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“Design Narratives and the White Spatial Imaginary”
Contribution to ATTENDING [TO] FUTURES: Matters of Politics in Design Education, Research, & Practice
eds. Johanna Mehl and Carolin Höfler (Hamburg, Germany: adocs)
Pages 219–227. Purchase printed book or download for free from adocs at link above.
Abstract: Despite the recent increase in scholarship on the aesthetic components of gentrification, the design field’s role in this process has yet to be fully explored. This article argues graphic design is a logical contributor to the aestheticization of displacement in the US, with designers actively supporting the neoliberal project of urban renewal and contributing to what George Lipsitz (2011) describes as the white spatial imaginary. Through an examination of design culture and two gentrified neighborhoods—East Austin in Austin, Texas, and Logan Square in Chicago, Illinois—this paper explores the rhetoric that helps materially (re)define racialized boundaries, linking signs and symbols to a shared cultural understanding of exclusionary belonging in space. In studying both professional design discourse and design in situ, we can more clearly see how designers make use of narrative patterns to participate in the rationalization, justification, and perpetuation of the white spatial imaginary.

“On Design Pedagogy and Empty Pluralism”
Contribution to Feminist Designer: On the Personal and the Political in Design
ed. Ali Place (MIT Press)
Pages 122–125.
Our students are drowning in the ubiquity of social justice buzzwords that have become hollow signifiers, new forms of what Chandra Talpade Mohanty has called “harmonious, empty pluralism.” This essay provides an overview of a studio-seminar course I designed—Politics and Ethics of Design—that focuses on the socio-political contexts in which design is produced, circulated, and consumed. A feminist pedagogy can be a compass to navigate the increasing neoliberal pressures from the university for design education to be merely subservient to capitalist demands. By insisting on a historically informed, critical, and intersectional approach to teaching design, perhaps we can also arrive at a more socially and politically responsive and feminist design culture at large.

“Design Fuel for the Neoliberal Fire”
Proceedings for Pivot 2021: Dismantling/Reassembling - Tools for Alternative Futures  (organized by the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group of the Design Research Society)
Pages 159–166. 
Abstract: University graphic design education and professional design organizations in the United States have generally avoided critical conversations regarding the field’s emphasis on professionalization and entrepreneurialism. In this paper, I will discuss two related neoliberal nodes that have persisted and particularly intensified over the past decade: one, design’s insistence on the social as a marketable passion project that escapes history and socio-political relations, and two, design’s fixation on an entrepreneurial mindset that subsumes all leisure time into labor time. I will articulate the ways design education and professional design organizations in the United States have been ideologically complicit in these efforts and offer potential pedagogical interventions toward more deeply examining the socio-political contexts in which we study, labor, and live.

i hate war, but i hate our enemies even more
with Heath Schultz
London, UK: Minor Compositions
64 pages. Purchase printed book or download for free from Minor Compositions.
This book is an unconventional textual object that uses détournement, collage, and experimental writing against reactionary liberalism, capitalism, and white supremacy. The layout and typographic strategies work in total service of a series of ideological juxtapositions, where visual and verbal texts—critical theory, police propaganda, militant cinema, country songs, activist histories, and white reactionary protests—are woven together. Sometimes this reads as a forced, brute collision and other times as a careful, delicate thread across the pages. Translated visuals from popular media can offer clarity in a new context or obscure and detach like a game of telephone. 

“Social Design as Violence”
Thesis written at The University of Texas at Austin
51 pages.  
: Faculty in art schools, colleges, and universities have increasingly begun institutionalizing and professionalizing “design for good” in their curricula. Students are currently being taught that social design is good—or at least preferable to working for large corporations—but are not being urged to question this feel-good assertion. When the trendy phrase “design for good” is used, for whom is it good? Though social design can result in powerful, laudable work, it often escapes critical scrutiny—particularly in educational settings—for two reasons: 1) by default, many consider non-commercial (broadly defined) work de facto virtuous and thus assume that any and all partnerships with non-profit organizations, for example, must be ethically commendable; and 2) many consider good intentions sufficient and do not inquire about actual effects and consequences. My thesis work proposes that social design is just as ethically fraught as other kinds of design, if not more so, as any unintended harmful consequences of projects lie unnoticed and unchallenged under the guise of “doing good.” Social designers’ analyses of sociopolitical dynamics and histories of conflict are often thin. In some instances, their projects may actually enact violence, maintaining imbalances of power and perpetuating the oppression of the very individuals and communities they try to serve. I argue that insights regarding power, state control, and privileges afforded by race, class, and gender should form a critical foundation for designers seeking to work in this field. If designers and design educators are serious about design providing a “social good,” it is essential that they broaden their scope of analysis and critique to include the insights and strategies that activists and academics in other fields can offer.

Review of Julie Lasky’s Design and Social Impact: A Cross-Sectoral Agenda for Design Education, Research, and Practice, a white paper based on the 2012 Social Impact Design Summit
Design and Culture, Volume 7, Number 1  |  London, UK: Taylor & Francis
Pages 133–135.
In the white paper entitled Design and Social Impact: A Cross-Sectoral Agenda for Design Education, Research and Practice, Julie Lasky provides an overview of the Social Impact Design Summit held at The Rockefeller Foundation offices in New York on February 27, 2012. This review summarizes her report, calling attention to areas that may be the most valuable to readers, and offering a critique of the political blind spots of both the Summit and the report.

Conference Participation

June 2023
Panel Discussion Participant: “Feminist Design Pedagogy as Liberatory Practice”
Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC): “Critical Making and Social Justice”
Pratt Institute  |  New York City, NY

Feb 2023
“Slowing Production, Increasing Socio-Political Context: Beyond ‘Spreading Awareness’ in the Design Classroom”
College Art Association (CAA) Annual Conference / Design Incubation Colloquium 9.2 
New York City, NY

Oct 2022
“Socio-spatial Landscapes in Design Pedagogy”
SECAC Annual Conference 
MICA  |  Baltimore, MD

Nov 2021
“Design Narratives, the White Spatial Imaginary, and the Symbolic Economies of Cities”
ATTENDING [TO] FUTURES: Matters of Politics in Design Education, Research, Practice 
Köln International School of Design  |  Cologne, Germany

July 2021
“Design Fuel for the Neoliberal Fire”
Pivot 2021: Dismantling/Reassembling - Tools for Alternative Futures (organized by the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group of the Design Research Society)
Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCAD)  |  Toronto, Canada

Nov–Dec 2020
“Centering the Politics and Ethics of Design”
SECAC Annual Conference 
Virginia Commonwealth University  |  Richmond, VA

Feb 2020
“Aesthetics of Gentrification: The Designer’s Role in Branding a City”
College Art Association (CAA) Annual Conference
Chicago, IL

Jan 2020
“Aesthetics of Gentrification: An Exploration of Branded Spaces, Language, and Design Processes in ‘Revitalized’ Neighborhoods”
Architecture, Media, Politics, and Society (AMPS) Conference: Experiential Design—Rethinking Relations Between People, Objects and Environments 
Florida State University  |  Tallahassee, FL

Oct 2019
Session Co-Chair: The Education of an Ethical Designer  
SECAC Annual Conference
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga  |  Chattanooga, TN

Oct 2019
“Design as Reduction or Expansion”
SECAC Annual Conference
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga  |  Chattanooga, TN

/ 2023