Design Is Not Neutral

A podcast featuring design educators discussing gaps in design education

Grace Hamilton
Assistant Professor
Baruch College
 City University New York

This project confronts design and design education’s historical exclusion of marginalized voices due to Eurocentric, capitalist, and patriarchal biases. It champions a feminist, practice-driven approach for an anti-patriarchal and post-capitalist design pedagogy, challenging the notion that design is confined to formal structures.

The “Design is Not Neutral” podcast is central to this initiative, featuring design educators discussing gaps in design education. It reveals the entanglement of design education with corporate capitalism, especially in the United States, while dismantling the division between craft, design, and art. This scrutiny exposes oppressive structures sidelining craft-based design, aiming to broaden design education’s horizons.

In the following phase, a knitting workshop was introduced to confront power dynamics and reintegrate “low design” or craft into the classroom. This hands-on workshop encourages everyday creativity, collaborative learning, and questions gender-based hierarchies in design curricula, empowering what’s traditionally labeled “craft.”

Aligned with scholars like bell hooks, Louise Schouwenberg, Paulo Freire, and Cheryl Buckley, this feminist intervention emphasizes “design in the margins” in education. The project’s podcast serves as a centralized resource, ensuring accessibility for educators looking to integrate feminist curricula.

This initiative reimagines design education through a feminist lens, challenging craft-based design stereotypes and engaging with design education’s historical ties to capitalism. Its aim is to create a more inclusive, equitable design pedagogy, centering marginalized perspectives and subaltern forms of making, contributing to a diverse, accessible, and just society.

This design research was presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 10.2: Annual CAA Conference 2024 (Hybrid) on Thursday, February 15, 2024.