02.14.23
Dana Arnett + Kevin Bethune | Audio

S10E11: Dori Tunstall


Dr. Elizabeth “Dori” Tunstall is the Dean of the Faculty of Design at Ontario College of Art and Design.

Dori spoke about the restorative possibilities held by design, and future designers:
Design's superpower is its ability to open up other possibilities of how we do things, and see things, and experience things in a way that helps people decide: Ah, this pathway might be better. So the work is equipping our students with the skills and the knowledge and the confidence to be able to do that. And, I would say, educating our clients on the real implications of the decisions that they're making.

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TRANSCRIPT

Kevin Bethune
Welcome to The Design of Business...

Dana Arnett
...The Business of Design.

Kevin Bethune
Where we talk with leaders in their fields.

Dana Arnett
About how innovation, access, and curiosity are redesigning their worlds. I'm Dana Arnett.

Kevin Bethune
And I'm Kevin Bethune.

Dana Arnett
This episode of The Design of Business | The Business of Design is brought to you by Morningstar.

Kevin Bethune
People don't just want financial information. They need to be able to understand it and use it. At Morningstar, great design transforms the way investors interact with financial data. Deeper insights, more personalized strategies, broader definitions of success. Start your journey at Morningstar.com.

Dana Arnett
On today's episode, Decolonizing Design: Its origins, meaning, and impact.

Dori Tunstall
I live in the optimism of design because anything we make, we can remake.

Kevin Bethune
Dr. Elizabeth (Dori) Tunstall is the dean of the Faculty of Design at Ontario College of Art and Design.

Dana Arnett
Her new book, Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook, is being released today, February 14th, via MIT Press.

Kevin Bethune
Dori, welcome to the podcast.

Dori Tunstall
Thank you. I'm so excited to get to speak to you both.

Kevin Bethune
Dori, before I had the privilege of meeting you, I heard about your work when I was engaged in graduate studies at Art Center College of Design. Of course, we then met at the Design Management Institute, DMI, and established a great friendship there, often bumping into each other at several DMI conferences over the years. So I'm so inspired by you, your path, and all that we'll talk about today. But before any of that happened, take us back. What were some of those early creative inclinations when you started your path?

Dori Tunstall
So when I was 11 years old, we had a set of encyclopedias that were a wide range of things, but volume number 11 was "Make and Do". And so during the summer, one summer, I did every single project to which I had materials—I made and did. So anything from like using potatoes as graphics stamps so carving the graphics into the potatoes and making stamps, from building, you know, architectural buildings out of cardboard. So I always loved to make, but I also love to understand people. I was always trying to understand people. And so a lot of my work has been intertwining that. I want to understand why people make things and what are the meanings behind the things that they make. And so that started very early. Again, it's a thing where my family always told me these apocryphal stories about me, where they're like: Well, yeah, but you were doing this at age six, you were trying to figure this out at age two. And so I've been very fortunate to be able to do professionally the things that I love. I still love making things. I still love understanding people and being able to, again, make a living and impact other people through those two things is what I do now and I hope to continue to do.

Kevin Bethune
Absolutely. You're always making an incredible impact. But I heard you in one of your interviewees mentioned neuroscience — that was an early curiosity.

Dori Tunstall
Well, and again, that was just I wanted to understand how people think. And that was one way to do it. And I was on that path pretty seriously until I took my first anthropology class at Bryn Mawr College, and it was actually physical anthropology. So I mostly took it because I thought: Oh, if I'm going to be a doctor, I should understand different cultures and how they think about medicine. And I ended up spending a lot of time drawing because this is before you had 3D printing. So I would spend my time actually in the bone labs actually drawing the morphology of the bones. And so for a while I thought: Oh, maybe I'll I'll be a medical illustrator, right, to bring it all together. But I took an anthropology class and I realized — Oh, there's a whole other way besides the blinking of synopses to your understand how people think and why they are the way they are. And if I follow that pathway, it could be much more expansive, right? Like I get to travel all these different places, I get to meet all these different people and I get to learn how and why they think that they do and not just why something is flicking on or flicking off in their brains.

