Becoming Woke: Design Research and Embodied Practice

Kate Mcentee


In early 2016, a design research project explored designing engagements to address issues of structural racism and white privilege. The research took place by enacting engagements with patrons in bars throughout New York City. The design “outcome” of this research was a distributable guidebook to encourage and empower discussion and awareness. However, the real designed outcome were the conversations generated by the embodied practice of the research itself—the actual interaction, skillful facilitation and iterative strategy that activated thoughtful exchange between two people. This case study reflects on how as design offers problem-solving services in complex social spaces, the intangible products of design practice become valuable outputs. The designer’s embodiment of their practice must align with the values and intended outcome of the project, thus also making the practice process the designed outcome itself.

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