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Spring 2021 ︎  SUNY Purchase︎ (DES3240) Design Issues

Decolonizing (Graphic) Design


This topic, decolonizing design, is using the language Ramon Tejada uses as a springboard for talking about this topic. You’ve seen him already in the  Cranbrook A=B Conference video and the the Walker Soundboard piece from the Queering Design (Education) topic. included an essay from him that you may have read precociously; at the very least you’ve seen his face. 

The content here will inevitably overlap with content we’ve seen before, but we’re specifically talking about the concept of decolonization, as it relates to design. That is to say, do we accept the canon of design in the west on face value? How can we puncture or “push” against its boundaries? That’s one of the things I like about Tejada’s language is that it is visceral (“puncturing” “blowing up” and “toppling”). It’s not a solution in itself, and that’s not necessarily the goal of the class, but I think it helps keep the idea of embodiment and that we, as (graphic) designers have a responsibility to be aware, vigilant and active.

Questions to think about

    • Is “expanding” the canon enough? 
    • What are the subtler conversations we can (continue to) have about POC in the design space?
    • When (if ever) is the or a canon valuable?
    • What does decolonization or attempting to change a canon mean with systemic forces like tenure and privilege around?
    • How does decolonization mean from a literary and aesthetic standpoint? How does it manifest?
    • Is “big machinery” (institutions, schools, systems of privilege) always slow? When and why is that bad, when and why is that good?

Required Readings

“Supplemental” but highly-encouraged material

    • Note on being a DOMINCANYORK Ramon Tejada talk︎
    • This will probably be helpful in hearing about Ramon and his practice, TBH again, this just came out and I have not watched it yet so I am considering it “supplemental” for that purpose.

    • Design Thinking is a Rebrand for White Supremacy︎
    • Leaving this as supplemental because I came across this in preparation for the class and it seemed interesting. Haven’t read it yet but looks like it could help flesh out your writing.

    • Decolonizing Design Reader︎
    • This is a big-ass Google Document; and I remember seeing this shared by Ramon on, I think his IG. Putting this here mainly to take a gander at and look at what appeals to you. Also to think about how the form is different than a well-designed blog article, how does the form relate to the content; an alternative archive/object it’s cool to see. Additionally if you are doing a respond it will probably help you to supplement your writing with some of this.

      Here are some highlights:

    Things from class

      • Magellan / Lapu-Lapu︎ I’m sure we got here talking about approaches to history as it relates to colonization. I brought this up as I learned about both in US and Filipino schools.
      • Experimental Jetset︎ I was trying to think about them when I talked about modernism and how it can be interpreted by who is doing it.
      • Jim Sterling︎ This is a random video of theirs that hates on Steam of which there are a bunch. I was trying to make the point that there might be some virtue to the “walled garden” system of Apple by contrasting it with Steam which had a real problem with people practicing what is called “asset flipping.” I was trying to also say (though probably ineloquently) that this “regulation” also extends to the aesthetic of the applications involved and how they utilize a similar space.

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