Fueled by the promise for innovation and social change, university design programs are more popular than ever. Within the academy, design has infiltrated not only the arts, where it has had considerable influence and longevity, but also departments of engineering and business where it promotes widespread forms of economic development and entrepreneurship. This narrative of empowerment through commerce brings with it underlying disjunctures between design’s rhetoric of plurality and the power structures design tends to reinforce. By separating their work of imaging futures from production work on the factory floor, and by reinforcing the idea that certain people and not others are more suited to the world-building activity associated with design, designers often further entrench the racial and socioeconomic inequalities they often seek to upend.
But how can we — as scholars, activists, artists, designers, engineers, etc. — imagine and do otherwise with and through design? What other pasts and futures might we open, narrate or recover? How might we shift the practice of design to focus on what has previously been marginalized or made invisible?