One of the main ideas behind the Design in Times of Crisis research is to generate discussion and research material through collaborative workshops. Since the core inspiration for this research comes from the tense political and social ordeal happening in Brazil as of 2013-14, we decided to develop a Workshop specifically aimed at brazilian designers.
By presenting the participants with the four “axioms” that govern our research interests, we wanted to provoke and ask all sorts of tricky questions that concern the political role of the designer, and to which extent a professional should take a political stance (answer: “as much as possible”). We were given the opportunity to make this workshop happen in three different settings (at a University, a NGO and at a design studio) and in two different formats (twice as a hands-on workshop and once as a round table). This diversity of formats and places surely made the discussions very different from one another and provided several perspectives on the subject. We think that this exchange of opinions, and, most of all, the possibility to talk openly about politics in different contexts in which the social role of design is often taken for granted is the most powerful outcome we could expect from this first installment of our research.
Plus, it is always nice to introduce speculative and critical design as a new possibility for research. For us, planting the seeds of such a young practice outside the instances where it is already “common” is one of the main things we stand for.
This workshop was attended mostly by first-year design students; the main focus was to introduce speculative design to the attendants and explore the themes we proposed as part of our research into the “times of crisis” scenario. Aided by a collection of news headlines that illustrated some of the issues of oppression and discrimination approached in the scenario, we started a discussion on where technology might be headed. Some of the topics brought up during the discussion were eugenics, normativity and the politics behind the production of genetically-modified food, within the brazilian context.
They were given a couple of hours to develop the concept for a speculative design project, create the necessary objects and document their imagined scenario.
A device to constantly measure levels of contamination in a society divided in “castes” according to immunity to certain diseases.
Genetically-modified fruits used as recreational drugs. The participants decided to design a bad trip.
Normativity Pills to make you conform to society’s expectations on gender and sexuality.
(All Photos by Daniela Pereira @ SOMA)
This roundtable took place at Design Possível, an NGO working with design projects aimed at social development and inclusion. It was attended mostly by young designers, many with ties to activist and social justice groups. It was mostly an open-ended discussion where we introduced the idea of speculative design as a political tool, talked about the discipline’s political accountability and usefulness in the context of developing countries like Brazil.
(Photo by Design Possível)
This workshop took place over two days at one of São Paulo’s most interesting design studios, D3; as such, the attendants were designers, developers and programmers with a good degree of experience and great technical prowess. Unsurprisingly, the results were much different from those of the previous events: the participants ended up creating much more complex products and documentations; the themes that they pursued were also very different from those discussed previously. After a brief introduction and an initial brainstorm to define a main theme, the attendants were split into two groups, each one with a specific interest.
Thanks to everyone at SOMA, Design Possível and D3 for the opportunity, and cheers to all participants for taking part.