A few hours into my first day at work as an industrial designer, I was shocked to discover there was no women’s restroom. I was the first woman on a team with 12 men, designing bicycles. I laughed it off at first because it felt too absurd. That week, they converted an unused closet, which became my bathroom. Although this happened in 2004, this kind of injustice and inattention to women is still pervasive.
Design is key to our collective liberation, but most design processes today reproduce inequalities structured by what Black feminist scholars call the matrix of domination. Intersecting inequalities are manifest at all levels of the design process. This paper builds upon the Design Justice Principles, developed by an emerging network of designers and community organizers, to propose a working definition of design justice: Design justice is a field of theory and practice that is concerned with how the design of objects and systems influences the distribution of risks, harms, and benefits among various groups of people. Design justice focuses on the ways that design reproduces, is reproduced by, and/or challenges the matrix of domination (white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, capitalism, and settler colonialism). Design justice is also a growing social movement that aims to ensure a more equitable distribution of design’s benefits and burdens; fair and meaningful participation in design decisions; and recognition of community based design traditions, knowledge, and practices.
Keywords: design, design justice, intersectionality, intersectional feminism, matrix of domination
Costanza-Chock, Sasha, Design Justice: Towards an Intersectional Feminist Framework for Design Theory and Practice (June 3, 2018). Proceedings of the Design Research Society 2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=