Why are you designing here?

Why are you designing here? is a role-play game that aims at including non-dominant perspectives in the design process. Questionning what are the elements around you and your design, or what could be, it invites you to question the impact of the design you are developping. It is a reponse to the article Why are we here? A reflexive story of decoloinisng by Yoko, Akama, Juliette, Anich, Areli, Avendano Franco, Jaz, Hee-Jeong Choi,
Liam, Fennessy, Marius, Foley, Leah, Heiss, Tania, Ivanka, Emma, Luke,
Rowan, Page, Tanja, Rosenqvist, Juan, Sanin, and Linus, Tan.

This article explains the strategy behind the ServDes 2020, the first service Design and Innovation conference to happen outside of Europe in its 12-year history. It was written in 2022, one year after the ServDes 2020 that happened in 2021.

Some of the key points expressed in the article are as follows:

  1. We need to open conventions and ways of doing to reinvent them to decolonize and generate accessible and energizing forms of knowledge.
  2. Going back to the values of aboriginal first people is a way to act above the dominant design, acknowledging them by not only listening but also by implementing, again, their values is a way to do respectful and down-to-needs design.
  3. Intergenerational work triggers critical design outcomes, thinking beyond conventions and usual thoughts can push established systems (like conferences) to reinvent themselves.

One of the quotes that triggered a design response was “Design is an industry and discipline that has undoubtedly been a central machine and technology in making decisions about how people should work, live, play, organize and imagine futures [29] [48]. Redirecting what it should become, through ethical ways of gathering, could elevate and expand our thinking and being.” I strongly agree with this statement, and through the article, I was inspired by the strategy they used to redirect what design typically is. Through connections with the aboriginal people of the land where they were hosting the conference, they applied their values. The values lay in the simple traditional welcome that is also the question “Why are you here, what is your purpose?” that Boon Wurrung Elder explains as “this Welcome by a Traditional Custodian comes with obligations to obey the laws of Bundjil, Kulin’s creator deity, to not harm the land (biik biik), waterways (wurneet) and children (bubups) of Bundjil”.

Caring for the people and the localities surrounding the conference was a big part of the process of the organization of the conference. It is also interesting to point out that the decolonizing of this conference, generated better environmental and social values for the conference. I believe that we need to apply this respect in design, caring for the environment and the people that surround the design. Designers tend to forget to consider what surrounds the design, and all of the particles that could be influenced by it, in the now or the future.

With Why are you designing here? I want to invite the designers from our class to consider more than their scope. I want to invite them to think in the system, and out of the seen system.

Playfully, this game allows the designer to think of their design in context, and opens a dialogue between different advocates and localities.
What are the localities impacted by the design? We tend to avoid this type of question. How would the soil or the water be impacted by your design? It can most of the time seem abstract and unrelated, but by asking someone to represent this element and stick to it through the game we might unveil unseen risks on which we should intervene. If you think of smartphone, you don’t think of how it impacts the environment but just by looking at the component needed that are extracted through mining, it is already having terrible consequences. But as I want to invite you to design in system, it was important to include the more active beings, such as elders, insects, infants, indigenous people, and so on. The person picking one of these cards will have to use all their knowledge and try to be their best advocate. This method allows more realities to be considered, it cannot replace the direct input from the concerned ones, but it is an attempt at getting out of the dominant design and going beyond the stereotypical body and social classes we design for.
The advocates present in the game were included by looking at the typical -ism, racism, sexism, ageism, and so on. I was asking myself the question who are the beings excluded from the dominant design? Who is being forgotten? Who won’t be considered but impacted? The answer is infinite and goes beyond the scope of the human. As I do not have absolute knowledge I have left space to add other localities and advocates that should be in it.
Beyond the advocates and localities that are discussing a designer’s project, I added a facilitator who following guidelines will curate the interaction and make it systemic.