Dana Arnett
So let's-let's talk a little bit about finding your people, because the words design and anthropology generally aren't seen together and talk about how those two worlds came together.

Dori Tunstall
So, it's a moment where I never really felt like I completely belonged in anthropology. Because I was again, very strongly interested in visuals and in anthropology you can do some photography, but really it's about the words. And I got in a lot of trouble with my Ph.D. because each chapter of my Ph.D. was designed- I did my Ph.D. in Ethiopia, and each chapter was designed based on the visual vernacular of the place. So like in Harar, which is on the Islamic East, that chapter was designed to look like Koranic suras. And then one chapter on Axum in the North, that was where they tell the story of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba and that kind of graphic strip. And so there was an entire chapter that's just graphic stripped. And so my advisors at Stanford had no idea what to do with me. I think they said, we're just assuming you're a genius and kind of let you pass.

Dana Arnett
That's a good start.

Kevin Bethune
That's good.

Dori Tunstall
So my first job-job was at Sapient Corporation. But actually, the way to understand it is that at the time I actually started at E-Lab and E-lab again at the height of the dot com boom was the one group that was trying to figure out in many ways like what consumer objects and services and processes really mean to people. So I had actually watched this show called Business Unusual, and they actually had a profile on E-Lab. and so as I was finishing up my Ph.D., I thought, that sounds a much more interesting thing to do with my Ph.D. than becoming a professor in an anthropology program. So I wrote them and said: Hey, I'm getting this newly minted Ph.D. anthropology from Stanford University. I love what you are doing, can I be a part of it? And that that was enough for them to say yes. They flew me out to Chicago. In the process of them hiring me, they had been acquired by Sapient. And so what I love is that I got to be one of the technically the second generation of anthropologists to try to figure out what is this new fangled Internet going to mean to how people work and how they play and how they interact and how they do business. And sometimes I'm still shocked by things that we drew on whiteboards to try to understand, you know, like again, what is this all mean to people and where we are now in terms of now we're beyond people. We're talking about artificial intelligence drawing and painting and doing all these things for you. But it was a thing when I first walked in to then Sapient and I met the design teams. It was a thing where, as we were working through, again, how do you do multidisciplinary engagement on a project — I'm like, these are my people because they were trying to understand how things work, the systems, the things work, and then what form you give it so that it could communicate in many ways better to other people. And that was a lot of like even going to my dissertation, I was trying to figure out if I'm supposed to give this back to the community I'm working in, if it's like a whole block of text there, you're not going to be able to engage with that. But if I give it back to them in a form that they can embrace, then they're actually able to critique what I'm doing and engage with what I am doing and communicate better, right, with the audience I'm trying to embrace. And so, so when I think I went and I met Ken Anderson, who was working at Intel Corporation at the time, and he had on his business card design anthropologist, and that was like: Now I know who I am. There is a term and there is a community, and—

Dana Arnett
I found my archetype.

Dori Tunstall
Yeah. What's beautiful now is that when I started there were still hard distinctions. But like when I think of the way in which, let's say my industrial design students or my graphic design students are being trained now at OCAD University, there's no distinction at all. Like they're-they're a pure anthropologist in terms of like understanding people and doing the research, and they're pure designers in terms of like knowing how to give them forms that, you know, are effective and efficient and beautiful and all these things. And there's no distinction in their mind or in their practice between those two things.

Kevin Bethune
That's wonderful. It's such a unique and interesting story, navigating from this PhD experience to really the intersection of design, innovation and big business, as you mentioned E-Lab, Sapient, and then you were also at Arc Worldwide as well.

Dori Tunstall
Yeah.

Kevin Bethune
I can't imagine you were handed a playbook and said, do this. It sounds like you had that really like find that work as you were doing it, is that correct?

