Design Intersections

My fellow PhD students, Andre Nogueira, Irem Tekogul, and I helped to plan the annual Design Intersections conference on May 22-23, 2019 at the IIT Institute of Design. Our advisor, Carlos Teixeira, asked us to invite speakers and curate discussions around our areas of interest as they related to the conference theme of “Design + Networks + Activation.” I curated the “Activism + Impact” track which featured a panel discussion, breakout sessions, and workshop. I also wrote a white paper for the Design Intersections website that framed my thinking around this theme. 

Panel discussion

By integrating the expertise and knowledge of key individuals, particularly those closest to complex societal challenges, participatory processes can help us improve our systems for everyone involved. In this discussion, designers, community organizers, government officials, and experts in finance and urban systems spoke about how they coordinate individual efforts to produce systemic change. Biased algorithms, accessibility issues, automation and planned obsolescence can all lead to suboptimal products, services, and systems. What can alternative, emerging models of developing and scaling change teach us? How can we lead processes of transformative social innovation within the context of market dynamics?

Participants included: 
Sara Cantor Aye (moderator), Co-founder and Executive Director, Greater Good Studio
Paola Aguirre Serrano, Founder, BORDERLESS Studio
Steven Babitch, Presidential Innovation Fellow
Jorge Camacho, Strategic Design and Foresight Practitioner
Eleanor Gorski, Acting Commissioner City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development

Breakout session

Government, healthcare, and tech experts discussed case studies about how they used participatory practices to shift innovation methods and design practices towards achieving more equitable solutions.

Participants included: 
Josh Lucas-Falk (moderator), CEO, Grand Studio
Melissa Gilliam, MD, Vice Provost and the Ellen H. Block Professor of Health Justice, The University of Chicago 
Tiana Pyer-Pereira, Associate Director for Advancement and Diversity, University of Chicago 
Marquis Miller, Chief Diversity Officer, City of Chicago
Elise Zelechowski, Director of Social Impact, ThoughtWorks


“Shifting Power through Inclusive Design Processes”

Facilitators: George Aye, Jorge Camacho, and Jessica Jacobs

George, Jorge and I collaborated to expand upon a workshop that George had previously given about power in the design process. Jorge contributed his expertise in strategic foresight, and I offered my own experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion collaborative work. 

There are implicit, tacit power structures embedded in almost all design methodologies, and the methodologies that an organization uses determine its creations. When we understand our own positions of power, we can become more inclusive, collaborative, and innovative. In this workshop, George Aye (Greater Good Studio) and Jorge Camacho will lead an exercise in prototyping power shifts to demonstrate how we can activate networks and build more equitable and sustainable infrastructures.