In stark contrast to the hollow optimism, vague buzzwords, and entrepreneurial logic adorning the About pages of social impact and design thinking agencies, these sets of shared principles embody approaches to design practice that are genuinely committed to the communities they serve.
Image-shift: 13 points on (graphic) design
Sandy Kaltenborn of the Berlin-based studio Image-Shift drafts out 13 points sharing their perspective on (graphic) design, clearly and practically demonstrating how it works as a fundamentally social practice.
- design requires positioning. you need to know where you stand, to know from where you are speaking. otherwise you are like a leaf in the wind, pushed by aesthetic trends and market requests. this is not something static — its is something which has to be re-questioned over and over again as the "being shapes our consciousness" — and we are not immune against the complex offers of capitalist (market) culture, which confronts us every day. in this sense we are (productively) dependent towards others who share our values. for us these people are our friends, the left (whatever this is...) and people we meet here and there. they are everywhere — though we don’t always share the same language we are happy to say "hello" once in a while.
- we work with our clients. we don’t work for our clients (or for any kind of market requests), but on society, as a service to society. this also means we reject the working conditions created by the culture of service industries — where money structures the dependencies / the relations between us and our clients rather than the ideas we share with them. we are not friends with the cultural industries, as we believe that culture has other cause, than serving an industry.
- we are interested in the social usage of images and the visual products we put into this world. we try to implement this understanding into our design work. we understand the distribution of the visual products as part of the (communication) design process. we try to see the recipient on the same level in shaping the discourses as us the designers and as our clients who bring the problems, the tasks, the work to our desks.
Design Justice Network Principles
The Design Justice Network Principles emerged out of the network’s gathering at the Allied Media Conference in 2016 in Detroit. They propose rethinking design processes as participatory and collaborative, centering people and communities who are normally marginalized by design.
- We use design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities, as well as to seek liberation from exploitative and oppressive systems.
- We center the voices of those who are directly impacted by the outcomes of the design process.
- We prioritize design’s impact on the community over the intentions of the designer.
- We view change as emergent from an accountable, accessible, and collaborative process, rather than as a point at the end of a process.
- We see the role of the designer as a facilitator rather than an expert.
- We believe that everyone is an expert based on their own lived experience, and that we all have unique and brilliant contributions to bring to a design process.
- We share design knowledge and tools with our communities.
- We work towards sustainable, community-led and -controlled outcomes.
- We work towards non-exploitative solutions that reconnect us to the earth and to each other.
- Before seeking new design solutions, we look for what is already working at the community level. We honor and uplift traditional, indigenous, and local knowledge and practices.
Seven Principles of Designing Conditions for Community Self-Determination
In this essay, Dori Tunstall, Dean of Design at OCAD University in Toronto frames principles of design anthropology within the context of community activism, positioning design as a process that translates values into tangible experience.
When we think of design and community activism, we often think of the posters, banners, T-shirts, or buttons that represent the tangible ephemera of the social movements in which we participate. We might discuss our strategies and plans, even the participatory aspects of them, but not also think about them as a form of design. This is unfortunate, because design (especially combined with fields focused on human understanding like anthropology) provides many guidelines for how to design the conditions for community self determination in the context of activism.
As a design anthropologist, I have been particularly interested in applying the seven principles of design anthropology to community activism. How does one understand the value systems of the community? How might the processes and artifacts of design assist in making value systems tangible and negotiable among community members and stakeholders? What are the processes and outcomes of aligning people’s experiences with the values they prefer—all under conditions of unequal power relations? This essay serves as a guide for why a design anthropology approach might assist your work with community activism.
Spark Poster Collective Manifesto
The Spark Poster Collective is a small collective of designers working in industry and education who volunteer design hours to social activism. Their manifesto works to politically position the collective as explicitly anti-capitalist and broadly socialist, rejecting any notion of neutrality in design.
We reject the position that communication design must remain impartial in a context that increasingly allows: platforms for racism and misogyny; both fascism and ocean levels to rise; homo/trans/Islamo/phobia. It’s time to pick a side.
We work toward design that is not neutral; design that is explicitly anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-imperialist and decolonial. We recognize that we attack from a position of privilege, and will use that position to platform the oppressed.
We work through design toward justice and liberation for womxn, for all people of colour, for LGBTTQ2* people, for people with disabilities, migrants and refugees. Justice for First Nations. Climate justice. We work to not only be allies, but accomplices, comrades.
We are anti-capitalist. We reject the role of design in the market, in advertising, in manufactured demand, in conspicuous consumption. We propose a root-level reboot of design, to be reimagined as a system not submissive to capital, but in total service of the people. We work not for oil companies, banks or the palaces; we work for cooperatives, movements and the huts.