Dori Tunstall
Yeah. And there is one moment where for our project and this is I talk I like to talk about this because you also get a sense of the shift. So this is one of our first projects kind of a big projects at Sapient, and they put us all together. And so I was like the user experience modeler, right? That was the term —experience modeler. And we had graphic designer, and then we had a two MBAs in there, one who was more process oriented and one who is like, okay, let's figure out the business model. We had a content strategist, an information architect, a videographer, because we all went out and did video ethnographies. So it was like we had a team of like nine people who were literally thrown in a room and said, figure out how to work together. And there were real tears, real frustrations, but we all figured it out. And the way in which we did is I remember putting on the whiteboard: mode, activities, and tasks. And so mode was like: Okay, this is all the stuff that like again, the business strategists are really interested in, this is all the stuff that again, the user experience modelers are interested in. And even, you know, like again, the graphic designers, information architect. Activities, these are the things all the designers are interested in because again, they're the ones who have to support the activities that need to happen. And then the task this is where the engineers come on because it's a thing that's like: Oh yeah, like an activity is that they have to be able to tell time, but I need to know what way they need to do that so they can make sure we're programing the right thing. And so-so modes, activity and tasks in some ways became a way to translate: Okay, we've talked to all of these people, right, user research into the specific types of decisions, design decisions, engineering decisions that everyone in the team needed to be able to make. And then why that moment was so special is that again, you go a year and a half later and you would have where we had a team of like nine people, you would have that same task needing to be done all worked together, but it was five because we had all both cross-trained enough in each other's thinking that, you know, the organizations as the dot com boom began to bust. So we can't afford to have nine people in the room trying to figure this out. But we had enough cross-training and understanding of each other's practices that we could figure the overlaps again with five people instead of the nine.

Kevin Bethune
Got it. In that early work as you're finding your niche with design, anthropology in the context of these teams, as you described, was there parts of this design practice that rubbed you wrong as you were working? Or conversely, did you start to see patterns of opportunity that made sense to you?

Dori Tunstall
There is a lot wrong. I guess the things that are wrong are the things that are still wrong in terms of like diversity, equity, and inclusion. And, you know, and again, we're not going heavy in the book, but even in the book, I talk about that that sense of optimism of saying, oh my gosh, these technologies are going to be so powerful, what does it mean to be, you know, this black woman who's going in there and trying to figure out how to make this work for my community and the kinds of issues that they have and finding the space not really ready for that, ready for users. And again, you know, working in Chicago, we could recruit for diversity in ways of like we had projects where we we're like, actually we just need people who can speak Ukrainian, Farsi, whatever, and you can find that in Chicago and have that kind of diversity there. So it wasn't being able—the problem wasn't being able to have access to that diversity in the work that we did. But again, the challenge was then how did that translate into some of the business decisions that were being made way above our pay grade? And again, the advantage of being a user experience modeler is that you have a little bit of control over the narrative that you're telling about the people that this company is meant to support. But this is the part where, like, you're-you're an influencer, you're not a decider as a consultant, right. And there is heartbreaking moments where you're like: We told you about this, right. When you see the outcomes, because again, some of those outcomes are quite harmful to the communities again, that you're hoping this technology could embrace. And then I think in terms of the teams, you know, like again, I talk about being a super token, right? And the fact that like, and again, large corporations — so it's not like you're the only one in the entire corporation, but you might be the only one in the office, right? Or the only one in your division. And it's not the same in the sense that people are like, okay, so you have to tell us all about the user experience of black people. Like, people are sophisticated enough around that, but there are slights that happen and ways in which you felt excluded. Again, I-I could say openly, since I've talked about it, I've had experiences of bullying. And so those aspects are the ones that still need to be fixed in business, right? But the work is being done, right. This is the work is being done.

Kevin Bethune
I guess what I'm about to ask, I think we've started to cover some of this already in this discussion. But there's a push and pull between thoughtfully applying design craft and the thinking with and in conjunction with a lot of the commercial and capitalist forces at play that drive businesses forward. So maybe for yourself, as you reflect in your experience before OCAD, as well as how you think about your students even now as they're navigating, how do you find the balance?

