Sitting with the mess is a research project by Nina M Gibbes for the fulfilment of the Master of Communication Design degree at RMIT University in Melbourne. The project investigates how designers are making space to address the inherent gender and cultural biases present in the canon of graphic design and in the wider industry. This research project comprises a series of interviews with design educators and designers, as well as the development of a practical workshop for designers and students to engage with messy design history through the construction of crossword puzzles.

While this website houses the completed project for my master’s degree, I must acknowledge that this is an ongoing project and a constant work in progress. It is a space that will shift and change over time as I learn, discover and talk to more people. If you would like to speak with me or be involved with this ongoing project please get in touch, I would love to talk and make work with you.


Interview: Ramon Tejada

Ramon Tejada is a Dominican graphic designer who grew up in New York City. Currently an Assistant Professor at Rhode Island School of Design, Tejada uses his hybrid design and teaching practice to explore collaborative design models, inclusion, and decolonising the eurocentric design canon through a method he refers to as “puncturing” the design canon. I spoke to him about what decolonising design means for him, the importance of collaborative practices, the death of the singular voice in design historiography, and the various ways designers are working to deconstruct the canonical western history of graphic design.

Nina Gibbes: So I came across your work, firstly from an article on AIGA’s Eye on Design, which was really interesting, it was about decolonising design, and then I also came across your Decolonising Design Collaborative Reader, which I have been hopping in and out of and reading and I thought it was really amazing. How did your design practice begin, and how did your work in this specific area of decolonising start?
Ramon Tejada: Let me just take my notebook out first, because there might be some notes that I might want to take for myself too! *laughs*

So I started designing when I was in high school, and I fell in love with doing layouts and typography and desktop publishing. A few years earlier the Mac had just arrived and by the time I got to high school the Mac had come further along so you could use it to make publications. There was Pagemaker at the time, and I really loved being able to put things together. I continued doing newspaper layouts through college, I majored in Theatre in college but I kept doing what I call graphic design, I was paying some bills, doing some freelance work and when I turned 30, I made a conscious decision to just pivot because I was exhausted by the run of theater. I think I was just too young and too naive about it and I always loved graphic design, for the making aspect of it, putting together the layouts, the composition.

I went to the School of Visual Arts and started taking continuing-ed classes as I was working, I had some really fabulous bosses in New York who were paying for me to take these classes and then I decided to go to grad school. The whole initial love for it was just making things, making posters, books, working with people to get these big projects done. Collaboration, for me, has always been a huge thing, I love working with people, especially smart, fun people who come up with ideas I don’t even think of.

When I decided to go to graduate school, I was in New York at that point and I didn’t want to go to school in New York. I felt that New York was too tied down to this corporate tradition of graphic design. I also had this problem in theatre at the time which was that I couldn’t see myself anywhere. Even in New York City. The narratives, the stories, they just didn’t look like me. I was born in the Dominican Republic, and I came to the US when I was very young and the visibility in question in the US is very particular. All you see is white culture, that’s what everyone wants to be and that was becoming an issue. It was an issue in theatre, and in design I didn’t recognise it until later on. At grad school I joked that I wanted to become this Swiss designer later on and actually change my name to Johan or something. In many ways, I loved traditional graphic design, that thing we recognise as post-Bauhaus, Swiss, rigid grids, typography, order, hierarchy, all of that stuff. I actually don’t hate it, I love all of that stuff.

So I went to grad school at Otis College of Art and Design in LA, and it was a very quirky program, we did a lot of non traditional work. I was very interested in non traditional work, and interested in layering. I couldn’t understand how people did this work which was so intense when I had come from New York which was so about reduction – like a little black letter on a great big field of white, but I also became really interested in this layering thing. I think that was the manifestation of my family coming out in my work, my family is really loud, it’s very chaotic in its own beauty, it’s beautiful and I don’t need to cover it or make it palatable for anybody else. When I left Otis, there was some influence from this, I was in my mid-late thirties by this stage.

