In this outing, my co-hosts Pippa Johnstone, Dominic Girard and I take a look at the question of what role design can—and should—play in the urgent fight for racial justice in American society. We shine the spotlight on the experience of Teddy Philips, A.K.A. Stat the Artist, who last year unexpectedly found his artwork resonating in the movement to recognize the senseless murders of so many Black people. We also talk to Ivy Climacosa, whose Design Action Collective worked on the first incarnation of the Black Lives Matter logo.
This episode also spends a lot of time with design anthropologist, researcher, academic leader, writer, and educator Dori Tunstall, the Dean of the Faculty of Design at OCAD University in Toronto, who offers frank words on the colonialist underpinnings of the design profession itself. Not only is Tunstall the very first Black and Black female dean of a design program anywhere in the world—a fact that by itself says so much about the industry—but she is incredibly incisive about how design functions in the social context of protest. In our discussion, she offers a framework for how design is valued in relation to craft and art that I found to be particularly enlightening.
Tunstall’s other work in this area is also deeply fascinating, especially her campaign to “de-colonize” design, a key component of which is to “liberate” the profession from “The Modernist Project.” It’s a provocative argument that is a direct challenge to many of the core tenets that undergird virtually the entire design industry. This keynote that she delivered in early 2020 to California College of the Arts’ “Decolonial Unconference” is a terrific introduction to her approach to thinking about design practice and education.