Dori Tunstall
So for me, you know, I've worked for large corporations. I worked for, you know, small institutions. And for me, the underlying decision making around whether I'm going to engage with this or not, is: that within the position I hold, do I have the potential to help people make better decisions? And by better, I mean, again, just equitable, sustainable, etc., right. And I always used to tell my students from the design anthropology programs was like, I don't want you to necessarily go work for Greenpeace. You know, I want you to go work I mean, like you may not go work for Halliburton maybe some areas in which, you know, you may not want to go there — but I talk about the fact that, you know, again, when I was at Arc Worldwide, one of the projects I signed up for was actually the U.S. Army. And I signed up for it because in my family we have African-American men. One of the pathways to social and economic mobility has been through the military. Again, we have various experiences in the military, both positive and negative. And the the brief in some ways was to actually help provide more relevant information to the influencers, which in this case was like the parents and caretakers of these adults, right, who are beginning to make decisions about whether they wanted to go into the military or not. And again I think about like my aunts and my grandmother and my cousin, like how much more they would have been reassured if they were given the information that they really needed when they went to the website, right. And so that's the thing where there were some other team members who gave me flak for like, why are you going to work for the US Army? And they do this X, Y, and Z. And I said, because there's two things— there's enough moral ambiguity for me to sort of see if I can find that space where my presence can help make the situation better. And that's what I normally tell my students about that balance, right. So again, we're still a little bit far away for overthrowing capitalism. And I'm not going down the road of like compassionate capitalism — capitalism by itself is structured, it is meant to ignore certain things and extract certain things, right, by its nature. But again, is there a potential by your presence to make a shift or a change if you're engaging in this commercial enterprise? Because again, like people want and need stuff. So the not making of stuff is not the solution. But can we make stuff, again, better? Can we make sure it's distributed to more people in ways that are not polluting to the environment, right. All of these hard questions about how we live and what we care for. And, you know, to me, I always say, like, you know, issues of capitalism, socialism, all these sort of things is down to really the basics of like, how is it that you're going to survive, right. And even if you're past survival mode, how is it that you're going to get to flourishing? So you have to engage with those systems that exist so that you understand them enough to be able to hack or find the vulnerabilities in them, to make other decisions, to create other possibilities. And again, this is design's superpower. Design's superpower is its ability to open up other possibilities of how we do things and see things and experience things in a way that helps people decide, ah, this pathway might be better. So the work is equipping our students with the skills and the knowledge and the confidence to be able to do that. And, I would say, educating our clients on the real implications of the decisions that they're making. Because I always say I feel bad in some ways for like business people whose decisions are really based on is this arrow going up or this arrow going down. Like because you've removed all of the nuance, right? That would actually help them make a better, more nuanced decision. So in what ways we can, again, package that complexity that doesn't overload them, that helps them tap into their own compassion and humanity and connectivity to all the things around them. Then hopefully we're creating the conditions for for better decision making..

Dana Arnett
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Nancy Essex
I'm Nancy Essex. I'm Director of Design for the Wealth Division of Morningstar.

Kevin Bethune
Nancy brings her own design experience to Morningstar.

Nancy Essex
Morningstars always been on my radar as a designer and as a designer who lives in Chicago. Morningstar's commitment to design is kind of legendary, really. Morningstar's mission of empowering investor success really relies on design for that empowerment. One project that my team has been working on lately is called direct indexing. It's a new offering from Morningstar for advisors. My team is focused on advisor experience and direct indexing has been a big push for us and it really just allows investors more choice in their portfolios and allows advisors to offer more choice to their investors. Advisors need to feel like the product is intuitive, easy to use, easy to understand, and when they feel that way, they can present to their investors their clients with confidence. Design is an integral part of all of this. Advisors really need to feel like the experience is easy for them and intuitive, and although they're experts in their field and at their jobs, they need to be able to easily understand the workflows. And so design is critical in making sure that these experiences are are intuitive and delightful.

Dana Arnett
Morningstar Design. Shaping long term goals at the intersection of design and Investing. Find out more at Morningstar.com slash careers.

Dana Arnett
So, Dori, you've toggled back and forth either by blessing or a curse between academia and the world of capitalism.

