03.14.23
Dana Arnett + Kevin Bethune | Audio

S10E12: Decolonizing Design


Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook is a guidebook to the institutional transformation of design theory and practice by restoring the long-excluded cultures of Indigenous, Black, and People of Color communities. You can purchase the book here.

Dr. Elizabether (Dori) Tunstall is the author of Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook. She is the Dean of the Faculty of Design at Ontario College of Art and Design University, Toronto.

Brian Johnson is a partner of Polymode, where he focuses on creative direction, design production, writing, and teaching.

Silas Munro is a partner of Polymode, an artist, designer, writer, and curator engaging multi-modal practices that inspire people to be the best versions of themselves in order to effect positive change on society as a whole.

Sadie Red Wing designed the book cover. She is a Lakota graphic designer and advocate from the Spirit Lake Nation of Fort Totten, North Dakota.

Ene Agi illustrated the book. She is a Nigerian-Canadian storyteller and illustrator, and her portfolio includes comics, illustrations, paintings, motion graphics, creative writing, and gallery and museum exhibitions.

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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 field,

Dana Arnett
About how innovation, access, and curiosity are redesigning their world. 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, a book.

Kevin Bethune
Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook, was just released by MIT Press on February 14th. And in our last episode, we spoke with Dori Tunstall about her journey and the ambitions for this new project.

Dana Arnett
Today we have the design dream team here to talk about the making of this book.

Kevin Bethune
Welcome, everyone. Dori,

Dori Tunstall
Hello, it's so good to be back in conversation with you.

Kevin Bethune
Great to have you back. Silas,

Silas Munro
So good to be here.

Kevin Bethune
Brian,

Brian Johnson
Yeah, thanks for having me.

Kevin Bethune
Sadie,

Sadie Red Wing
Oh, I'm super excited for today.

Kevin Bethune
And Ene,

Ene Agi
Hey.

Dana Arnett
We're excited to have all of you here, and it's great to see some familiar faces and delighted to meet a few new ones. All of you are going to be part of this special conversation today, so here we go.

Kevin Bethune
So for the benefit of our listeners, allow me to quickly roll through the roles involved in this project since the audience met Dori last episode. Silas and Bryan as partners at Polymode you design the book interiors?

Silas Munro
Yes.

Brian Johnson
Correct.

Kevin Bethune
Sadie, you did the cover design.

Sadie Red Wing
Yes.

Kevin Bethune
And you did the illustrations, the beautiful illustrations inside.

Ene Agi
Yes. Thank you.

Kevin Bethune
And again, huge congrats on just this wonderful project. Before we jump into the design of this incredible book, how did this project first start? What were your motivations for this book and why now — why this book right now?

Dori Tunstall
The book came out of probably like my 15 years of lived experience and working in what ow I can talk about decolonizing design, but the vocabulary around it has shifted over the many years. So Victoria Headley at MIT Press had seen me present at the Where are the Black Designers Conference reached out and asked if I would be interested in writing a book. I said, I don't know if I have enough time, but she said it could be very short book. And so I had planned on writing a book about the work I was doing at OCAD University, decolonizing it, like five years into the gig and so it turned out okay. And there was a great sense of urgency related to the social transformation that we were hoping and inspiring to happen, to come out of the resurgence in some ways of the Black Lives Matter movement with the murder of George Floyd. And so it was the right time in where I was in terms of understanding the process of the work that I've done, the right place in terms of having conversations and needing to share more to more people what it was like to do the work of decolonizing design in an institution. And I wanted to make sure I was building the right team. And so, you know, I was like, I want a Black and Indigenous design team. Do you have one at the press? No. But they being very open to say, well, we don't have that capacity, but we are happy to support you in building this dream team because we know how important it is that the design of the book aligns with the principles around decolonizing design and why you think that is meaningful and important.

Dana Arnett
So Dori, can you tell us about your "Avengers Assemble" moments? Or a few of those moments with this great team that we see here?

Dori Tunstall
Well, beautifully they've been people that I've been working with for in some cases a really long time. When I think of my relationship with Silas, it probably goes back down ten years.