Then I went back to New York and was teaching for a while because I had a masters in performance art I had received before that, so I could teach. Then the election happened here in 2016, and I just lost my crap like a lot of people did and I realised I needed to make a shift, and that was really the kick in the butt that happened, and I was a bit confused about what I was doing, what I was teaching, and the work that I was doing. As much as I love some of the work I had made, I just don’t see myself, I just see somebody who in essence is copying this style that was brought over from another place. And I am a total europhile, I could probably buy a house with the amount of money I have spent going to Europe. I love travelling, I lived in Amsterdam and London, they’re also very multicultural places yet in the visual design culture, that’s not what you see, which is problematic.

So this whole shift for me went further along as I was teaching at Pratt Institute in New York, and I spoke to one of my colleagues Davey Whitcraft, about a project I was struggling with, and he was doing a PhD in Philosophy and doing all this reading, and he said “I think you’re interested in this idea of decolonisation and you need to look into this because you’ve been talking about it since grad school you just didn’t know about it.”

After that, I was on a panel with several faculty members of Pratt and an art history department teacher at Pratt asked me to do a lecture, which was a bit terrifying because I’m not an art historian. I put together this lecture around the idea of decolonisation, and it was quite amazing. One of the things I put together for it was a reader to share the resources and it was a poster, which a lot of people in the art history class were apparently confused by, the poster had no hierarchy or it was my attempt at no hierarchy. My work in this area just took off from there, and I got hired at Rhode Island School of Design to teach there, and they asked to do an elective around my area of interest. As I was preparing for teaching the class, I was thinking “well, what do I share with people? What are the resources?” and that’s when I started putting the
Decolonizing Design Reader
together. The reader that’s out now, the collaborative one that people see is actually a copy of the initial reader that I gave students, which they added texts to. I wanted to keep that for the purposes of the class, it was created in a very particular context but the version that’s out now keeps growing. I don’t think it’s a product that ever finishes. 

Nina Gibbes: I’ve seen it change visually quite a few times which is really cool. I love that it’s so alive and it changes, every time I go on it it’s changed again which is really awesome just seeing this living document evolve.
Ramon Tejada: Yeah I was thinking about redesigning it this summer. There’s a lot of questions around using a platform like Google, but the accessibility of it, is only restricted to people who use Google and a lot of people don’t have access to that because they don’t have technology in the way that we do. But there’s something about the Google “open source” tools that I really like, such as Google sheets, Google Docs, I want to design with these tools properly but then the collaborative doc just started doing it. So then I thought “why do I need to redesign this”? At least people tell me they love going through it, so I’m just going to make some tweaks to it every once in a while, change the colours, add different type, and it will be fine.

Nina Gibbes: The word ‘decolonise’ is quite a complex word, and it means a lot of things for different people. In relation to design practice, or just for you in general, what does that word mean for you?

Ramon Tejada: It’s this huge idea that a lot of people are still tussling with. I think it’s so context related, it can morph meaning. If you are in Australia, it can mean one thing, if you are in Europe it means another, South America it means another, North America it means another etc. If you’re a First Nations person in North America it’s going to mean something, so I think part of it is just recognising that it has many meanings and it demands that you create your definition to frame how you’re using it.

For me, the way that I’ve come to terms with using that word is about opening up the floodgates and making spaces for people who have not been included in conversations, in the histories, the theories, the work. I just want to see people who look like me be part of it and not just be tokenized. I’m really interested in a plurality of ideas rather than a singularity of ideas, perhaps even a plurality of who is speaking those ideas. Because you could argue that academically there is a plurality of ideas out there, but it’s always framed from the same perspective in many ways. Even the idea of academia itself is this very European idea, it’s not like we’re all educated in this academic, British, Oxford University situation.

“I just want to see people who look like me be part of it and not just be tokenized. I’m really interested in a plurality of ideas rather than a singularity of ideas.”