Dori Tunstall
Everyone says it's like it's like academia is still operates under a capitalist system.

Dana Arnett
Yeah, I guess. I guess, yeah. It's just a nuance distinction, I suppose. But, you know, you went from my backyard here at UIC to Melbourne, Swinburne University in Australia, and then between there you were working in professional settings, probably both sets of experiences informing one another. I'm curious, what did those academic curriculums and work settings look like back then and what do they look like now?

Dori Tunstall
The way my mind works, I'm a super synthesizer and I say that to say is that what I normally focus on are patterns of similarities as opposed to patterns of differences. So the answer to any of that kind of question is like, not much. Becuase I'll pick up on the patterns of similarities. What I have found to be fascinating when I chart my career back and forth between academia and industry is that they operate in more similar ways than we give them credit for.

Dana Arnett
Right.

Dori Tunstall
For example, you know, again, I run a 14 million, $15 million budget. I make hiring and firing decisions. It's high. It is harder for me to fire people. But, you know, I make hiring, firing decisions.

Dana Arnett
Right.

Dori Tunstall
I have to deal with like, do you have enough money? And again, there's a group of people, but do we have enough money and do we have enough equipment? Do we have enough space? Do we have the capacity? So at my level as a dean, I'm basically like a little mini CEO in this organization trying to figure out how I get from where we are to a more flourishing future. All of these skills that I learned through working in consultancies and-and again, Sapient was such an amazing place to learn because again, it was fixed time fixed price, which meant all of our accounting systems were from like the big five. And so those are my systems. Like, everyone's like,.

Dana Arnett
Right.

Dori Tunstall
How do you how do you understand spreadsheets so well? I was like, because our survival depended on our ability to work within these spreadsheets. And so I had to understand them in order to not be crushed by them. I spent the first year of OCAD sending out these dispatches I called them, long emails, explaining to my faculty how the finances of the institution actually worked and how their decision to run a class or not run a class had economic impact on what was going on in the rest of the university. So for me, the movement back and forth for me is always the question of where's the next challenge, right? Where is it that my experience and my talents can make? It's not even a bigger impact because it's not for me. Sometimes it's not about scale, where the impact can create the most positivity and the most healing for that institution or that engagement. So my movement back and forth is just like, again, when I was at Stanford, I saw one pathway and I knew what that was going to look like, but it's like: Oh my gosh, look at what these people are doing with anthropology and trying to figure out this thing with technology. That to me is going to be a more interesting challenge than teaching, I don't know about different cultures in a 300 person lecture on an anthropology class on a campus somewhere, right?

Dana Arnett
Right.

Dori Tunstall
My movement back from industry to academia was really again coming to UIC was: Oh, we need another pathway because you no longer need necessarily a Stanford Ph.D. to figure these things out. Like the work that we did at Sapient was trying to figure out how to make that work more accessible to a wider number of people, which is why you have, you know, you could go from ten people to five people because of that cross-fertilization, right? Also to figure out, like, how do I create a set of master students who could do the level of thinking that I had been doing in corporations without having to spend the additional time to get a Ph.D. to do it. And then back and forth again. It's like my next transition from academia in-back into industry to a certain extent, is really about like the thing that I wanted to do in academia I've kind of done, and a lot of things would be asking me to do the same thing in other places. And while that is a challenge in and of itself, I would say that's probably not enough challenge for me. So right now, taking what I've done at OCAD University and bringing that back into industry in a way that again, partnering with institutions that are extremely impactful in their own leadership like that to me is like that's, that's where my experience and talents can be most useful.

Dana Arnett
Would you define that as leadership?

Dori Tunstall
Yeah. Well, I've been thinking a lot about this because, you know, like everyone's giving me my flowers now, and my way to deflect is to talk about the fact that we focus on the leader. But a leader is only leader because there are people who choose to follow. So in some ways, I'm more interested in why is it that people have chosen to follow, which is to say that for me, yes, the aspects of it is leadership. But for me it's mostly like, how do I — it's more about how I create communities that share the values that I have and how do I use design to communicate it? How do I use all my powers of understanding people to-to meet people where they are and to show them how they could be even more than who they are? And so I think of it more of like, I just have these really shifting and expanding communities of people who share the values that I have for how the world should and could be.

