Activism: Conscientious actions for our sustainable design world


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What has changed in your life? When we ask this question, we would feel like being judge, asking us to reconsider, or condemning what has become a life-changing movement. We often face this question throughout our lives, over and over again. It may come from a family member, our teacher, old acquaintances, or anyone our path crosses. Everyone may ask the same question at any point in their lives. Sometimes, it doesn't feel like an inquiry but as an accusation. Has anything changed?

Maybe, they are genuinely concern about us, and what they wanted to ask, was our actions and decisions worth it? But some take this judgment personally, and a difference of perspective ignites the other persons toward being rebellious or may become an activist. Don't get me wrong. We often associate activism and rebellion tied together and the same, but I think the former is more on the cause of being heard rather than being an actual rebel. Our society needs a healthy dose of activism and activist, who pushes agenda for the greater good of humanity like racism, poverty, and climate change.

We associate activism more on the social and political, and typically on a sense of rebellion and hostility. Social and political activists often have more clarity and agreement on what they want to deconstruct than reassemble. They devote little time and effort to establishing the path that will lead them to their desired results. We saw their actions as disruptive in rallying their discontent. It often falls short of establishing and fostering constructive and long-term alternatives. Design activism ponders design thinking. That is quite different from social and political variance since it encourages creative solutions rather than a quick fix.


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What's unique with design thinking? While science concern about answering what is questions, designers are tackling the what-ifs. Science helps us to see the clarity of our life's ambiguities. It rationalizes our superstitions and orderly interpret nature's secrets. In contrast, designers with their curiosity and tolerance to uncertainty and disorder. It allows us to expand our creativity and encourages us to explore unchartered waters. It also recognizes patterns that may yield an alternative future by having an attractive and enjoyable solution for the lingering complex issues.

Design activism gives us the option of whether we can perform good design or do good with design. Everyone can be a designer and honed our hunger for upending the status quo and altering our lifestyles. We will discover means to become bold in pushing the changes we want in our lives. When we fully grasp our creativity and abstain from our excessive consumerism, we can be the change we want to be. By design, we must act, be heard, and sometimes say no. Again, we need to do good with design.

We can change the course of our environment, and designers are crucial to our quest for sustainability. Designers actively participate in molding our artificial world and built spaces. Designers cannot only observe the world and anticipate problems and imagine innovative ways to solve problems. When we design things, systems, or living spaces, we must better understand whose lives we wish to change or what changes we want for them. We don't only need the ability to acquire things but also to have the freedom to create one. Hence our designs affect our environment and living comfortably; we need to design for the greater good. That is what design activism calls.

Architecture doesn't shy out with design activism. It is not just about erecting walls and ceilings in architecture. Architecture offers a comprehensive understanding of our behavior and the environment. It represents our society, history, beliefs, values, and culture at the time. Architecture is an expression not just of humanity's creativity but also a record of human progress. That is why it is in a position to lead a movement, so-called activism. Architects engage in projects that involve enhancing the local economy. They provided health and social advantage by employing sustainable practices and including the locals in the design process. It may not be the activism that we grow up with, but it is an activism that has worth for humanity.


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Design by activism addresses inequity by explicitly reinventing systems and spaces. For some, it is not as bold as social and political activism. Design activism has more impact on humanity. Designers seek answers to our problems by focusing on a systematic change. We transform our design perspective, centering on the design for humanity. The project doesn't end when we finish the design but in the longer outcome of our project. Design activism also advocates for inclusivity. We often associate activism as carried out in a group or movement. Design activism has the potential to encourage collaboration among various groups of people with diverse interests.

Design movements allow us to get shared knowledge or framework or even a system of beliefs and culture. Design can help us expand our understanding of knowledge that can cause more positive change in our lives and environment. Design activism can be viewed as a form of foresight, guessing, and exploring into worlds that might exist that are better for more people. Designers provide an alternative view of our future through critical design. We can also inextricably link design activism to gardening, celebration, and play as well as disrupting urban narratives.

Engaging in design activism doesn't limit to disrupt the present but preparing for the future. Every architect and designer who is a design activist; who works for a more sustainable future is a hero. We often want to start from scratch and build something new, but it is not sustainable. We only have limited resources and, sooner or later, we will run out of them when we don't use them responsibly. Hopefully, sustainability is always our game plan; so that we can still look forward to a better world.

Design activism is asking us to be socially conscientious in making our world a better place to live. When we transform our environment to become sustainable and livable, we need a strong will for the cause. Activism is not always about bringing placards to our roads and shouting with for what we believe. But it can be creating and designing things that able us to have a better future. Design activism is to change our world by the action that catalyst change rather than protest for protest. Activism in any form must be about welfare and change, not for self political agendas. To end this, have we done worthy cause for a positive change even in small ways?


Check out my previous post on Architecture and Design Community

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Readings

  1. Uday Dandavate, Design Activism, Medium

  2. Mallo, D., Tardiveau, A. and Parsons, R, Design activism: catalysing communities of practice., Architectural Research Quarterly

  3. Ozgur Deniz Cetin, Design activism from the past to present: A critical analysis of the discourse, ICDHS 2016

  4. Anne Chick, Design Activism: Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World by Alastair Fuad-Luke, The Design Journal

Photo Credit: Startup Stock Photos, and Masashi Wakui

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