In Texas for the College Art Association Meetings

I'm in Dallas, Texas for the College Art Association meetings. It is my first time going to a CAA meeting. I ran into a Art History colleague, Heather Grossman and U of Minneasota Design colleague, Steven McCarthy. That's the nice thing about what seems to be a really small conference, you run into people you know.

This is an fly in and out conference so I won't see many panels, but it will be fun to present tomorrow on Contemporary Design Theory. I've read all the papers and it is amazing the overlap, but more tomorrow.

Off to DC for AAA meetings

Going to DC for the American Anthropological Association meetings. Totally not prepared yet, but very excited about meeting friends. I tend to not blog the AAAs because they are so overwhelming. Its now 6 days from 8am to 8pm and about 30 sessions it seems running simultaneously.

I do have a super duper panel on Friday. So if in DC, come see it. With 5000 + people, the AAA is very lax about badges but tell them I told you that:

Title: Anthropology, Design and Govermentality: ethnographic approaches to civic designing and the tangibility of
Organizer/Chair: Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall
Date: Friday, November 30, 2007
Time: 08:00:00AM - 09:45:00AM
Location: Marriott Wardman Park and Omni Shoreham Hotels.
Room: Coolidge

Session Abstract:
Justice, democracy, accountability, openness are not just abstract terms, but are tangible experiences for people
made manifest through designed artifacts, communications, and environments. This panel examines how
ethnographic approaches to civic designing make manifest the problematization of governance and people’s
participation in contemporary civic life. By ethnographic, we mean the questions, assumptions, methods, and
outcomes that seek to uncover people’s functional and symbolic meanings from their own perspectives. By civic
design, we refer to the government sanctioned and regulated public documents and forms, objects, machines, web
interfaces, and built environments that mediate the interactions between the government and the governed.
Drawing on Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality, the panel looks at governance as the “conduct of
conduct” accomplished through the “disposition of things.”

The panel examines governance across the domains of aviation and transportation, urban and retail planning, IRS
design management, and public health. It explores the relationship between three levels of design and
governmentality: (1) public policy and knowledge, (2) design practice and the civic designing process as
ethnographically informed; and (3) lay people and the usability and meaning of civic design artifacts. It epitomizes
the emerging praxis of design anthropology, a field that seeks to understand how the processes and artifacts of
design come to define what it means to be human.

The panel begins with Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall’s framing of the two overarching themes that bring the participants’
perspectives together. First, design plays a significant role in making governance tangible to people. The poorer the
design of civic design artifacts, communications, and environments is to everyday people; the poorer are people’s
“feel” of the government. Second, ethnographic approaches to civic designing can remove the distance between the
government and the people by ensuring the rooting of the people’s functional and symbolic values into the designs,
and the policies that inform the designs.

Anthropologist Ken Erickson explores the world of FAA and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations in
the design of Boeing airplanes accessible to people with physical disabilities. He addresses how interdisciplinary
teams handle the conflicts between the ethos of citizen-centered designing and formal government regulation.

Leilah Rampa, MFA student, shares her research and designs developing wayfinding systems on the Chicago Transit
Authority trains and buses for people with physical disabilities.

IRS designer and design manager, John Jacobin, discusses the IRS Design Management Project and the
opportunities and challenges of bringing citizen-centered design into this large government bureaucracy.

Abe Lentner, technical assistant for the City Design Center in Chicago, walks us through the design artifacts and
processes used to engage Chicago residents in the urban and retail planning of their own neighborhoods.

In conclusion, Ric Grefé, executive director of AIGA, the professional association for design, and anthropologist,
Inga Treitler comment on the significance of the intersections between policy, design, and anthropology the panel’s
projects represent.

NeoCon World Fair in Chicago

Last Tuesday, I presented with Ricardo Gomes, John Paul Kusz, and Dave Walker at the Chicago NeoCon World Fair. The session was sponsored by FocusOnDesign, an organization to support diverse designers in the Baltimore/DC area. I was a last minute replacement, but it was amazing how all the presentations aligned.

Ricardo Gomes, who is Professor and Chair of the Department of Design and Industry at San Francisco State, was the moderator and provided an overview of key themes affecting socially-relevant design today: (1) changing demographics in terms of aging, (2) climate change and sustainability, and (3) migration and globalization. He providing statistics on the effects of these changes and what it means for design. He had a similar user-centered design process model as mine, which was cool to discover. I knew Ricardo from the IDSA conference in Austin. He does a lot of work in Africa and sustainable/inclusive design.

John Paul Kusz is at the Stuart Business School at IIT.  He further developed Ricardo's arguments by providing historical and scholarly references and frameworks for socially and environmentally sustainable design. I was very excited by his call to develop metrics for the social and environmental return on investments as well as economic ones.

I was up next and I talked about design and government policy. I addressed in depth policy as designed and design standards from my mind map. It went okay, but it was not as polished as I like to be and the audience was more architecture and interior design focused, whereas my examples were from graphic design.

As the resident architect, Dave Walker's presentation was the one that garnered the most interest. He was describing a project that his former company, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, did developing an environmentally and socially sustainable island for displaced farmers near Shanghai, China. It is truely amazing that they, commissioned by the Chinese government, designed from scratch 3 new cities, a nature preserve, villages, etc. in an environmentally sustainable way.

The Q&A focused mostly on Dave's presentation. In the audience was Myron Smith and Meshella Woods Johnson of FocusOnDesign. Myron is the one who suggested me as a replacement. Also, I met some of the local Chicago black designers Althea and Vernon Lockwood of Project Osmosis and other black designers.   

After the presentation, we all went out to dinner and had wonderful conversations about design, ethnicity, politics, and the best chocolate cake in the city of Chicago.  It was very life affirming to hang out with designers of color who cared about the social impact of designing.

IDSA National Conference

I heading today to the IDSA National Conference and Education Symposium, where I hope to be blogging about presentations and people that I meet. It is the first time I will have attended so I am excited about seeing what it is all about. So keep posted as I document my impressions and images.

I am presenting with Stephanie Munson on Monday from 5:30-6:30 pm. Lorraine Justice is part of our panel about Finding Niches in Design Education. I am looking forward to meeting Lorraine; she seems like a design powerhouse.