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.

Slowing Production, Increasing Socio-Political Context: Beyond “Spreading Awareness” in the Design Classroom

A feminist base motivates us to engage questions around power relations, knowledge production, and systems of violence

Becky Nasadowski
Assistant Professor
University of Tennessee at Chattanoo

In recent years, many universities have embraced “diversity” with oblique statements of support. Related, design educators have rightfully sought strategies for inclusive pedagogy, increasing representation and working toward ensuring the classroom is comfortable. But inclusive is not synonymous with anti-racist, which requires antagonism and a reckoning with the pervasive inequities baked into our different fields and methods, the university, and our social relationships and histories.

In this presentation, I will provide an overview of my studio-seminar course Politics and Ethics of Design, where a feminist base motivates us to engage questions around power relations, knowledge production, and systems of violence. A substantial reading list frames sustained conversations on the politics of race, class, and gender as it relates to the field of design, creating a critical foundation for design practice. Select topics include data feminism and counter cartography, the designer’s role in constructing notions of citizenship, the limits of empathy in design thinking, and the neoliberal entanglement of work and passion. 

By providing an anchor through reading and conversation, I ask design students to consider in their studio practice urgent questions: How do we respond to historical omissions? How do we interface with social movements? How do we act with an awareness of history that complicates liberal concepts of empathy as paramount? If we want students to engage power and sincerely explore what an anti-racist practice and education look like, then we need to fully engage in how design has traditionally played—and continues to play—a role in bolstering social inequity.

This design research was presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 9.2: Annual CAA Conference 2023 (Virtual) on Saturday, February 18, 2023.

Towards a Typographic Pluriverse

The notion of decolonizing type is massive in scope: from its history, to its design, application, technology, and future.

Laura Rossi García
Professional Lecturer
DePaul University

This research examines the history, practice, and pedagogy of typography. Typography is at the core of design—both implicit and explicit in its role in shaping language, culture, and power structures—but it is mired in “racial homogeneity and dominated by white men.”1 The selection, use, and application of typography—from style to legibility—can uphold or disrupt dynamics of power: who can read it, who uses it, who made it, whose voice does it carry—human, machine, the included or the excluded. While there is great movement to decolonize design, less is happening specific to decolonizing typography, or decolonizing type pedagogy. “Letterforms are loaded cultural objects” 2 —a container for language— and an “extension of the spiritual, social, political, and historic mind-set of nations”.3

The very notion of decolonizing type is massive in scope: from its history, to its design, application, technology, and future. How do we broaden and re-frame the structures and systems that exist in order to make room for oppressed and marginalized voices and make inclusive the societies in which we live? This presentation will introduce a series of case studies that serve as examples for how to reconsider the very root of thought around type systems and their effects and influence on our students, the field of design, and ultimately our products, systems, and societies.

1. Munro, Silas. “Typography as a Radical Act in an Industry Ever-dominate by White Men,” AIGA Eye on Design, August 26, 2019. Accessed: December 15, 2020. URL:
2. Munro, Silas. Ib, id.
3. Shehab, Bahia and Haytham Nawar. “Early Arabic Printing” in A History of Arab Graphic Design. American University in Cairo Press: 2020. pp. 29-41.

On Feminism and Book Publishing, by Meaghan Barry

Meaghan Barry, 2016 Design Incubation Fellow, recently attended the Design Incubation Residency at Haddon Avenue Writing Institute to focus her attention on writing. 

The result of this effort was recently published at AIGA Eye on Design, titled Why are Even “Feminist” Book Cover Designs Still So Sexist?

This article explores the current representation of women in fiction, nonfiction, on book covers, and their consideration as authors, publishers, designers, and readers.