Re-Design for Liberation
The BLD PNW Conference is the largest gathering of Certified B Corporations in the Pacific Northwest. Through connection, reflection, and inspiration, the conference motivates participants to find ways of making a positive impact through business.
I had the honor of designing and executing a painting for the 2020 BLD PNW conference. Using the term "re-design" as a framework, I created a painting that encouraged attendees to critically examine the creations of our world and re-design them toward liberation.
Designer & Painter
In the 1930s, redlining maps color-coded neighborhoods based on their desirability to banks and investors. The result: many low-income, and predominantly Black and Latinx communities were and continue to be cut off from the advantages and resources of wealthy white communities. In some cities, prominent armrests and curved edges are added on bench designs to discourage people who are homeless from sleeping there. And each day, people with disabilities struggle to access and navigate buildings and products that were not designed with them in mind. These are just some of the countless forms of oppression designed into society's solutions.
Throughout history, and still today, oppressive systems have been enforced by design. Businesses in particular hold immense power in their design choices.
How can I inspire business leaders to re-design the world around them? What does a re-designed world look like?
Breaking Down "Re-Design"
I felt inspired by the phrase "re-design," but did I fully understand what this meant or why it was important? I guided myself into a brainstorming activity to consider the term "re-design" in all its contexts.
From this exercise, I found that re-designing meant creating designs that liberate marginalized groups.
There are countless forms of design, so I created a symbolic sketch that represents the initial step of almost every design process: writing ideas on paper.
Liberation also looks different for each living being, but to fully achieve it, we must think outside our usual practices and normalcies. I visualized this action through the gesture of ripping the paper with the pencil, giving freedom to the beautiful nature that lies beneath.
Initial painting sketch
Re-Designing my Re-Design Sketch
After consulting with other designers and those at the conference, it was clear my message wasn't getting through. "What is the pencil cutting into?" and "Why are plants coming out of the opening?" were some of the pressing questions for reviewers.
Ironically enough, my sketch was in need of a re-design. I needed to provide more context to make the painting visually accessible. I added more living beings and strong typography to capture the essence of liberation.
Second painting sketch
Capturing the Vision
I established a color theme and painted my sketch onto the canvas. As I progressed, I found more opportunities to "re-design" and made these tweaks where necessary.
Inspire and Mobilize
I recorded the entire 12-hour process and compiled it into a timelapse. This timelapse was presented to over 150 attendees from top B Corporations across the Pacific Northwest.