Nina Gibbes: Yeah, that’s exactly the kind of area that I’m looking at in this Master’s project which is asking questions around why education has taken a long time to change, and why do I always get taught the same European, Bauhaus, Swiss International Style story of design history. Why haven’t people spoken about women designers more and designers from non-white backgrounds? Frankly I’m a bit annoyed about my design education...

In your classrooms, when you’re talking with your students, how do you approach the subject of design history and create an environment with students that’s intersectional, where you’re talking about all of these different things?
Ramon Tejada: I think you’re really articulating that frustration when it comes to education, when you’re taught to critically engage with subject matter and then at one point you decide to critically engage with education itself. I think in design, we’re really behind in this conversation in many ways. In other areas like social sciences they’re a bit further because they’ve had this discussion since the 60s and the 70s, at times really chaotically. I don’t teach design history per say, but you can’t avoid it in certain situations when you’re teaching typography or teaching about colour, history informs so much and gives a lot of context.

For me a lot of it is to make it clear to students that the history sometimes is framed from a very particular point of view, for example when teaching typography. I am writing a syllabus for a typography class at the moment—I’m looking at the notes right now—I have this note here that says:

“When we are speaking of typography we’re referencing a tradition that has been defined by western principles and ideas. My goal is for you to discover and enjoy making typography in your way and to push past the tradition that has been very exclusive. If you speak other languages you are welcome to work in English and your other language to create a multilingual work. How does typography function in this context? What are the challenges? What are the discoveries you will make?”

So for me, it’s really making sure that in the classroom there is this space for you to enter it and maneuver in the way you’re interested in making work for the community you want to make work for. I’m very conscious of telling students I’m not interested in you making work for design. Design doesn’t need us to make work for design. This idea of constantly making work for each other so we can idolise each other – that needs to be done away with. A lot of us come from communities that need us to do different kinds of work and the work needs to look different, not go in and say “oh I’m going to make this thing in Helvetica.” If you do, that’s fine, but I also want the students to understand if you make that piece of work with Helvetica for your community, you should be able to understand what that means. For example, the Helvetica typeface is supposed to be universal and shows up everywhere but in many ways it has vestiges of colonialism in it. The typeface that had no personality just took in everything you gave it and it ends up being a national typeface of some countries that have been colonised because it was just left there.

So I’m interested in making sure that I’m not locking down a classroom in a very strict way, I want my students to understand that you have the agency to go in your own direction and what I’m interested in is the way that the students articulate working in that direction and the path they want to go in. If they’re speaking to a particular community, why? Not just an imaginary audience. We do that a lot in design, make these imaginary audiences and personas, I’m not interested in personas. I want you to think about “who are the humans you are talking to?” That will shift the work. It pushes you in a different way.

“I’m interested in making sure that I’m not locking down a classroom in a very strict way, I want my students to understand that you have the agency to go in your own direction.”

Nina Gibbes: Yeah, and the message is personal. The content becomes more personal or if it’s for a client it’s about their world it’s not about taking something out of context, making it look all cool and designerly and then putting it back, it’s tied to something.
Ramon Tejada: Yeah, like what does that even mean when we use that term “designerly” what does that mean? Are we just copying what we think looks good? What even looks good? I hate to say this because it sounds like I’m being dismissive but I’m not, but who decided that this looks good and for who? This group of dead old white guys? No! It’s done with! Things have shifted, I want to see other people’s perspectives. I want to see how other people see spacing, our relation to space is very different in many parts of the world.