Silas Munro
Mm hmm.

Dori Tunstall
Minimum. Sadie — I think maybe close to five, seven years with Sadie and then Ene probably the five last three years. And then Brian, I knew, but I hadn't met until we actually started working on the project. So they're superpowers — Ene I is the most amazing and disarming illustrator. And by disarming that, she has a beautiful kind of comic illustrative style that when you look at it, you're like: Oh, this is very cute. But she's always dealing with really important social issues and dealing with what does it mean to be a woman, what does it mean to be a person with an invisible disability, all these sort of things. So I love the juxtaposition between this embracing and charming exterior. But as you get closer, you're dealing with serious issues, which I thought was important for the book. With Sadie — I love her graphic approach, her asthetic and the principles around it, around finding from developing indigenous visual languages to speak to the languages of the different nations and communities. But as I said to her in the brief, I want the book to be embraced in Indigenous love that the first principle in some ways of decolonizing design means putting Indigenous first. So I wanted the first thing that anyone encounters with the book to be a visual representation of the work of an amazing Indigenous artist and designer, and that again, the book be embraced by that care and that consideration. And then again, Silas and Brian are just amazing book designers. But also, again, that, you know, Silas and I spoke about this book before it was actually a book. And so I knew that the team that I wanted to build to design the book, I wanted the best book designers. I wanted to, again, for them to be repping, you know, indigenous and black perspectives because they would be the people you know, Silas and Brian are the people that I would trust the most to understand and to translate the vision of what this book was about.

Dana Arnett
So I know it's hard to say no to Dori, but more importantly on a significant project like this. So are there any reflections from the team? I see a lot of smiles and a lot of head nodding. What drew you to the project initially?

Sadie Red Wing
I think I'll chime in and just immediately say that this project was probably one of the most tough in my life, just in knowing that there is so much richness, so much passion, and knowing that within this team, a lot of us are devoting our work, our effort, our energy. Any time that we come into this space and wanting to bring our practice in, navigating through all this terminology that Dori was throwing at us, I was like, this has a lot of weight. So just initially my feelings kind of when Dori reached out, I was completely honored. I was a little bit nervous just knowing that this is one of us kind or a first, or just in thinking about, you know, this is Dori's journey and she's opening a lot of doors and then just even having our names all associated as a team, definitely wanted to have like a lot of care, but also like a lot of impact. Just knowing that all of us have a lot of heart and just want to be in a position to be active and show strength. So to be in conversations, to be shadowing Dori's work and just, you know, just knowing what she's doing with with how she's communicating this. I just knew that this is going to be in a lot of people's hands, and I wanted it to be something really strong. So there's there's many elements. I think later on in the podcast we can talk a little bit more about the cover design, but just initially going in, I just knew that this was was something that was going to be true to a lot of our hearts, needed to be handled with care and a lot of respect. But and also, you know, there's going to be a lot of power. And to show all that, I felt so just very, very blessed and humbled and and again, just very honored to just even be thought of in a team like this.

Brian Johnson
Silas should we give it a go?

Silas Munro
Sure we can do that. I feel like I want to echo what Sadie is saying in terms of every word you said, in terms of like in honor of it, and then also the the power of it. I think — I'll let Brian speak for himself, too — but I know we're often overlapping and aligned. But for me, being able to design this book like this was the book I needed ten years ago, you know, and I think part of the honor of being able to design the book is connected to the mentorship that Dori, you've given me and I know given all of us on the team, and it's been such a profound light that you shine on me and on us in terms of how to be a designer who has a black or indigenous experience, or how to be a designer who wants to open space for those who have not really been allowed to have space in the design world and to be able to use our gifts, in my case, typographic gifts, and the gift of making a beautiful, accessible book that has meaning and significance and and makes you want to come back to it over and over again and something that could have longevity, but also resonate with the time we're in now. And the urgency I think that we're all feeling was just such a unique combination of things. And I feel like it was challenging to work on. But there was also this like camaraderie that I felt like I felt like we were in it together. And I feel like that's part of your ethos Dori, like you're so adept at bringing people together and like part of your superpower is empowering people to find their superpowers, you know. So it did feel like kind of like an Avengers superteam coming together. But that was also because I felt like we had each other's back and we were encouraging each other and also being quite vulnerable and sharing in the process.

