A design manifesto

Posted on July 20, 2011

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Let’s face it: to fix the problems in today’s world, we need creative solutions. The revolution cannot be fought alone: it is a collective struggle. As we fight the institutions of racism, patriarchy, class-based oppression, and environmental injustice, our skills as artists, designers, and creative doers are indispensable to the movement. It is up to us to work together to design our future, and the world needs our creativity.

I created Designing Change to explore the synthesis of art/design and social justice. These are two disciplines that go against the grain, that often lead to personal fulfillment, that have immense potential to build community across lines of difference. Yet they are two disciplines that so often are labeled as overly idealistic, and that the general public rarely identifies as fields that support or integrate with one another.

But people are synthesizing these two fields all the time, more than we might realize. Any flyer that builds awareness about an issue or advertises a non-profit has accompanying illustrations, logos, and a layout that are all examples of design in a social justice context. More and more architects use their work for social change, from designing low-income housing to innovative types of “green” architecture. Graffiti, murals, and any other form of public art are examples of the ways in which art is political. Barack Obama’s iconic 2008 presidential campaign poster, designed by RISD grad/street artist Shepard Fairey, is a subtle, pithy example of this fusion between fields. Even the ways we perceive art not to be present in everyday life show where we as a society place emphasis and attention.

Today, almost a billion people don’t have access to clean water, an estimated 2.7 billion live on less than US$2 a day, and countless more endure the burden of intersecting systemic oppressions. Let us respond by using our talents to benefit the earth and all humanity.

With Designing Change, my mission is to imagine, explore, and celebrate ways to use art and design to create a just and sustainable world. We are the creative thinkers the world has waited for. So leave it to us to paint, sculpt, build, and design the revolution.

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