Field Notes: Design Activism

The past two years of pandemic and protest have seen intensifying calls for meaningful change — indeed transformation — in design practice and education.

By now these calls are familiar. They might center on the field’s capacity to respond to the interlocking wicked problems that define our time: climate crisis, decarbonization, habitat loss, unaffordable housing, rapid technological change. They might focus on design’s relationship to public policymaking, or to communities served (or not) by public projects, or to the accelerating decline of the public as both physical realm and social ethos. The key issues might be pedagogical: the decolonization of the canon and the redress of racist, sexist, settler-colonialist histories within the disciplines. Or they might concern the challenges of pay equity, hiring practices, and labor relations in professional offices and on university campuses.

For this narrative survey, educators and practitioners share perspectives on the issues they consider most urgent, and offer ideas for specific actions and practical interventions.

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