Kevin Bethune
So as dean of the Faculty of Design at Ontario College of Art and Design University, often I've heard you speak about some of your students, in particular nonwhite students, feeling uncomfortable navigating the profession of design and maybe feeling like they have to actually tone down or strip away their identity to fit a mold of what they view as being an accepted set of customs, behaviors, what have you, to navigate the design world. What do you think about that?

Dori Tunstall
Well, again, if you still look at the surveys, you know, like professional design is still 60, in some cases, 70% still white. The gender balance depending on the field is getting definitely getting better. And there are some areas where, again, you have like 65% of those who identify their gender as female or non-binary. But it's still-that still means and again, this is changing really rapidly. So it's always something I feel like I should be so careful because it's a thing where, you know, I can make that statement much more strongly, five years ago. I could talk about the alienation of my students, the feeling that if they're not a Swiss white man in their forties, that they need to learn how to become one, right. And leave all behind the thinking and the traditions and the practices and things that they grew up with, right. Because unless you are a Swiss male in the forties or again, some variation of that, you know, in terms of like what we call the modern ascetic, right, you were told to survive that you have to not be yourself. But again, I say five, six years later, our students not only don't feel that alienation, they are every day holding us accountable for any exclusion that we may create in their curriculum, in their practice, our inability to help with their conceptual thinking and bring it to the next level in a cultural competent way. So that's changed rapidly, again, let's say I say within the context of the OCAD U world that I live in, but I'm seeing that echoed in other places as well. And the big work that's being done now, which is I think why I'm really interested in that move back to industry, is that ok all of those young people will need to get a job. And I want to make sure that I've done the work to help those institutions and organizations that they want to work for not crush who they are, because they've in in many ways, they've learned in these last four years of their design education in many places, how to be free. How to be free to be them, and use that freedom to drive their creative practices, drive the meaning behind the designs that they do. And so the onus is on now these design businesses to not crush that, because you're not going to get their creativity, you're not going to get their innovation, you're not going to get their passion if you stop them from being who they are when they know, right, they've tasted freedom — so they're not going to go they're not going to go back they're just going to leave the field and find some other way to make a living and explore their creativity, right. And it's easier for them to do that now, right. It's easier for them to set up the string of gigs or things that they need to do where they don't have to rely on a medium or large firm in order to make the kind of living that they want to make because they're also not as, they're not as tied to the ideals of success that we've been accustomed to or we've been told that you should have.

Dana Arnett
So, Dori, in your new book, Decolonizing Design, congratulations again, you explore how modernist design is often encompassed in advance the harmful project of colonization. And you also share how design educators and practitioners can address and recenter these harms. Can you talk a little bit more about this dichotomy and how you're infusing respectful design methods into the OCAD curriculum in your projects?