Nina Gibbes: One of the phrases I love that you use is “puncturing the design canon”, which I think is such a great way of talking about it, but it also seems like a very designer way of saying it too because it’s got this visual metaphor for piercing something. How did you come up with that term and what are some of the ways you have engaged with this process of puncturing the design canon?
Ramon Tejada: So when I was thinking about putting together that first initial lecture on decolonising design, I was thinking about finding a really active verb which manifested what I was attempting to do. I think there’s been a lot of poking holes in the design canon, with people who have been trying to do that over the years like in the 80s, someone made a little blur or a beep. I was reading and thinking did Postmodernism do that? But actually Postmodernism didn’t really do that, with all due respect and as much as I love and enjoy a lot of Postmodern work, it distorts certain things but the voice was still the same, it was still a bunch of white people, just a different group of white people talking. It was still the same point of view.

From my work in theatre, some Shakespeare came to mind, there are some Shakespearean insults that he came up with that are really crazy and then I started looking at the word “puncturing.” Some people react to it really negatively because it’s such a violent word but I was excited by that violence. We need to stop being so careful and soft about it, I wanted the action and I wanted to create a massive rupture, like a massive black hole (Ramon gestures an explosion noise on the screen at this point), everything exploded so that we can actually stop cherishing so much and stop validating so much of this canon. There are so many problems in the design canon that we don’t even talk about sometimes. For example with the Bauhaus, first of all the Bauhaus is dead. Let’s just move on. There’s a lot of great things, but there’s also many horrible things. Number one: why were their wives in the basement? That’s what I want to know, why were those women in the basement doing “lesser than” art, when actually some of those women were way more talented than their husbands were. Even the framing of them as “their wives”, they were artists in their own right. Annie Albers to me is way more than anything Josef Albers is.

So I was really thinking about this big rupture that allows everything to come out. All these stories and all these perspectives that come out that shift things, and perhaps annotating the history. I don’t think we should send some of this history away but maybe send it on a vacation, so we can start focusing on other things. There are some parts to Western history that I don’t think I need to teach to students, they will find it on their own, and I think we just need to read other things, other people who have written things that will potentially impact students in the design class or in a practice.

In terms of ways I have engaged with puncturing in my practice, I have created some rupture in my practice because it conflicts with it a bit, so there are times when I can’t design in a “traditional” way. There’s a lot of questions about the choices I make when I’m designing, for example choosing typefaces or asking why am I using this grid this way? What do grids look like in other parts of the world?

“Some of those women were way more talented than their husbands were. Even the framing of them as “their wives”, they were artists in their own right. Annie Albers to me is way more than anything Josef Albers is.

Nina Gibbes: Yeah there’s so many different ways people make grids, there’s no “right” way of doing it, which is sort of hard to get your head around making one because there’s so many different approaches to making one.
Ramon Tejada: Yeah, well really it’s about playing with material. Looking at how you see things from your vantage point and see how you shape something into that. I think also part of “puncturing” is just loving the mess and resisting the temptation of neatly putting everything together because we’re designers and we’re saving the world. Actually we’re not saving jack, we’ve probably created a lot more problems *laughs*. This idea that we’re going into a community and we’re gonna save them with a poster, come on. Let’s be honest about it. You’re interested in engaging people, and engaging them in conversation, perhaps making something that allows you to sit with a group of people and just talk to them honestly and thoughtfully.

Nina Gibbes: Some of the conversations—I haven’t really been calling them interviews anymore because they’re more just conversations—which is really nice. I’ve had some conversations with some other designers for this project I’m working on, and they’ve highlighted that there are some issues within design institutions to do with how history is taught that are sometimes hard to change because institutions are so massive and it takes a long time to change that, and it also depends on who’s teaching the programs, who’s in those positions of power. So I understand why it’s quite a slow process, which is why the importance of starting collectives has been mentioned as these informal spaces for designers to mobilise together on these issues.

Have you been a part of any design collectives or have you worked on research collectively with other designers about untold stories in the design canon?
Ramon Tejada:  I love the word conversation by the way. 

