Demanding a Better America : Showcasing Design and Social Justice


The paper presentation will address the greater purpose of design to create new opportunities and meaning beyond the needs of the consumer in a corporate setting. It focuses on the existence and cohabitation of an individual in a diverse society who has to adjust based on people's perceptions and marginalization. Design education should include challenging discussions about race and racism, power and privilege, intersectionality, ableism and micro-aggressions since we serve for a diverse and multicultural community. As educators, we need to create a path for students to not only be a good designer with best design skills but make a difference in the civic life of our communities, and be a globally engaged citizen.


  1. Address the current state of design education to include under represented marginalized communities as we reimagine the next 100 years.
  2. Adapt new teaching and research methodologies to be more inclusive of diverse population
  3. Learn new methodologies to deconstruct self-biases and social norms.
  4. Integrating cultural competency in design education beyond corporate ideals, and empowering students to create designs from the heart with empathy and respect.
  5. Accept and respect diversity and inclusion.
  6. Create designs that are honest and authentic and not just another pretty picture to satisfy the consumer.
  7. Introducing design thinking and process to non designers
  8. Conducting interdisciplinary collaborations and research.
  9. Empowering students to become the agents of social change.
  10. Design for social good, design as a tool to address social justice.


It is imperative to address the present state of art and design education as we reimagine the future or the next 100 years. While I accept that higher education should focus on the exploration of digitally engaged learning, it must equally embrace diversity and multiculturalism in the classroom. We need to adopt new teaching and research methodologies to integrate cultural competency, representation of minority communities without stereotyping to create designs that are honest and authentic. Design is a philosophy of life in which designers have to empathize with and respect the diverse communities of people they serve.

Living in the United States for nearly three decades, I have observed and experienced stereotyping and marginalization of minority communities, and have been actively participating in several grass-root organizations in the community addressing these issues. I have been facilitating cross-cultural dialogues about diversity and inclusion, bridging gaps to understand, accept and respect similarities and differences of minority identities in the United States. The paper will present "This is America", a faculty-student-community researched based interdisciplinary collaborative project with the Advanced Honors Seminar: Innovation and Inquiry Art + Social Justice for Presidential Scholars, and Design Streak studio, a pre-professional graphic design capstone course, and the broader community. The eight-week course examined stereotypes and marginalization of minority communities living in the United States. The presentation will describe the teaching methodology, showcase student process work and writing, and images from the collaborative exhibit.

Honors scholars from various majors who had not taken an art course since elementary school actively engaged in conversations about biases, racism, intersectionality, and privilege with graphic design students and community leaders. The "This is America" exhibit is a result of complex discussions, and was inspired by the American musician Donald Glover's video. Design students and I created a total of 104 posters based on reflective writings and drawings by honors students. The floor to ceiling typographic installation is a visual voice demanding change, denouncing injustice, confronting hypocrisy and micro aggressions, and respecting human dignity for building a better America today. The project also invites audiences to join the conversation by recording their thoughts on a comment card to be included in future exhibitions.