Brian Johnson
I don't even know how I'd follow up to that Silas. I feel like everything that everyone's already said, I'm like: Yes and, yes and. I guess for me, I would never probably say no to Dori, just period. Just I don't know if I could because the amount of Thank you, thank you, thank you. And then allowing us to then add more to supporting and being able to collaborate, I was just like, I will help hold space, do what I can, but also in that regard to also just help everybody else. Silas and I have designed a lot of books. That's true. But like they're all new, they're all different. You can't always say I love this child over the other one. Like we love all of our children and all of our books are children, right. And but at the same time, it's like, well, how is this one different and what can we reach toward and what can we strive toward, but also to share that experience with Sadie and with Ene to be like: This is how a book gets made. You do have to think about sizing and pacing and what is it like and what is accessibility. And I was just more than happy and honored to be allowed to share that too, and say: Sure, we can help, This is awesome. Like, and that's like, you know, also an indigenous man who's also reconnecting to say, I need help too to also see how Dori understands this and how it also allows me to grow and to also feel vulnerable and to share that vulnerability with the team was really impactful. Just to say, I don't understand this, and it makes me feel really nervous and really awkward and I don't know what words to use and I don't know what terminology to use. But when you read and design and look at all of this at the same time together, I was like, Cool, we can all just hold hands and really be like, Let's let's do this. Let's make this thing stronger and then lift it up as like, as a whole. It was just, it was so impactful.

Ene Agi
I was really excited when Dori asked about this project. I've worked with Dori before and I do see her as a mentor. She's helped me with that for my thesis about black women. She kind of helped me with that. And so I find as I work with her, I do learn more about the type of work I want to do and the type of initiatives that she does. I like to volunteer with her. And so, this book kind of was just a culmination of the things I was already learning. And so I just felt very excited to work with her again. And previously, when I'd worked with her, the direction she goes is very open, it's very clear, and she also very much takes your opinion into consideration. And so working with her personally, I wanted to do. And I'm very passionate about the topic of the book because I went through this going to school and I went through this growing up in the type of neighborhood I grew up in where I was like the only black girl around or one of the few. So books like this really make a difference for me, and I've been like, quoting it to my friends and everything. I just can't wait until it comes out. I've already used what's in the book to help my friends go through what they're going through. And I'm just like: Wait until the book comes out. But yeah, I'm just very happy to be a part of something that is already helping me. And I can see it helping the people around me.

Kevin Bethune
Wow. Such amazing reflections. Thank you so much.

Dori Tunstall
I don't. You can't. You're not allowed to make me cry.

Kevin Bethune
Crying is allowed in this podcast for sure.

Brian Johnson
I'm like too late.

Silas Munro
I know right its like already...

Kevin Bethune
Well, again, amazing reflections. Thank you so much.

Dana Arnett
So let's dig a little deeper and talk about the design asthetics for a moment and how this unique look and feel came together. We have a mixture of great type, great illustration, sort of a comic style, I might call it. I sense this is a visual reflection of Dori's superpowers — and was the distinctiveness of the design part of the plan from the beginning?

Dori Tunstall
Well, I'll answer that part because they'll have to answer the details. But the intent was — let's design something that we've never seen before in the sense that it's a pure reflection of who we are and the legacies of the cultures that we come from. And so how can we break the book in order to create a book that really reflects, again, the way in which we would approach and design things within the framework of being publishable, right, that was our limitation is that somehow it has to be publishable, but where we can break, where we can experiment, where we can reflect on what would be our approach if we didn't have any limitations, let's push it as far as we can.

Ene Agi
I think that a lot of how the book turned out to be came from the fact that it was so collaborative. We kept meeting with each other and speaking about it. And Dori really encouraged us to show our true selves as she had said. So I find that we got to bring our real self to it and just build off of each other's ideas. And a lot of the different topics in the book kind of just felt like super heroes. You came out, Dori, you had that article about the super token. So the key terms were there and the ideas were there just to be brought out. What was interesting to me was that as we were working together on the illustrations, they all ended up taking on some type of film aspect to them. So they all have a reference. Every illustration ended up having a film reference into it. So it was interesting how that ended up happening.