Dori Tunstall
So again, in the book, I talk about the two myths of the European based modern design project, and I talk about it as a project because it was a project, but it was a project about like how we create a better world. And in the context of Europe, the better world they wanted to create was utopian. They were like: Hey, we've had thousands and thousands of years of European conflict between these small city states and nations and whatever, and it's like, what if — just brainstorming here, what if we let that all go and see ourselves as part of a universal humankind? In the context of Europe, where you had thousands and thousands of years of aristocracy basically extracting everything from everyone around the world, right, creating a peasant, then working class underclass. What if we actually in some ways found a way to redistribute the aspects of a good life— good food, furniture that doesn't fall apart on you, housing that you know, keeps you from catching the pneumonia or plague or whatever is happening — what if we created made things that, again, were cheap enough that people would be able to afford them? So beautiful, beautiful vision of the world, right. That when you then export that vision to the Americas, we export that vision to Africa, to India, the who is supposed to be within that world shifts. And so you make things cheaper because you've taken the land of the people. And to justify taking the land you create conditions of genocide, right. To make things cheaper, you enslave people so that you don't have to pay them directly for their labor. And that lowers the price, right? That lowers the price, but not for those communities, right, who have been significantly harmed by this to an ideal that's embodied in design, right. Universal humankind. Again, the idea of like a French person, an Italian person, like, you know, drop the pretense, we are all one is fine. But when you export that and you say indigenous people, we are going to put you in boarding schools to separate you from your culture as children. Then that becomes cultural genocide. So the problem is not the European vision, the problem is like, okay, it's the implementation, right? The way in which they sought to do that was harmful because it wasn't inclusive of like if they had entered in more complexity, it was saying: How can we make this work for us and the indigenous people? Right. Then we would hve a different set of systems, we would have a different set of designs, we would have had a different set of solutions around it, but they didn't. And so that ethos is built into our understanding of like the Bahaus, which we talk about all the time as like the pinnacle of modernism. And when our young people, right, when our young people learn, you know, the other side of that, they are hurt. They are hurt because all of this beauty, right, all of this style was based on the blood, sweat, tears, trauma, hurt, harm of their community. So how that changes your relationship to those objects, it changes your relationship to the esthetics, it changes your relationship to design because you don't want to be a part of that tradition. But when you say again, it's like the vision is not the problem, it's the implementation of it. So then like again, we are designers, we can figure out new systems and new possibilities. So a lot of what I'm trying to talk about is like: Okay, how do we begin to change — how do we change the implementation? We do want things to be cheaper for people to be able to afford. Is there a way in which we can do that where the cheapness is not based on extraction of the land and exploitation of the people? What an amazing design challenge for us to figure out, right. Again, can we reintroduce multiple diversities, because the problem with like being the French versus the English versus the Portuguese versus the whatever is it wasn't the fact that they were different. It was the fact that they were stacked in this hierarchy, which said basically for the most part, the English is first and at the top and the rest of you need to get in line. If we remove the hierarchy and allow for there to be again, a biodiversity of design and making and respect, then all of a sudden we see those differences as beautiful and enhancing as opposed to competitive and and harmful. Because the notion of like my design esthetic tradition can only exist is if I erase yours, if I exterminate yours. So the two things we're really working on is like, again, how do we allow for difference without hierarchy? And there's a lot of people doing that work just by bringing the diversity in, bringing — And look, it's not destroying anything. It's this is going to be okay, you can learn. And then, you know, on the other side of it is again, figuring out these these real challenges. Again, that balance between how do we make a living and how do we make a better world, and can we get those two things in alignment. Because right now how we make a living is actually helping to create a world that is unjust, harmful, and is killing everything and everyone. Right? This is the part where I go, I don't get it. As we know this is leading to destruction. So why don't we stop the destruction, right.

Dana Arnett
Dori, I often, when I'm sitting with my design teams and we're actually creating, I'll reference this old adage when uplifting get underneath, which for me is code language for the methods and approaches that folks like you and I take when we're going deeper and broader into the problem solving space. I think you actually referred to it as the superpower of design.

Dori Tunstall
Yeah.

Dana Arnett
You know what design not only is, but what it can be. So is that a fair way of describing how design and design anthropologists thinks and then applies their crafts? And if so, does that give you hope for future generations and cultures of designers?

Dori Tunstall
It does. And again, you know, I was out giving a big talk two weeks ago to the design team at Nike. So John Hoke has his design cafe — and one of the things that I was trying to convey to them is that, again, designers we are the people who make everything in the world. The decisions we make make a huge difference in what we see, what we feel, what we experience. And the challenge we have right now is that the underlying values between what we make is not aligned with the world in which we want to make right now. So right now we're focused on efficiency or we're focused on, you know, like the whole idea of making things cheaper, which on one hand great, because it's more accessible for people. But most of the time that cheapness comes at the exploitation of people's labor, because labor is normally the most expensive thing or, you know, super extraction from the land. But again, if there's the one group who's going to help redesign the possibilities of those, how we engage people in our processes, so it's not exploitative, how we make different choices about the materials that we use and how and why we use and what we use — designer are still the people who make those decisions, even if they're being directed by someone else. At a certain point, you decide, I'm going to use this material versus this material, and that has impact on the world. I mean, one of the advantages of being a professor is that I see the future every single day in the work of the students. I see what they care about and they care about using their design to make the world more fair and just and equitable and sustainable. And so I live in the optimism of design because anything we make, we can remake. And it's just creating the conditions of possibility where designers feel that they can make things that are more, again, just and equitable and relevant and sustainable and connecting. And so the work that I try to do is to try to help create those conditions to allow designers to design more freely within those values.

