September Livestream Follow-Up: Designing With vs. Designing For

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The Darkest Horse continues its monthly YouTube Livestream! Each month, TDH brings a timely topic to discuss, dissect, and engage with! In August, we hosted a discussion on “Inclusive Return-to-Work Strategies” with TDH Co-founder Rada Yovovich, TDH collaborator Maya Toussaint, and guest Suzi Lilley! Check out the recap if you missed it! 

For September, we hosted a conversation on “Designing With vs. Designing For:  Lessons in building DEIA futures.” In this session, we speak to your inner “designer,” whether you’re designing products, events, programs, or organizational ways of working! We explored the importance of “designing with” rather than “designing for,” participatory design, and designing through an equity and inclusion lens.

Check out the livestream recording here!

If you’re interested in looking at your work through an equity-centered design lens, reach out and ask about TDH’s “Designing for Inclusion” Workshop, or learn more about our “Design Experiences!”

Our September discussion included the following contributors: 

Chanté Martínez Thurmond (she/ella)She’s a cis, straight, Black, mixed-race, Latina woman, and she resides in the unceded territories of The Council of Three Fires (colonially known as Chicago). 

fahad punjwani (he/they) They’re a queer Desi immigrant, working in the United States on a Visa. They identify in between a cis-presenting person and a non-binary individual. They reside on the land of the Karankawa, Sana, and Atakapa tribes (colonially known as Houston, Texas).

Bri Barnett (they/she)They’re a White, Ashkenazi Jewish, non-binary, Trans woman. They’re based on Ohlone land (colonially known as Berkely, California).

What are the Characteristics of Designing With vs For? 

BB: “Designing with is foundational at my company, Trans Lifeline. We’re a peer support hotline for trans people where all of the operators are trans. In designing with, we’ll never contact the police if a caller is having suicidal thoughts so that person can actually have an honest conversation with us, peer to peer.” 

fp: “I’m a practitioner of human-centered design, which is rooted in empathy to solve a problem and offer a solution for a community. The limitation is the assumption that a designer has the power and privilege to design for a broader community.”

To design is to be a part of a planning process! We’re all designers, whether we’re designing a simple morning routine or a complex business process.

What Makes Designing-With Hard?

fp: “I was involved in a participatory design process for a county. In order to educate everyone, we had several town halls. It took much longer than a traditional delegatory process. In designing with, you have to move at the speed of trust rather than the speed of the market.” 

CT: “There should always be space for education in designing with. I can’t assume that you come to the table with the same information that I have.”

Designing-with means bringing the community that’s receiving the solution into the center of the design process. It’s a collaborative process by nature.

Why Does This Topic Matter Now? 

fp: “At TDH, we believe that outcomes shape processes. So far, the outcomes have been supremacist and racist. It’s time to reflect on our processes to promote change and design with. There’s a lot of power hoarding in designing for that needs to end.” 

BB: “This topic has always mattered, especially now as we as a society have come to question institutions like the police and government. Our system is reaching a breaking point, and it’s time for a radical shift. Let’s get to work.” 

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About the Author(s)

Rada Yovovich, MBA
Chanté Martinez Thurmond, MA, BSN, RYT-200

Co-Founders of The Darkest Horse™