Dori Tunstall
Yeah, and this is where just from a process perspective, things emerge because that comes out of me. So it's a thing where, you know, like the illustration for chapter five, Hidden Figures! Because we're talking about figures and I just saw that movie and it's resonant or of, you know, The Wizard of Oz, which is referencing and deeply embedded in the scene with Chicago. And so what emerged is just my understanding of what influences my world. And as I'm explaining it to Ene like, oh, let's try this, let's try this. Realizing how cinematic my universes is.

Dana Arnett
And Silas and Brian, you know, as designers, especially when you're doing a book, you're given this and in this case, this beautiful pile of things, the manuscript, great collaborative partners to help bring to life the visuals. Talk a little bit about the design process.

Brian Johnson
Do you want to take Silas to at least get us started?

Silas Munro
Yeah, I can start. It's interesting. Yeah. I mean, in in many ways we've designed quite a few books and we love designing books. And I think the thing that Brian I have really that like unites us is a sense of craft and like is the idea of a book singing and singing in its own particular key and tone. And a good book comes from having good text and good imagery and this graphic language that Sadie also brought to the space of the cover and also graphic elements that are inside the book. So we kind of had everything we needed to make it. I think one of the things that was really exciting for me and Brian was this idea of Dori's texts talking about dismantling the European Modernist project. And I think when you come to design a book, there's all these histories of proportions and the codex as something that comes out of a kind of colonial history. And so for us, we also see ourselves as a bit mystical when it comes to books. And so we're very interested in the geometry of the book and the sacred geometry of the book. And so for us we were like: How do we come to that, but also through our experience as people of color and indigenous people and like, how do you add that? And I think for us, especially choosing the type was really important. And so one of our favorite type designers period, but who also happens to be black and queer, is Joshua Darden and he designed- has designed a number of amazing typefaces. But the pairing of Halyard and Halyard Micro, which has these interesting light wells, we made the decision to use Halyard Micro as a display typeface because it had these idiosyncrasies. It's normally designed to read small type, but then kind of flipping that I feel like also connected to some of the ideas in your manuscript and text Dori, about kind of reconfiguring perspectives and reconsidering scale and like reconsidering who has a voice and who's present. And so it was our way to kind of challenge conventions of a book and challenge conventions of what a readerly text also felt like.

Brian Johnson
And then you have to take a step in and say: All right, but I also have to honor that Ene has X amount of illustrations and like they have to be this proportion and they have to be able to sit somewhere and sing on their own. And then you have to look at the wonderful capitalist understanding of paper costs money. How many pages is this going to be like actually said that we have to fit it all into. So then you have to think about like, I would love a luxurious book that's 400 some pages. But you also have to say Dori has a lot of things that she has to say. She has to get it out there. So you also have to realize you got to squeeze some of this in. And like, what's more important, what gets that know that sort of where did the the distinctions go, right. Like what has to be where. And so we want all these beautiful things. But then you have to also weigh them out, right? And so I look at it now and I'm like, this is really beautiful. And then I start to find little things that I want to nitpick. But then that's-that's the Western understanding that has been forced on us. It's perfectionism. You could have done better. Well of course I could have. But in that timeframe with this group of people, we put it together to try to still make it work, right? But you still have to live by a grid. You still have to have a margin. A book is still bound. You have to deal with the gutter. So it's like you have to just be able to juggle 75 things at the same time and then still hope — oh yeah, it's pretty, right. And it also still is accessible to people that maybe English is not their first language, right? And you have to say like, I mean, I'm blind as a bat. If I don't have my glasses on, I am screwed in the morning and all day long. So it's like, can someone in lower light read this and still enjoy it? Like, these are all things that we had to take into account and then say, Does it still relate to Ene's illustrations? Does Sadie's covers still have a through line that we can find these graphic elements that can still say all that she did on the cover is still translate inside because the insides aren't just Silas' and I's and like Sadie is sitting outside on the cover and Ene just sits beside the design. No, we have to sort of make sure that all of this binding and stitching and design make them all equal and like how to find a good balance behind that.