Yeah, I think in many ways, not necessarily formally but in this decolonising design reader project there’s so many people and groups all over, and this is where social media has allowed us all to connect with each other. The Teaching.Design collective in Berlin run by Lisa Baumgarten, I talk to her a lot, and Emily Smith in Berlin. We’re all poking at this issue in really hard ways, trying to puncture it. I think through doing this, that’s a way for students to see—because they’re so active on social media—that there’s alternative ways, and then all of a sudden that starts to sharpen their work. For example, it’s really great for me to show students as a resource, a reader put together by Lisa in Berlin that talks a lot about this.

Nina Gibbes: Yeah I have been in that reader a lot and finding a lot of research and all sorts of articles and journals, it’s been so helpful.
Ramon Tejada: Then there’s this group called the Design History Fridays group that was started by
in LA, and I am part of that. We get together once in a while on Fridays and talk about this stuff and the challenges. So much of it is about the fact that the work and the research hasn’t been given priority in so long, so the histories are there but they haven’t been paid attention to and some of these designers are older now so we have to talk to them soon. I think that’s the moment we’re in right now, in the States, now the pressure is being put on people who are new to research to make these publications, to write these essays, to write these presentations.

There are a lot of people who are doing great work that is not writing a textbook, it’s doing a presentation or a conference that points towards these issues. Over this summer there were a lot of people putting on mini lectures on these histories, which was just fascinating. For example, at Vermont College of Fine Arts, my friend Nikki Juen is the chair of the program for the MFA in Graphic Design and they had
three micro lectures
with Silas Munro, Tasheka Arceneaux and Pierre Bowins. They did these incredible talks on African American designers. And now they’re writing a book on this, a black designers history book. There was so much information in those talks, at one point Tasheka held up this black designers exhibition that was shown at
RISD in the 70s
, and people were just amazed, because they were so shocked that all of these people are missing from the books.

Nina Gibbes: Yeah, it’s incredible there’s been so little published about black designers. I just read an article that Cheryl D. Miller wrote in the 1980s about black designers missing in action, it was such an incredible article but I was also shocked and it put a lot of things into perspective about how many hurdles people face with entering this profession.
Ramon Tejada: So Cheryl was in the audience of this talk and she was amazing and she’s written a new version of that article this year. It’s requiring a lot of people to have to do work to change this which means a shift in their practice in many ways. Shifting away from the making to more the authoring and research. I don’t know how to do that in a constructive way. For example, how someone in the literature department would know how to do. The idea of writing this big book – I have no idea how I would even start that process, putting all this research together into this cohesive voice. But I think these days, the idea of the singular voice is over. I think that collective voice is important, so we need to create work that allows a lot of people’s perspectives to come in and then you engage with it, and then you make your own conclusions or mark your own interests; at least for the work around design history, design theory, and design practitioners.

“I think these days, the idea of the singular voice is over. I think that collective voice is important, so we need to create work that allows a lot of people’s perspectives to
come in.

Nina Gibbes: One of the ways I’m trying to explore that, because writing a book is an enormous—but amazing—achievement, is looking at ways to develop workshops for people who are interested in bringing forward some of design history’s unacknowledged stories. To shine a light on it, and various practices that may not necessarily fit into a neat history model that you see in books a lot. The workshop would involve people bringing in their own stories and ideas and knowledge to share with others and exchange these ideas and learn from each other in an organic way. Have you led any workshops with students that looked at bringing forward hidden design histories?
Ramon Tejada: I think the idea of workshops is really great, this active thing that dismantles the linearity of mainstream history. I think linearity is problematic and in many ways I’m beginning to think that books, as much as I love them, might be too linear. So I’m really interested in how you start making things that are not so linear. Even binding a book is almost like locking it in. In my teaching, I really love the idea of using workshops in classes, I really think of classes in themselves as workshops, so that it doesn’t function linearly and they have many layers and you can traffic through those layers.

