Spotlight: Human·Kind

Puncturing Design’s Status Quo

Anna Carnick

Deem’s Nu Goteh speaks with designer and activist Ramon Tejada about embracing plurality and expanding the design narrative

In our special new series 15 Minutes on Design & Human·Kind, we connect with outstanding creatives to explore design-led visions for a more equitable and interconnected world. For the latest installment, Deem Journal cofounder Nu Goteh speaks with Rhode Island-based designer, educator, and activist Ramon Tejada.

Tejada’s work focuses on collaboration, inclusion, unearthing, and the responsible expansion of design in a practice he has named “puncturing.” His ongoing project, The Decolonizing [or puncturing, or de-Westernizing, and SHIFTING] Design Reader, is an ever-growing, collaboratively constructed resource aimed at gathering “materials to begin the process of puncturing and making design narratives inclusive.” Goteh and Tejada sat down to discuss Tejada’s approach and changing the narrative by embracing plurality. Their conversation is presented by Deem Journal.

The Decolonizing Design Reader, an ever-growing resource aimed at making the design world more accessible and inclusive. Courtesy of Ramon Tejada

As Tejada notes at the outset of the above-mentioned reader: “Decolonizing is a term that can mean many things to many people. For me, decolonizing is about making space (sometimes taking space…) to allow people that look like me (especially BIPOC people) to be active and essential participants around the table. It is about physical visibility, structural change, representation (not tokenism), acknowledgement (of ideas, land, values that were stolen, repressed, etc), giving up (taking) space, “responsible expansion” (recognizing what design has ignored and not valued) of narratives, points of view, perspectives, stories, theories, ideas, geographical references (not just of Northern European and American lineages, which erases everybody else’s identity (colonialism), a diversity of lineages (not just the Bauhaus and all it’s grandchildren), etc. It is about unearthing, shifting the glance, [and] decentering;  giving agency, being vulnerable, making mistakes, thinking about our communities (not the design community), thinking about mom/dad/grandparents/your neighbor, our chosen families, acknowledging not knowing and making the periphery the center.” ◆


This series was conceived and curated by Wava Carpenter and Anna Carnick of Design Miami and Anava Projects as an exploration of the Design Miami/ 2021 curatorial theme Human·Kind.

About Human·Kind: As an antidote to our most pressing social and environmental problems, today’s leading-edge design thinking strives to empower traditionally overlooked perspectives while expanding the scope of valued narratives. The process begins with seeing the world for what it is: a network of beings entangled with other beings, whose future is entirely interdependent. The objective is to level hierarchies that elevate humans over other species and to subvert unjust systems that privilege certain people while denying others the full slate of human rights.