Kevin Bethune
I truly hope that our field comes to grips, that much of our design pedagogy has been informed by very small epicenters in the world where creativity collided with tremendous power, privilege, revolutions in technology and industrialization. So we have a responsibility to connect that or any of our work really to the threads of systemic inequity, and opened our aperture to embrace a radically wide, diverse set of perspectives. I think I saw you wrote this notion of old ways of knowing. Like really bringing that front and center that exist across this beautiful world in so many rich varieties and that make up the mosaic that is, you know, global culture. But your work consistently reminds me that we have so much to learn and we're barely just getting started. And I guess the final question is like, where do you see this work leading you and us into the future?

Dori Tunstall
I am aspiring to two things. I'm aspiring to more fearlessness because I feel that it is our fear that is causing us to do harm to feel like we need to protect. So I'm aiming for more fearlessness because, you know, if you know more, if you experience more, then you might be less afraid of future possibilities because you have the ability to imagine ones that are again, more equitable, etc., etc.. So I'm, I'm aiming towards more fearlessness. The other thing that I think you know like among particularly here in Toronto you know, like the the Haudenosaunee, the Confederacy, you know, the Haudenosaunee, there's this notion of like all my relations and we talk about it specifically here as like an Haudenosaunee way of a good life. But it's for me, it's that we just need deeper interconnectivity. Because again, the other brilliant thing about designers is that we are able to hold so much complexity together and to find a solution that addresses all of those what seems to be contradictory complexities. And if we just add, again, wwe're just adding more to the mix, adding equity, adding justice, adding our relationship to the environment, So we just adding those, those conditions, those constraints, which again, I always feel like designers, what we do well is we find the freedom within the constraints, we find the space for freedom in the constraints. And so that's what I'm hoping that the field moves towards more, right, is how do we design for all my relations? And again, our role as designers is holding that complexity, the constraints of those complexities in a way that creates the right balance of solutions.

Dana Arnett
Dr. Dori Tunstall, thank you for sharing your thoughtful and fearless story with all our listeners.

Dori Tunstall
Thank you.

Kevin Bethune
Thank you for joining us.

Kevin Bethune
The Design of Business | The Business of Design as a podcast from Design Observer. Our website is D-B-B-D dot Design Observer dot com. There you can find more about our guest today, Dr. Dori Tunstall, plus the complete archive from past guests and hosts. To listen, go to DBBD dot Design Observer dot com.

Dana Arnett
If you like what you heard today, please subscribe to this podcast. You can find The Design of Business | The Business of Design in Apple Podcasts, or however you listen to podcasts.

Kevin Bethune
And if you are already a subscriber to the podcast, tell your friends about the show or go to Apple Podcasts and rate us, which is a great way to let other people know about the show.

Dana Arnett
And thank you again to our partner Morningstar for making this conversation possible. Experience the intersection of design and investing at Morningstar.com. In between episodes, you can keep up with Design Observer on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Kevin Bethune
Our producer is Adina Karp. Judybelle Camangyan edits the show. Betsy Vardell is Design Observer's executive producer. Our theme music is by Mike Errico. Thanks, as always to Design Observer founder Jessica Helfand and other previous hosts Ellen McGirt and Michael Bierut.

Dana Arnett
See you next time.

Kevin Bethune
Talk to you then.

Posted in: Design of Business | Business of Design, Education , Graphic Design, Illustration




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