Design Justice: Community-Led Practices to Build the Worlds We Need
An exploration of how design might be led by marginalized communities, dismantle structural inequality, and advance collective liberation and ecological survival.
What is the relationship between design, power, and social justice? “Design justice” is an approach to design that is led by marginalized communities and that aims expilcitly to challenge, rather than reproduce, structural inequalities. It has emerged from a growing community of designers in various fields who work closely with social movements and community-based organizations around the world.
This book explores the theory and practice of design justice, demonstrates how universalist design principles and practices erase certain groups of people—specifically, those who are intersectionally disadvantaged or multiply burdened under the matrix of domination (white supremacist heteropatriarchy, ableism, capitalism, and settler colonialism)—and invites readers to “build a better world, a world where many worlds fit; linked worlds of collective liberation and ecological sustainability.” Along the way, the book documents a multitude of real-world community-led design practices, each grounded in a particular social movement. Design Justice goes beyond recent calls for design for good, user-centered design, and employment diversity in the technology and design professions; it connects design to larger struggles for collective liberation and ecological survival.
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Design Justice is required reading for all designers.
The book explores how design, both the product and practice, reproduces social inequality. But, more importantly, the book also offers a visionary framework designers can use to elevate their craft and help rebuild the world.
Costanza-Chock deftly weaves together ideas from fields like Black feminist scholarship and disability activism to show how normative values in design erase certain groups of people (e.g., airport security scanners flagging and subjecting trans and nonbinary travelers to invasive, traumatic body searches). Costanza-Chock also shows how the design industry's movement towards more inclusive and participatory practices often replicates the power dynamics and inequities they were meant to address. For example, disability simulations, where a nondisabled person tries using a wheelchair to develop empathy for disabled users, encourages solutions that modify the disabled person's body rather than their inaccessible environment. To counteract this, Design Justice offers guidelines that center the historically marginalized and their communities' existing knowledge and practices.
Despite the breadth of the book's philosophical underpinnings, the writing is approachable and engaging. Costanza-Chock illustrates their arguments with vivid examples, many of which are grounded in their activist background and personal biography. The book is a fantastic mix of theory, practice, and inspiration.
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