Brian Johnson
Can I add one other detail to that too? Because like, there's a lot of bullets in the book too, because it is also a guide, right. Like how to make decolonization actionable. And so like we even made custom bullets that were connected to Sadie's graphic language on the cover. So it was really about the macro and the system, but also the micro details to really like connect us all together.

Kevin Bethune
Wow, loving this background. Sadie —the cover is extraordinary. The front and back use a circular Mandela as a visual frame. I guess, what inspired you to go in that direction?

Sadie Red Wing
Yeah. So I think maybe give listeners a little bit of context. So maybe my style of graphic design might kind of enhance why this is a little bit more of a challenging project, just knowing that this is the first time I ever designed a book cover. So it was even coming in, still very vulnerable and still nervous in many senses. But just again, being a part of a team like this is more comfortable to ask questions or just use as a learning experience. Kind of going through the process of even thinking of a concept for the cover. I received the word document printout, so I know I noticed the amount of text, but I haven't was introduced to Ene at the time and I didn't see what her visual style was like and I was a little bit more familiar with Polymode Studio. And once I saw Ene's illustrations, I was blown away. And just in thinking about my style of graphic design, a lot of it is really just preserving historical visual languages that have been on the verge of extinction with and thinking about indigenous visual languages in the United States and Canada. That's really, I want to say, simple shape based. So if you see a lot of my graphic design work, I work with a lot of maybe more, you know, just squares, rectangles, triangles, lines, maybe little circles, repeat them in some sense. And then I think what is admirable or what people admire about indigenous design as that concept of balance and patterns, and knowing that Ene's illustration style is a little bit different than maybe a tighter, simple shape pattern design, it was a little bit challenging to how-we how we bring these visuals together, but even more so, this is Dori's work and really wanted to be in a position to just give back something to her that us as a team, you know, kind of been in great conversations around this. And I feel like the concept of the cover went through a process. So in thinking about this concept of decolonization, when we bring that word into a design community, I feel like there's a lot of parties that want to gatekeeper on how to define that. So in thinking about the first thing I was thinking of where is this book being launched in place? So United States, Canada. Doris' first chapter, "Indigenous First". Okay, now we're thinking about indiginaity being expressed in these two places. But then also knowing Dori's work and journey, she's been across the world and knowing that all everything that she says in this book is going to go global. So there's Indigen- and think about Indigenous values in Australia and Asia and Africa and South America. There is visual languages that are different, visual-wise, but- and think about values. So some of the values that I wanted to bring and I feel like could be picked up or there might be some competency to other Indigenous across the globe, as in the concept of balance, but then also really pushing that reciprocity aspect. So I might define the word decolonization, maybe more in the realm of sustainability and taking care of land, but that might not be the case because decolonization is performed differently in different continents. So in thinking about, well, if there's one value of reciprocity, I like defining reciprocity as something that functions and continues to function and function and function. So in the first design concept, so the cover I was trying to overlay and collage a lot of many different indigenous visual languages, but when you're collaging in the line format, you're not showing that concept of a circle or something like a wheel that goes and goes and goes. So-so the second iteration of what came into the cover aspect is just bringing in more circles and patterns. But then also again, knowing how just the symbolism that you can bring with these various circles. So just even thinking if you want to see it as a mandala or just even have as a ripple effect or something that's growing, but essentially every element can go on and on and on and on. And then even think about that concept of circle, it's kind of hard to design in the composition of a book that's might be a little bit more rectangular and then also kind of bringing in Dori's face aspect in there in highlighting Ene's beautiful illustration. And then lastly to for those readers or even fans of Dori within a social setting, a space to follow her travels, follow her fashion and trying to just bring just elements of color palettes that would either reflect in terms of thinking like, I guess land or dyes or just traditional things that Indigenous people pick up. But then also it's a reflection of Dori's voice. So having all these elements is trying to funnel them into a five by eight cover was a little bit challenging. But again, in thinking about this is the work that we've been practicing, work that we've been studying. If we had a little bit more time to really do something or even a book two, where we can challenge other visual languages to bring up these concepts of what all we're talking about, I feel like just how we worked as a team in helping navigate through each other, through these visual design choices. I just feel like man the universe with us and it just fell into place. And I'm just very honored that it's set to turn out the way that it did.