I mentioned my friend Silas Munro earlier – Silas and I ran this workshop last summer that we called
Throwing the Bauhaus Under the Bus.
It was about making and engaging with the ideas of form, the aesthetics of form, and the language we use. Silas calls it the “corpus of language” that we use to talk about “good form”, or whatever that is supposed to me. And it was really about navigating and allowing students to navigate that idea and working through it on their own terms rather than through a prescribed way. Again, it was very messy and to some of the students initially that was a problem because they were thinking like designers have been trained to think, working with messes and then coming out with a very neat poster.

“I’m really interested in how you start making things that are not so linear. Even binding a book is almost like locking it in.”

Nina Gibbes: Yeah it’s not a natural way for designers to think.
Ramon Tejada: Yeah no, no, no. You can make things, but you have no idea what that’s going to turn out like, it may not even be a poster. I mean, what is a poster first of all? So it was about just loving the mess, enjoy being a 3 year old who just makes messes and then you can sit back and start to pull out what you need and realise that it may not just be one thing. It may be 20, that will live in this continuous space, you figure that out. So we’ve done several versions of that workshop, but just shorter which was great. It was a lot about giving students and ourselves the agency to go through a process where we can’t control so much because so much of what we’ve been taught as designers is how to wrangle things and how to force things into structures.

Nina Gibbes: Wrangling and controlling things is not the process of research though. Or at least I have found it to be that way. Research is so hard to control because you find out these things along the way that take you in another direction, and you come out with something totally different than what you thought you had in your mind. It is this uncontrollable thing.
Ramon Tejada: Yeah and a workshop can be research as well, and you start at one point and then end in a completely different point. Through the process of working with people and working with new threads you read about or things you’ve never seen before, all of that is going to take you in another direction, and that shifts what you make, what you write, what you understand and that’s pretty amazing. But that’s also very energetic and an alive process rather than a research process that is sitting alone quietly pondering things. For a lot of people that’s not their research experience at all, research is mostly pretty chaotic.

Nina Gibbes: Yes, well for me this research journey has been extremely chaotic *laughs*, but good. It was quite scary at first because I did go into it having this specific idea in mind and had it all planned out, and these were the people I was going to talk to and then I was going to make it into a book. It’s not a book anymore. It’s a workshop and talking to a bunch of other people and listening to their ideas and looking at how they approach things, and it’s great because I see now that it’s taking on a totally different form. And that’s exciting, but terrifying.
Ramon Tejada: Well yeah it puts you in a very vulnerable position because you have to allow yourself to acknowledge that you didn’t know things and you can be honest about it. You realise that you can make work that you don’t need to control and other people can be part of it and you can create a space for other people to do things, it’s getting yourself off the stage. I think culturally a lot of us have been taught to be on stage, so sitting in that space, to think that you’re not getting up there, you’re not writing a book—which in many ways puts you on a very specific stage—which is a major accomplishment, and I have major props to people who do that. The Google doc to me was amazing. Writing an article pulls a lot out of me, I’m not as confident in the writing as I want to be, or as confident there than other people I know, but it’s sitting in that space and realising you can make things in many different forms, and what comes out—the research—can take endless variations depending on your intention and what you want to do with it and who you want to engage with. If you’re making something that can be enjoyed by different communities instead of a group of academics, the output will look very different. Those are decisions you make as you research and go through a process and realise “who is this really for?”

Nina Gibbes: Yeah, it’s an amazing process and it’s so organic as well. Design can be such an organic thing, not just a clean, cold, hard piece of design.
Ramon Tejada: Absolutely, yeah. But in many ways historically, a lot of the people that were not included in those design books, those design canons, those design histories, have been making design for thousands of years and it’s been a very organic evolution, it hasn’t been codified. The thing that we call design, what we call capital D design, that codified thing that we put in books, maybe we’re done with that. Maybe we do something else, and that’s fine because people have been doing it for thousands and thousands of years all around the world.

“The thing that we call capital D design, that codified thing that we put in books, maybe we’re done with that.”

Nina Gibbes: Capital D design is quite a western term for this process, which isn’t actually just theirs... 

