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.
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.