Happy Black History Month

February 11, 2021

It’s Black History Month in the United States and Canada, so I’m hoping like to spend this month’s issue celebrating the contributions of Black people within participatory design.

To start, many of the resources featured in past issues of Design With are initiatives started, led or championed by Black people. From the HairStory initiative, to Creative Reaction Lab, over to NOW at Hunter’s Point and the Kibera Public Space project, plus so many more… It’s clear there is no shortage of incredible Black-led initiatives and Black designers, researchers, architects, urbanists, and so on.

What’s also clear is how important it is to that we make efforts to find, share, support, listen and learn from this incredible work – through all 12 months of the year. Which is to say, this is by no means an exhaustive list.


Sloan Leo's #communitydesignforall

Sloan Leo is the founder and CEO of FLOX Studio, “a community design and strategy studio that works with curious optimists to build a more brave, creative, and resilient social impact ecosystem.” In this post, they share FLOX Studio’s principles of community design. I find these principles particularly insightful for the way they state both what they are and what they are not.

100 Day Studio: Black Females in Architecture

Did you feel encouraged to bring your culture and identity to your design projects?

As part of the 100 Day Studio, a series of online discussions about architecture, Neba Sere and Umi Baden-Powell of Black Females in Architecture facilitate a discussion on the importance of decolonising the architecture curriculum, and, how doing so will shape the future of this discipline.

Designing Hyperlocal Food Systems

As part of Deem Journal’s designing for dignity series, the first of hopefully many, this discussion is centered around building a sustainable and just food system. Deem editor-in-chief Alice Grandiot is in conversation with Yemi Amu from Oko Farms and Naima Penniman from Soul Fire Farms, and it’s inspiring listening to them describe and imagine new ways of growing, supporting and connecting with nature and food.

Dr. Pierce Gordon: Design by the 99%

Dr. Pierce Gordon describes himself as an “innovation catalyst, researcher, facilitator, and evaluator, impassioned by the space between transformation and liberation.” When I’ve had the chance to hear him speak he’s explained his love for working with people to bring forth the change they want to see in the world, facilitating that process of seeing and creating new futures. In this upcoming event, he’s speaking about how equity and design should remake the world.

How to design for the margins

I actually push that we go beyond participatory design, and consider how we can equip people to design in our absence.

Dr. Christina Harrington believes in community-based participatory design, which, if you’re interested in this newsletter, I imagine you’ll be excited about too. Christina is the director of Equity and Health Innovations Design Research Lab and her work focuses on supporting marginalized communities to find solutions to their own needs. In this piece, she unpacks her participatory process and what it means to actually do this work.


As Dr. Christina Harrington said:

When we think about the way that we can re-democratize that process to re-center the people who live in these communities... I think that participatory design is really the only way we can think about it.

This was originally published on my newsletter, Design With. It was archived in 2023.