a lot of last semester asking questions. 

Was this the right idea? What does AI have to do with my degree? Will I make true friendships here? Will these classes help me in the future? Why didn't I go to Glasgow?

What the fuck was I thinking?

By that last question, you can assume that there was a bit of turmoil. Not only did we have a couple students leave within the first week, we also spent a lot of time discussing what TransD is and what is means. 

We still don't have the answer to that one. 

But what we did learn was systems thinking, and about emergence, and a lot about the next century of design wrapped up in a lot of technology. We bonded as a cohort; had Thanksgiving with fairy lights all around and went dancing at a shitty college bar. There were late nights and the construction of a really large dome. There was crying and laughing and challenging each other and our professors to be better, to grow. 

It wasn't the perfect semester by any means, but it might have been what we needed.