One of the things I have been asking everyone I have been talking to is if they have design heroes of their own. I ask this question because it is in reference to Martha Scotford’s essay Is There a Canon of Graphic Design? And she mentions that having heroes can be problematic because it gives attention to some areas and takes attention away from other places. I just want to know whether it’s okay to create space for new heroes? Do you have design heroes yourself or are there people you find really inspiring to your work? They don’t even have to be designers.
Ramon Tejada: Oh totally!

Ramon Tejada: I don’t know if I would use the term heroes for designers *laughs*. I certainly have designers that I have admired in the past, some of them have fallen off that list for me because I realised that what I was admiring was an aesthetic perspective, not necessarily the whole human. I was just valuing the coolness value of a poster or something. Some of them fell out because sometimes you should not meet them, a friend told me “sometimes you just should not meet your heroes,” because they will disappoint you and that’s exactly what happened with some of them, what came out of their mouth was completely different. No.

I have people I value but that’s shifting and for me at least that should shift over time. Right now, it’s not designers that I’m admiring. There’s a lot of designers we really do need to make space to admire though, oh my god. So I am excited to get some books that are coming out in two or three years and just devour them to find people that I just did not know about. They were never put in the sphere but were doing amazing work, some people who did amazing work we know the work but we never knew their name because they were African American or they were Hispanic or Latinx or from another part of the world. When Martha Scotford talks about the problems with design histories, it’s 1000 white guys and a Japanese designer.

Nina Gibbes: Yeah and that’s just super problematic because it’s just one fraction of what’s out there.
Ramon Tejada: Yeah. If you’ve been through the Decolonising Reader, you’ve probably seen that I’ve been very interested recently in bell hooks, because I have been thinking a lot about pedagogy and I read bell’s book on art history where she looks critically at art history. She uses a lot of really exciting language which starts to shift your brain about seeing art in a very different way.

Someone else that I admire a lot is John Leguizamo the actor and performance artist and writer. I’ve seen almost all his shows. Three or four years ago he did Latin History for Morons, I saw it off Broadway at the Public Theatre. It started because his kid came home from school and said he didn’t know about his history, so he did an incredible performance show about that. But he’s really digging at this question of: where do I see myself? Where do I stand? Who’s history am I embodying and who’s history am I performing, and who’s history is given so much play?

There are certain designers and colleagues that I admire a lot, because they do very beautiful work. But there’s so much shifting right now and so much questioning, particularly in the US, and it’s exciting to see where we’re all going. And I think in some ways that’s more exciting than looking at the history. I know that might be an odd statement to make, I love history too, but so much of it is problematic and it’s been framed in problematic ways.

“There’s so much shifting right now and so much questioning, particularly in the US, and it’s exciting to see where we’re all going. And I think in some ways that’s more exciting than looking at the history.”

Nina Gibbes: Yeah, to add to your point there’s really some quite incredible things that are happening in the United States at the moment as well, and the momentum that it’s gaining, it is really bursting through in so many ways which is needed but also really amazing to watch happen, as well as in design and conversations happening in design communities, that is taking form. 
Ramon Tejada: I think that momentum is really important but it’s hard at times because it’s exhausting right now. For many people it’s incredibly exhausting but for me I see the optimism in that momentum and the fact that that momentum has created something that—as a teacher at an art and design institution—has put demands on things that can’t be glossed over or ignored. Students have put demands, faculty have put demands, BIPOC people, BIPOC students, BIPOC faculty and allies have said enough, we’re done with this. The social and political pressure actually making these little bubbles of schools actually change, and not just talk about change because there’s been so much talk about changing for so long.

So stop talking about it and just do it.

This interview was conducted over Jitsi on Saturday, 5th September, 2020
Ramon kindly shared some links with me to lectures, people and projects that look at this subject. You should also look at the incredible ever-changing Decolonizing Design Google Doc reader. Take a look here:

Visit Ramon Tejada’s website to view more of his projects.