Designers as Citizens Friday, June 8th, 2018

Designers as Citizens: Visual Culture and Civic Engagement

Sam Holleran, Citizen Designer Fellow, AIGA NY
Carmen Lopez, Citizen Designer Now Fellow, AIGA NY

Designers as Citizens: Visual Culture and Civic Engagement

This workshop comes directly out of our experience developing Citizen Design Now, an ongoing program that brings together designers with community advocates, civic groups, and grassroots organizations. Citizen Design Now explores ways that designers can become involved in their communities, as both citizens (attending community board meetings and participating in local affairs) and as ‘citizen designers’—resources for groups that need to bring visual clarity to pressing issues and complex systems.

In this workshop we will examine the role of a citizen designer and the best methods for working with community organizations and advocates. We will discuss new modes of engagement for designers including tactical design activism, social innovation, prototyping, and embedded design. The workshop will be facilitated by Sam Holleran and Carmen Lopez, the inaugural Citizen Design Now Fellows with New York’s AIGA chapter, who are in the process of creating a Citizen Design Handbook and have planned a number of working groups, forums, and planning sessions for designers seeking to become more engaged in social movements. We hope that the conversation from this forum will also feed into the handbook (due out in October of 2018).

Of particular interest is mapping the pathways to critical design activism for members of a profession who are often short on time and short on pay. Through hands-on workshops with both designers and advocates we are working to create a series of pathways that offer opportunities for designers with different durations, levels of embeddedness within a particular group, and different outputs in a variety of media. “Making” is of particular interest because of our focus on tactical activism. Community organizing and design have far more in common than previously thought: both are iterative projects that rely on traditional and DIY media dissemination channels and scaffolding of concepts.

Through tactile exercises, drawing sessions, and concept mapping we will use our 1-2 hour workshop to both present our work to date and to look at places where designers and educators can use the power of visuals to enter civic conversations, improve media literacy, and affect change in our communities.