For the final assessment task (Assessment 3: Issue Essay), having found myself enthralled by the Defining design as activism (Thorpe 2011) reading decided to explore and explain how recent design projects have utilised design activism to respond to one or more contemporary social problems. Given the broad nature of the topic – and how relatively little exposure I have had to it thus far – I settled in for some research and found two peer reviewed journal articles which helped greatly with my understanding.
Markussen (2013) offers somewhat of an explanation of design activism, in much the same vein as Thorpe – even going so far as to reference Defining design as activism (2011) – but works harder overall to separate design activism from other aspects of activism in general, insisting that although political activism and design activism may share common interchangeable themes the two are not mutually exclusive and can coexist harmoniously.
Lees-Maffei (2012) takes a slightly different approach and stance to design activism. In a recount of events from the 34th Design History Society annual conference in Barcelona Lees-Maffei cites historical sources and argues that – as was noted by a number of keynot speakers in the Catalan capital – Design Activism has become a fancy new way of describing design reform and is not necessarily a new thing. Instead it has been happening for hundreds off years in all matter of mediums as a way of achieving positive artistic expression be it embroidery or engineering.
While both articles contain vastly different content the overall summation by Lees-Maffei (2012) does well to bring together not only these two pieces but all facets of Design Activism.
“Design activism provides a compelling prism through which to understand the past, and awareness of the history of design activism and design reform can inform the present.” (Lees-Maffei, 2012 p. 92)
Lees-Maffei, G. (2012). Reflections on design activism and social change. Design Issues. Spring 201, 28(2), 90-92. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b303ec5f-bb3a-45b3-8def-c3edbbad4489%40sessionmgr4008&vid=8&hid=4101
Markussen, T. (2013). The disruptive aesthetics of design activism: Enacting design between art and politics. Design Issues. Winter 2013, 29(1), 38-50. Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.swin.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b303ec5f-bb3a-45b3-8def-c3edbbad4489%40sessionmgr4008&vid=9&hid=4101
Thorpe, A. (2011). Defining design as activism. Retrieved fromhttp://designactivism.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Thorpe-definingdesignactivism.pdf