Kevin Bethune
It's just my opinion, but I think you found the the beautiful harmony together in this work. So kudos.

Sadie Red Wing
Thank you.

Dana Arnett
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Charity Blue
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Charity Blue
Prior to joining Morningstar, I didn't have much interaction with design, but I think my perspective was that you would create something and then bring design in to help finalize and polish a piece. And I think my perspective has changed so much since being here. When a project starts, design is involved from the beginning, it's not an afterthought. So for example, our biggest project on my team every year is building out our annual corporate report. it also touches on aspects of diversity, equity and inclusion practices and how we govern an ethical business. So it tells a really large story in the marketplace that has a lot of value to our brand and to things that our stakeholders are expecting of Morningstar. Our purpose is to provide an accurate assessment of where we're currently at in our sustainability journey, and specifically we coordinate with design on this report from inception. So they're a part of every step in the process to helping us understand the best way to structure our story about how we're managing sustainability at Morningstar and also helping us host to the most critical data sets to make sure that it's not only easy to find and clear what the data is telling us, but it also is an educational mechanism. So that's the biggest part for us. Where design is extremely valuable is taking complicated information and making it easy to understand for all users.

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Dana Arnett
So I'm going to reference one of Dori's familiar refrains — by us, for us and asks the question — given this is a guidebook, was this decolonized team process essential to the outcome? I guess I'll start with you, Dori.

Dori Tunstall
It was by design, as everything is by design and as the, you know, the team's referring to is that it is meant to be very collaborative. So we made sure that our meetings were all together, that even-even in the contract negotiations, you know, like we have profit sharing is part of the contract negotiation because again, it's a thing where they think of the writer, it's the writer's book. And what I've been emphasizing is that the writing is nothing without the design. So it is all of our book. And so so we share in the benefit that comes from the contributions that we all make to the book. So, if you think of, again, how you set up structures of true collaboration, true mutual interest and support, true mutual benefits and risk, right, because we're all taking the benefits and the risk of this together. It's in how you build the process for the team.

Dana Arnett
Right.

Dori Tunstall
It's how you recognize each other's gifts. And the beauty, the alchemy of it is their own ability to be inspired by one another. That was the part that I hoped to happen, but I was delighted that it did to the extent that it was. But also, again, it's in the renumeration or even in the process. We're going now the promotion of the book, why we're doing this as a team, and not just me talking about the content of the book. I mean, we talk about design, you know, co-creation, and I feel like we should have more conversations about the co-creation process that happens, you know, when you're designing a book. And again, we had more flexibility because, you know, MIT Press said, sure, assemble your own design team. And it may not have been as collaborative if I had worked with their team, but because they gave us that freedom and understood the importance of it, we could design the book design process with the same principles and intentionality of what we're trying to say in the book around community and culture and respect, right, for one another.

Kevin Bethune
That's so wonderful.

Silas Munro
Oh, I just wanted to add to that. I feel like the profit sharing part especially is just such a rare opportunity in a case like this. That does not happen. And I think part of that came also from Brian's and I's experience with like past projects and I think Sadie and Ene can also speak to this too, and Dori you too, where like you're doing this cultural labor and emotional labor and design labor and are not really getting properly compensated. And especially in academia, that can also happen, but also in business, which I think this book is relevant to both contexts and overlapping contexts between them. And so, just for us, because of especially my own personal experience with getting like a tiny honorarium for a book that then ends up having a lot of scholarship and sells really well, but like, you're not getting any of that and really trying to have a counterpoint. And so in a way it's exciting, but it's also like, why is this so rare? And like, how could this particular model of this process now become a case study that gets expanded? I think this conversation as part of that, right, the design of business, like how can we have more equitable design processes? And I think that's a huge part of your book Dori, is like not just the output and the way things are made, but like who is actually comes in validated, especially if you look at the history of indigenous communities that have been marginalized and slaughtered and extracted and stripped away from their core community and core selves.

