A reflection on a semester of design activism – By Isaac Francis.

It has been a big year so far – I started in this course knowing there would be countless surprises waiting for me. I had no idea to what extent these few months of study would do to my thought processes, I certainly didn’t expect such a noticeable change.

On day one of Design as Activism, we all sat blankly as we were told of what was to come. Even once it was made vocal, I found the intentions of this subject a little confusing and somewhat confronting.

Now, 14 weeks later, there is no confusion whatsoever with what the Design as Activism was trying to accomplish and instill in our minds as young designers. I now look at products with a much deeper understanding of why they are how they are, why they work the way they do, and what minor things could be changed to affect users in many different major ways. This is a vital part of being a designer of any kind, understanding that we have the ability to change so much with seemingly inanimate objects.

There is so much involved in this profession, there are countless layers of knowledge to be discovered. Although this subject only scratched the surface, it has definitely given me an incredible excitement and motivation to learn more. 

The Twitter task was a struggle to begin with, as spending time every single day to research seemed a bit much. Looking back I have learnt some amazing things from my short time tweeting, from an incredibly varied number of sources. I have still been reading tweets most days, even if I have slowed down from posting 2 per day. This was a great way to get our minds thinking globally. Quite quickly I expanded my view of what was going on around me to encapsulate topics and subjects I hadn’t even heard of before the class had started.

I enjoyed giving up buying from Coles and Woolworths as I had been toying with the idea for some time before I was given a clear motive to do it. This task, I believe, was supposed to show us that action is never as hard as what we immediately think. To make changes to things we see around us, things we disagree with does not necessarily need to be a huge challenge. I realised once I gave this up that it was actually easier for me to support local farmers than to blindly give my money to Coles and Woolworths. I don’t think this was a stand-alone discovery, I would imagine this could be said about many of the other things students gave up in the past 14 weeks.

 Another great lesson I got from this class is that when proposing a change to someone’s habits, the information in your argument needs to be presented in a very organised, logical way. Making the infographic was a very interesting way of understanding this. I had never searched infographics before and once I started, I realised that they are incredibly efficient ways of both learning and teaching about many different topics.

The second group assignment we had was to further investigate a topic that we believe to have a valid case for activism. This was a much bigger undertaking than the infographic, with much more writing and information to be presented on an enormous poster. Working in a group this time flowed very easily and reinforced for me the benefits to be found in working with like-minded people. It was great to be a part of such an organised, smart and effective team.

The most important new thought process I have discovered is a strong analytical sense. I have started seeing things not just for what they appear to be, but what they represent as far as social and cultural values. Designing with this aspect of thought can only be helpful in what is an incredibly complex industry.


Thanks for the great semester!

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