Design Activism: Developing Models, Modes and Methodologies of Practice

The forthcoming issue of the IDEA Journal is calling for contributions in the form scholarly essays, visual essays and theorized creative practice on the topic of design activism. The guest editor of this issue is Lorella Di Cintio, PhD, a faculty member in the School of Interior Design at Ryerson University. She has been educated in Canada, United States, and Europe in the fields of Interior Design, Architecture, and Philosophy. Her research focuses primarily on design activism and social responsibility and she is the founder of The Design Change = Exchange Initiative.

The living conditions of First Nations communities, food security concerns, access to clean safe water, domestic violence – seemingly disparate subjects can be, and are being, connected to interior design teaching and practice. Such issues are particularly linked to the ongoing discussions of designers working within the new global design paradigm. There is evidence that a range of worthwhile initiatives have been undertaken by design professionals who choose to pursue socially responsible practices, and by educators and practitioners who are intentionally shifting away from a focus on pure aesthetics and market-driven practices.

Dissatisfied with what they perceive as an overemphasis by the design community on aesthetics and its failure to meaningfully address the design needs of at-risk and low-income communities, several academics and practitioners have started to incorporate social justice issues into their design research and teaching – while a number of independent design practitioners are involving themselves in activism.

Design activism is a combined entity of aesthetics and ethics. It is transdisciplinary, it incorporates mixed media, and it is inspired by the ethics of socio-political activism and community building. Several design activists have partnered with the design profession and specific political agencies to create design solutions that meet the needs of politically, economically, and socially disadvantaged communities, but initiatives are sporadic. In order to make what are now essentially grassroots initiatives a part of the mainstream, models and methodologies for action need to be developed within the design academy. As guest editor, this call is shaped by my desire to make ethics a more central component of interior design practice and pedagogy.

This journal’s theme calls for a rethinking of interior design pedagogy and a review of current practices found in design activism. For instance, the author(s) could consider and highlight noteworthy projects of scholars whose pedagogy and critical work is linked with activism, and/or respond to pedagogical shifts found in the field of design activism, particularly as they emerge in and relate to the discipline of interior design/interior architecture.

The goals of this call are two-fold: to promote debate, discussion and theorization among designers, design academics and various segments of the general public about the place of ethics and activism in design, and to contribute to the development of knowledge that focuses on embedding design activism into the design curriculum and design profession. The overall objective of the call is to encourage a shift towards activism in interior design theory and design education.

The Idea Journal accepts design research papers, refereed studios, project reviews, visual essays, and book and exhibition reviews.

Authors are invited to register their interest in submitting a paper on the form following and forward by e-mail to Executive Editor Suzie Attiwill by October 21, 2013 at Registration of interest is not refereed. The acknowledgement of registration facilitates development of a proposal to full research paper, refereed studio, visual essay or project review by providing formatting guidelines and publication standards to registrants.

Registration of interest including a 50-word abstract and image if appropriate is due by October 21, 2013. Acknowledgement will be issued by mid-November 2013, and the deadline for submission of a full draft is February 24, 2014.

For more information, please visit