Inclusive Design Studio
The Inclusive Design studio works with faculty, staff, students, and community partners to identify opportunities to design inclusive digital spaces. Our approach is grounded in an ethic of care, an orientation toward equity, and a commitment to inclusive design practices. Contact Dr. Sarah Lohnes Watulak to get involved!
About the Studio
The Inclusive Design Studio (IDS) at DLINQ is an initiative launched by the Office of Digital Learning and Inquiry (DLINQ) in January 2019 that explores inclusive design through a critical, inquiry-based approach. It is an open initiative that seeks to be in community with students, faculty, staff, and anyone interested in working together to understand and work toward addressing the needs of people who are marginalized by design in its many forms. Unlike a typical studio located in a physical space, we are a virtual and distributed community. What makes us a studio is our orientation toward a model of informal learning that is driven by inquiry, focused on creation, and conducted in collaboration with peers and mentors.
We see the work of the Inclusive Design studio intersecting with a number of Envisioning Middlebury strategic directions, including digital fluency and critical engagement, full participation in diverse communities, and emergent teaching, learning, and research horizons.
What is Inclusive Design?
Our view of design is broad; it “is the intention (and unintentional impact) behind an outcome." (Creative Reaction Lab, 2018, p. 11). In other words - design is everywhere! Inclusive spaces work to purposefully and meaningfully bring together “diverse perspectives and creat[e] a better outcome for all. Inclusion is an invitation that not only accepts differences, but celebrates and embeds them” (Creative Reaction Lab, 2018, p. 10). Taken together, “Inclusive design is design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age, and other forms of human difference” including social class/economic background (Inclusive Design Research Centre, n.d.). While Inclusive Design touches on all aspects of life, the Inclusive Design Studio is particularly interested in inclusive design in digital spaces.
We asked Middlebury Institute of International Studies students what they think inclusive design is, and why it's important. Listen to what they had to say! (Audio file, approx. 5 minutes long. Please click here for the text transcript.)
Why Inclusive Design?
Not only is design everywhere, but as Kat Holmes points out in her book Mismatch, “Design shapes our ability to access, participate in, and contribute to the world.” Furthermore, when we consider who is invited to the table when designing products, built environments, learning spaces, and more, we share Sasha Costanza-Shock’s concern that “...the people who are most adversely affected by design decisions...tend to have the least influence on those decisions and how they are made.” Inclusive design isn’t just a feel-good buzzword; we see inclusive design as a social justice issue. We aspire to engage with the ways in which design processes and solutions intersect with social, historical, and economic factors that reproduce unjust systems. The studio also explores the potential for design to disrupt these systems and create digital spaces that embrace inclusion. We intend to work toward mitigating the harms of exclusive design. As a starting point (but not an ending point), this means co-designing with people who are typically marginalized by design.
About the Studio
The Inclusive Design Studio at DLINQ is grounded in an ethic of care, an orientation toward equity, and a commitment to inclusive design practices. We seek to work in community with students, faculty, staff, and anyone interested in understanding and working toward addressing the needs of people who are marginalized by design in its many forms. As studio caretakers, we aspire to facilitate and engage in inclusive design through research, experimentation, practice, and open dialogue. We recognize that the concept of “inclusive design” is multifaceted, complex, and a process that must never end. The aim of the studio is to highlight issues of design inequity, and support and create conscientious designers across the spectrum of everyday life.
As a newly-forming studio, we are cognizant of the opportunity to put inclusive design practices into action in the design of the studio itself. In particular, at this early stage of the studio, we're focusing in particular on 3 practices highlighted by the Inclusive Design Research Centre in their terrific Inclusive Design Guide:
This summer, I experienced the Digital Pedagogy Lab for the first time; I got to participate in the Inclusive Design track led by Kevin Gannon and was fascinated by speakers Ruha Benjamin and Robin DeRosa. At DPL, I often found my train of thought and curiosity about the critical digital world expanding into interdisciplinary realms and all its possibilities.
The beginning of the Fall semester has flown by - perhaps, like me, you're wondering, how is it already October 9th? Here in Vermont, Fall isn’t just knocking on the door, it has let itself into the house and is snuggled up with one of the cats under my favorite blanket and is sipping hot cocoa while I shiver. But as a lifelong student and longtime academic, I love Fall and the sense of opportunity for new beginnings that comes with the season.
A couple of weeks ago, I taught a 3-day course on Inclusive Design at the Digital Pedagogy Lab event in Toronto, ON. I’ve taught for Digital Pedagogy Lab for years, but this was my first experience teaching on the topic of Inclusive Design (and I've only recently begun to learn more about it). To say I was suffering from imposter syndrome would be an understatement. Thankfully, I am lucky enough to have a wonderful colleague, Sarah Lohnes Watulak, who runs our Inclusive Design Studio; she guided me and provided helpful feedback as I prepared the track.
“Designing for inclusion starts with recognizing exclusion.”
“Design shapes our ability to access, participate in, and contribute to the world.”
(Kat Holmes, in Mismatch)
It’s been about a month since my last post for the Inclusive Design Studio – well past time for an update. Noraya and I have been reading, listening, asking questions, and working our way toward crafting a mission statement for the studio that best reflects our understanding of inclusive design and our intentions for how we will put it into practice in the next year. Now that we have a complete draft of the mission statement, our next step is to share it broadly and invite feedback. Below, you’ll find the full text of the mission statement (it’s a bit long – sorry-not sorry! – trying to build in some transparency) and a link to a survey that you can use to provide us with some feedback.
In my last blog post for the Inclusive Design Studio, I wrote about feeling frustrated and fearing I would latch onto dominant discourse about inclusive design and thereby missing other potentially important aspects relevant to inclusive design. In today’s update, I want to take a step back and explain what we mean by “inclusive design” for this initiative.
In my last post, I wrote about the launch of the DLINQ Inclusive Design Studio, and shared the list of inquiry questions that Noraya and I are exploring as we find our way in this space. This post shares a bit of an update on where our inquiry question journey has taken me over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been focusing on the first 2 questions in our list: