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SIG Pluriversal Design

The focus of the Pluriversal Design SIG is to create a liberatory and radical space in the design research community to promote/create inter-cultural and pluralistic conversations about design. The work of this group aims to highlight and bring together multiple perspectives in design, including multiple epistemological positions and forms of design education and practice, especially from those commonly oppressed by and excluded from mainstream design narratives.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2007) argues that the modern patriarchal-capitalist worldview creates invisible and radical lines that divide social reality into two realms, the realm of ‘this side of the line’ (the developed world, the West or the Centre) and the realm of ‘the other side of the line’ (the Rest, using Stuart Hall’s term). Design practices from the ‘other side of the line’, can be understood as practices from designers outside of North-America and Western Europe, or outside the ‘dominant’ design culture. Design practices from ‘the other side of the line’ are not only excluded by mainstream design narratives but are often oppressed by mainstream design practices.

As part of an emancipatory process (Freire, 1970), the Pluriversal Design SIG also aims to create a platform for discussions around unlearning the productivist objective of design in order to find goals and values for a different type of design practice that is not born out of the patriarchal-capitalist worldview. 

This SIG aims to intersect and discuss the concerns and issues of practitioners, researchers and educators who are from or whose work focuses on populations that do not operate under modern western thinking. Those populations are commonly seen as beneficiaries of design interventions but are rarely recognized as design ‘experts’. Even under the umbrella “co-design” or collaborative research, non-Western design knowledge and practices are only present in mainstream design research as history or curiosity and not as something of value to the contemporary world.

The Pluriversal Design SIG will draw non-‘mainstream’ designers and researchers into the DRS to share their research and work. It is anticipated that these designers and researchers will also participate in existing SIGs. This SIG will undertake practical activities such as conferences and ‘unconferences’, joint publications and other events as necessary. The SIG will tap into the networks of its diverse membership in South and Central America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa to reach designers and researchers who would normally not be reached by the DRS.

In the Pluriversal Design SIG we hope to:

  1. Discuss and converge epistemologies and methods of design researchers from outside of Europe and North America.
  2. Challenge the concepts of ‘development’ and ‘modernity’.
  3. Create intersectional dialogues in and about the tensions between development and the modern/colonial paradigm by bringing diverse perspectives together.
  4. Coach or mentor practitioners from outside of Europe and North America to encourage them to write about their research and practice.
  5. Co-create new ways of validating knowledge that challenge traditional academic practices.

We will recognise when we are successful when:

  1. There is a greater participation within the DRS, including in other SIGs, of designers from outside of mainstream design practice.  
  2. There is a recognition of the importance of the multiple perspectives within design research, including those of people from colonized or oppressed parts of the world.
  3. There is greater recognition of and interrogation of historical hegemonic power imbalances within design research.  
  4. There is a ‘re-orientation’ of design to incorporate multiple perspectives and views and a focus on multiple ways of doing and understanding design.


Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.

Santos, B.d.S. (2007). Beyond abyssal thinking: From global lines to ecologies of knowledges. Review (Fernand Braudel Center), 30(1), 45-89.