Brian Johnson
I would love to follow up with that. Like it's based on extraction, as Silas said, but it's also based on power and it's based on white power and it's based on the legality of putting up a fence and legally controlling it. Work for hire, do this thing, and then we will profit from it. And then the legality behind it is now that you have been completely extracted of that information, I can republish this book a million times because you don't have the money to legally fight it or to understand the law behind it. I can then reproduce it and make more money over and over and over. Now I could get yelled at for this. The publishing community could come at us. And I also love publishing and designing books. So- but the system is a little messed up there. And, you know, that's why it's like at least we can approach it and say maybe you should be looking into using Ondigenous and people of color and maybe where the printing presses that are owned by BIPOC individuals, there are few to none, right? Because that's based on power dynamics of capitalism, extraction and racism. And so it's really hard to fight this uphill battle. And so then when we had a project like this, how could we not want to work with Dori to say, can we please maybe not completely upend the model, but say we can at least start somewhere and this is how we could do that.

Dana Arnett
Yeah. Do I sense the next book Decolonizing Publishing coming out?

Brian Johnson
I'm sure that the publishing world won't actually publish that, but sure.

Dana Arnett
Okay. Strike that from the record. Right.

Dori Tunstall
Everyone's deciding where my next book is going to be except for me. Well, I mean, you joke, but you don't joke because, again, I had you know, I did an interview with George McCallum, who's again, amazing other book designer and other things, and we talked about like creating space within the publishing industry to do the kind of meaningful work that we want to do again, in terms of, you know, black community, queer community, you know, indigenous community, POC community and how, you know, like the publishing industry is still like 97% white. And so again, the affordances of the reckoning that came out of 2020 is that spaces have opened up that we can have the conversations around, like how this industry doesn't really open up space for others to contribute in a way that is authentic to who they are and how they build community. But there is an opening now to begin to take that space right? And, you know, MIT Press got it and understood what I was trying to do. And that to the extent to which they can within their structures, have been really supportive of it and learning and growing in some ways in the process as well.

Kevin Bethune
Well, kudos to this team and the MIT press for setting a new precedent, that should be the precedent to begin with. And maybe this question is for anyone. What did you learn from this process that you'll be bringing back into your personal practices?

Sadie Red Wing
I'll start us off because I feel like my answer may not be as lengthy as others just because, again, this was a whole new experience for me. I feel like a lot of my work is probably rooted more into I'm just curriculum building, maybe around historical context. So one thing about being a graphic designer and designing something tangible, like a book, I was trying to be a sponge. Being a part of a book team and coming in and not having any experience working on books. All of it was a learning experience. I'm going to be taken with me, but just in-just a couple of things I just want to highlight in that experience. Ene — just beautiful illustrations. But they're so powerful and they're so they hit you like where they need to hit you. And I can see that as super inspiration, influential for up and coming illustrators who want to give those same, they want to communicate those same elements or just emotions that Ene the captures within illustrations. And then just listening to Brian and Silas work together, just how they're, I guess, gathering all their research just to make sure that they are performing at what we say that we're performing. So just for example, finding a person of color who has created a font family or a font face and giving that opportunity to get their name or, you know, just kind of bring all these elements and just watching how Polymode included everybody that works within that space. So they had, you know, youth that work with them, that were brought into conversations that kind of allowed me to even just share how I went through this concept. So I think, again, just being a part of a team like this, I felt demonstrated what we work for in making a team, work that it does. And I know I tried to say that a little bit more simpler, but just in thinking about the feeling that I got, being on this team is the feeling that I want to feel in future teams, allowing me to ask questions, to make mistakes, to kind of see and observe and analyze how they're going through these processes and just what they're thinking is it's just super helpful, particularly even for myself, that I bring into my own classrooms as an educator. And then, of course, as always, just like I said, this is something that we really wanted to honor Dori, and I'm speaking for everybody that Dori has done a lot, and I get a little bit emotional too, but just it's just it just feels very powerful that we could give back. And I think that is like the reciprocity of what we say in these decolonization values is to give back. And I hopefully I feel like this was a good process of demonstrating that give back.

