Respectful Design: Decolonization as an Urgent Imperative

Sadie Red Wing, Neebinnaukzhik Southall & Dori Tunstall

Respectful Design: Decolonization as an Urgent Imperative

Filmed on October 18, 2016 at the 2016 AIGA Design Conference

Many design institutions are interested in diversity and inclusion, yet seem to be unwilling or unable to do the work of “decolonizing” design through a critical engagement with design and culture. Design anthropologist Dori Tunstall proposes that this work consists of two simultaneous actions: the recognition of the intrinsic worth of different cultural ways of “design being” and the systematic dismantling of current structural hierarchies. In this presentation, she explains Respectful Design, the basis for design curriculum at OCAD University, where she serves as the first black dean of design in a North American design faculty.

Sadie Red Wing, as a Native American graphic designer and a member of the Spirit Lake Nation in Fort Totten, North Dakota, stresses the importance of communicating “visual sovereignty” when designing for a tribal audience.

While attending the Graphic Design Graduate program at North Carolina State University, she explored the use of visual communication through the lens of cultural perspectives, focusing on how indigenous knowledge enhances accurate tribal design, and the importance of traditional symbolism in Native American identity. Currently, as a graduate ambassador for the American Indian College Fund, she advocates the subject of design in the tribal college curriculum and encourages Native American students to advance their higher education.

Neebinnaukzhik Southall, a member of the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, is a graphic designer, photographer, artist, and writer. In 2011 she graduated magna cum laude from Oregon State University, earning an honors B.F.A. with a minor in Fine Arts through the University Honors College and OSU’s competitive graphic design program.

Southall has continued exploring her interest in graphic design as it relates to indigenous peoples and cultures, and is passionate about promoting Native graphic designers. She writes the column Exploring Native Graphic Design for First American Art Magazine, and manages the Native Graphic Design Project, where she is compiling a list of indigenous designers. She currently works at the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian as the public relations and web coordinator, and has her own creative business, Neebin Studios.

Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall is a design anthropologist, public intellectual, and design advocate who works at the intersections of critical theory, culture, and design. Dean of design at OCAD University in Toronto, she is the first black female dean of a North American design faculty. She leads the Cultures-Based Innovation Initiative focused on using old ways of knowing to drive innovation processes that directly benefit communities.

Tunstall served as associate professor of Design Anthropology and associate dean at Swinburne University in Australia. She wrote the biweekly column Un-Design for The Conversation Australia. In the U.S., she taught at the University of Illinois at Chicago, organized the U.S. National Design Policy Initiative, and served as a director of Design for Democracy. Tunstall holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Stanford University and a B.A. in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College.