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Podding about a more sustainable design

Podding about a more sustainable design

In a pod interview with the graphic designer and educator, Tove Martens, we discuss how to reach a more responsible and sustainable design. We address problems regarding conventional education in general and design academia in particular, and we examine the design practice and its relation to capitalism and modernity.

Why is design history so focused on heroes and why are they always white men? Why are white men still the ones to decide what constitutes good design for everyone in the world? Why is the heritage of the Enlightenment still so present today?

Why an interview about design?

New media and ICTs have a massive impact on the development in different societies globally. Therefore, we must critically examine the professionals behind these technologies – one being the designer. The designer is a key player in creating both the technology and content, and has the power to foster some real change. So I wonder, why don’t we see more responsible and sustainable design? And how much can we blame design education for all this?

Listen to us discussing the power dynamics at play in design education and design practice. And how we can restructure these dynamics in order to move towards a more responsible and sustainable design:

Please comment below on what part you think stood out in the pod. By joining the discussions you make them even more interesting.

Readings used for quotes and inspiration to the pod discussions:

Birhane, Abeba – The Algorithmic Colonization of Africa

Brock, André – Beyond the Pale

Chin, Elizabeth – Using Fiction to Explore Social Facts in The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography

Denskus, Tobias – Aidnography

Epstein, David – Range

Escobar, Arturo – Designs for the Pluriverse

Freire, Paulo – Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Graham, Mark – Digital Economies at Global Margins

Kumar, Anu – Think Global Health

Manyozo, Linje – Communicating Development with Communities

Noble, Safiya Umoja – Algorithms of Oppression

Tunstall, Elizabeth (Dori) – Decolonizing Design Innovation: Design Anthropology, Critical Anthropology and Indigenous Knowledge in Design Anthropology

Willis, Anne-Marie – Transition Design


  1. Super interesting podcast! Thanks for also addressing the question I asked in your earlier post. You guys touched on so many critical points, it’s hard to sum up my thoughts. But overall I think you did a great job exploring and breaking down the many facets of how design and design education are organized today, and how critical they are in design solutions that support social change. I’m also now inspired to read a bit more from Escobar… Cheers to a fantastic work!

  2. Ana Mula

    Congratulations on this great podcast Viktor! The whiteness of design is such an interesting topic to address. As someone who undertook, if briefly, design studies, your post reminded me that I’m not always aware that the set of values from which we design and the belief system that governs what is good objective design are Western. It also pushed me to research more on the topic and I found this related article by Eugene Korsunskiy, professor of design thinking at Dartmouth College, where very interesting concepts and resources are mentioned such as the bibliography called Decentering Whiteness in Design History:

    Tove quotes Danah Abdulla when saying that decolonisation is about imagining something that is beyond the current system in which we exist, and I was glad to hear that this is something that is already happening in this field! I think the different points about the ethnocentric nature of design and design education that you have made here are very interesting reflections that can help us, as Tove also said, to “learn to unlearn” on this path of decolonisation that we are trying to walk.

    1. Thank you for these really kind words, Ana!
      You are not alone in not always being aware that “the set of values from which we design and the belief system that governs what is good objective design are Western”. I’m there too, and so are many others as well. That hopeful news that we see more initiatives to challenge the hegemonic narratives is a proof that more and more people have noticed this problem and then change starts to happen.
      But we need to keep questioning and help each other to push discourse forward, so even more people learn to unlearn and to unlearn more and more…
      Also, many thanks for the Korsunskiy article, that helps me in my own process to learn to unlearn… 🙂

  3. Marianna

    Hi, thanks for this interesting conversation. As a designer lately I came across diversity and inclusion in graphic design. The topic is still a niche. With the Black Lives Matter movement also in the design world resonated the lack of a diverse creative community.
    Designers do not reflect the variety of users. These are two articles that I found interesting

    1. Thank you very much, Marianna, for the feedback and thoughts on this topic! And thanks for the two websites, there is still so much to read on this interesting topic. What do you think about the role of design education in all this? Is it shaping future diversity designers or not?

      1. Hi! I think education can play a role in shaping responsible and sustainable designers. For example, in all the courses I attended there was a special commitment to highlight the environmental impact of design. Climate change is now a mainstream topic and I found easy to find educational path or projects that would focus on environmental sustainability. As far as I could see (but I am might be wrong here, as I don’t have a real full picture) I don’t think there is the same commitment to topics such as diversity and inclusion, and decolonization in design.

        1. I totally agree with you, Marianna! More and more focus on environmental sustainability, but still silence regarding diversity and inclusion issues. I guess that has to do with design’s dependency on capitalism. There is money in sustainable products now, and sustainable content attracts and help to sell more products… which is obviously a grand paradox…
          However, there is still no money in the restructuring of power, capitalism is not really into that… Maybe we need to create that postgraduate degree program that aims to dismantle the system…? Would you apply?

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