Brian Johnson
I can follow up too. I feel like there's two things. One, I love that I can still be vulnerable with another-with other teammates that are being vulnerable too. I still get fully nervous every time I sort of project. I'm nervous and fearful in the middle of the project, and I'm still nervous and fearful while holding this because I might find a mistake somewhere. You have to either accept those things and understand them. But if I can also say I'm really afraid of other people that can say, Well, I'm afraid too, can we, can we just all get through it? It makes me feel better. And like I'm a sensitive boy. I will openly say that and everyone knows that I will come across and be like, I'm really sad today, right, like I will openly say, like what I'm going through, but then I want to get to the work too. And so it's nice that we can all be vulnerable together and sort of acknowledge the pink elephant in the room and then keep moving on from that. So that was one thing. The second thing that I really took from this is that we noticed a lack in the field, and that's a lack in indigenous type designers. Not just indigenous type designers that design typefaces in their indigenous language, but then in the system writ large, the accessibility, the need for the education. And that it's a very also like very finite field in and of itself. Right. But like we need more indigenous designers. We love Josh Darden's work because he had the ability to make those faces very gifted and talented in that space. But we need more Indigenous people in that space because we wanted to use more Indigenous type on this, not just of their language but just in English, just to have some of that pattern making methodology, symbolism, the curve of a form like that should come into the type too. There are some we're not saying that it's not out there completely, but it's like as the type industry is huge, you would think there would be more and there is not. And so we really want to put that rallying cry out there, like help get those scholarships going, help support, you know, those communities to get students into, you know, type foundarys and type making abilities. Like, we need more of that.

Dana Arnett
So I realized today is release day. Congratulations again.

Dori Tunstall
I'm so excited.

Dana Arnett
But as you all fast forward to the days and years to come, is there a takeaway that you hope will be realized from this effort by current and future designers?

Dori Tunstall
For me, it's the ethos of care. What has been lovely about the process of creating the book was how much care there was for each other. And then, you know, every member of the team. And the overall theme of the book is, is that the work that people are doing in decolonization, diversity, equity, especially in institutions and organizations, is care work. And so on the one hand, these institutions and organizations need to care about the people that they've asked to do this work, but also the people who are doing this work need to take care, right. And the way you take care is not just through the individuals. The way you take care is through the community around you who supports what it is that you need that allows that space for vulnerability, but also is not intimidated by your strength. And so what I'm hoping people get out of this out of this book and the process of creating this book, you know, in decolonizing design is just how do we how do we live in it ethos. How do we make with it ethos of care about each other, about, you know, the land and about how the processes that we've created can be uncaring and do the work to make them institutions and processes of care. And when that care is active, we call it love. Active care is love by definition.

Kevin Bethune
Amen. Dori, Ene, Saide, Silas, Brian — congratulations again on this amazing book. And thank you so much for being here.

Dori Tunstall
Thank you.

Silas Munro
Thank you.

Ene Agi
Thank you for the invitation.

Brian Johnson
It's great to be here.

Sadie Red Wing
Yeah. Thank you.

Kevin Bethune
The Design of Business | The Business of Design is a podcast from Design Observer. Our website is DBBD dot Design Observer dot com. There you can find more about Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook, all of the guests we had on today, plus the complete archive for 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 wherever 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
Thank you again to our partner Morningstar for making this conversation possible. Experience the intersection of design and investing at Morningstar.com. And 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 Vardel 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
And a special thank you to you, Kevin, for being my partner in this season, on a wonderful season ten. I learned a lot and was inspired each and every time we got together.

Kevin Bethune
Thank you, my friend. Dana. It's such a privilege and an honor to team with you on this. And I just love how this season just expanded the aperture around celebrating new voices that are impacting our field. So appreciate you.

Dana Arnett
Great to be with you. Until then, we'll see you next time.

Kevin Bethune
Talk to you then.

Posted in: Books, Design of Business | Business of Design, Illustration, Inclusion




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