Industrial design operates within a capitalistic system. Industrial designers create things to be made, purchased, and used by consumers. In the end, this exchange most frequently benefits corporations and other entities who hold power in dictating how the system itself operates and who is allowed to participate in it. Decolonizing industrial design encompasses many things yet is centered on truly understanding who we design for and whose voices are privileged (or suppressed) in the process.
Colonized design perpetuates power imbalance. It ignores the needs of a diverse society and community in order to please a myopic group of stakeholders who don’t reflect the full diversity of our society. It has led to harm. From racist algorithms and poor education outcomes to exclusive and oppressive healthcare systems, design (broadly applied) has had a role in supporting systems of oppression, white supremacy, and patriarchy, which has led to (among other negative outcomes) environmental racism, sexual violence, and cultural erasure. Specific to industrial design and the products we use in our daily lives. Is it possible that these objects have been created with cultural biases built in, perhaps without the designer even knowing? Do the products we use create or perpetuate systems of oppression that empower certain user groups while diminishing the abilities of others?
Whatever role design has played until now, it also has an opportunity and tremendous responsibility to be intentional and thoughtful about the methods and strategies it employs to heal these traumas of the past. Conscientious efforts to decolonize industrial design must include acknowledging oppression and dismantling oppressive system, rebuilding our design education models, employing inclusive hiring practices, and amplifying marginalized voices across the lines of race, gender, and class. It’s also about honoring Indigenous perspectives and including the diverse and pluralistic socio-political perspectives.
In this issue of INNOVATION, we explore this complex topic and shed light on how dismantling certain aspects of our institutional constructs could foster a more inclusive and diverse industrial design profession. We asked educators and practitioners to share their perspectives on the matter and hope to create space for transformation within the industry that starts from within.
From Colonization to Liberation by Raja Schaar, IDSA
Colonized by Design by Ana Mengote Baluca, IDSA
Rethinking Design Thinking by Jasmine Burton
Appropriate Discomfort: Challenging Appropriation in Product Design by Fran Wang
The Problem With Othering in Design by Tracy Llewellyn, IDSA
“Recruit a Mix,” They Said by Jemma Frost
Fostering a Multilingual Design Studio Classroom by Amanda Huynh, IDSA
Maybe Grassroots Collectivism Is How We Expand Access to Design by Christina Harrington
Celebrating America’s Culture Diversity by Danielle Chen, IDSA
Lighting the Way to Transparent, Ethical, and Fair Trade by Dounia Tamri-Loeper
Inclusive Design 3.0: Broadening the Goals of Inclusivity in Design Education by Craig M. Vogel, FIDSA
Book Review Superhuman By Design (Donald Burlock, IDSA)
Academia 360° by Aziza Cyamani, IDSA and Verena Paepcke-Hjeltness, IDSA
Tribute: Budd Steinhilber, FIDSA by Tucker Viemeister, FIDSA
Tribute: Ed Zagorski, FIDSA by Jeffrey Breslow
Donate Your Archives by Vicki Matranga, H/IDSA, and Marshall Johnson, L/IDSA
In every issue:
Letters to the Editor
IDSA HQ by Chris Livaudais, IDSA
Chair's Report by Jason Belaire, IDSA
Beautility by Tucker Viemeister, FIDSA
Design DNA by Scott Henderson, IDSA
A Final Thought by Judith Anderson, IDSA
IDSA members will see a link to a digital version of the latest INNOVATION issues when logged in to the membership portal. Professional IDSA members based in the United States receive a free copy of INNOVATION four times a year as part of their member benefits.