By Jennifer Leonard
I recently spoke about “sustaining change” at a multidisciplinary two-weekend event called The Creators Series, curated by the former RES Fest crew (now under the moniker Tomorrow Unlimited). It took place first in New York, and second in Los Angeles. In both cities I had the opportunity to experience first-hand and get inspired by a number of scintillating projects the world over – related to laser tagging, clean tagging, social networking, and participatory filmmaking.
When it was my turn at the mic, I was asked among other things about the nuances of social design and how it figured into a vision for our sustainable future. One question, in particular, stuck with me long after the panel ended. It went a little something like this: If the sort of design you speak of represents people and projects who are instigating (and helping to sustain) positive change in the world, then why don’t you just call this strand of design “activism”?
The question came from a performance artist who regularly dreams up projects as a way to bestow gifts upon unsuspecting others. He had clearly given careful thought to his own art practice in relation to activism, and took this opportunity to tease it out into the space of design.
The question’s a good one. I liked where it pushed me. Why indeed is this form of “design” still called, simply, design? Why aren’t we calling it design activism… or activist design?
Let’s start with what I suppose to be t...