Statement of Purpose

In the face of widening social inequality, democratic decline and a basic erosion of the ecological health of the planet, many sections of design and the social sciences appear poised to take a critical turn. Emerging debates around "speculative design", "re-directive practices", "discursive design", "adversarial design" and "transitional design" all indicate an deep impatience with the status quo, a desire to challenge social and environmental injustices and a growing sense that things need to change and change quickly. Many currents of the social sciences would appear to be keen to move from endless deconstruction to reconstruction.

Modernist design has always been centrally linked to the consumer economy and technocratic modes of thinking. At the same time design - as a deeply materialist, agential and often utopian social practice has often been at the forefront driving forward other visions for living differently. Critical Design/Critical Futures would like to begin a conversation about the potential for creative dialogue and critique between critical design and the critical social sciences. We would like to open up a discussion about how we can think and teach critical design. We would like to think about the designer as worker and workers as self-organizing creative designers. We would like to critically interrogate the aesthetics of obfuscation that surrounds mainstream design. Finally, Critical Design/Critical Futures would like to consider how critical design, design activism and design lead social innovation might productively open up new horizons for speculative futures.


Damian White
History, Philosophy + The Social Sciences
Rhode Island School of Design

Damian White is head of the department of History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences. He is a sociologist and political theorist with teaching and research interests in the sociology of design, architecture, and adaptive reuse; urban and environmental sociology with a particular interest in urban political ecology; historical and political sociology; critical theory, urban studies and photography.

Ian Gonsher
Brown University

Ian Gonsher is an artist, designer, and educator working in Providence, RI, where he is on the faculty in the School of Engineering at Brown University. His teaching and research focus on the creative process in practice and the application of design strategies across academic disciplines. Recent classes include ENGN0903 DesignStudio and CSCI1951C Designing Humanity Centered Robotics. He is a co-founder of the Brown Design Workshop, Brown STEAM/STEAMstudio, the Creative Scholars Project, and the Creative Mind Initiative. Ian studied Art History and Industrial Design at the University of Kansas, and also holds an MFA in Furniture Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. More information about his work can be found on his website.


Anne Tate
Rhode Island School of Design

A pioneer in sustainable planning for 20 years, Anne Tate currently chairs the Steering Committee for the Faculty Meeting and leads various sustainability initiatives on campus. She is interested in the intersection of design and policy and served in 2003–04 as special advisor on sustainable development in the Office for Commonwealth Development (OCD) in Massachusetts, a post that combined the executive offices of environment, energy, housing and transportation. At the OCD she led two signature efforts: the Sustainable Development Principles and the Transit Oriented Development Initiative. With Doug Foy, Tate negotiated the settlement that unlocked development for 145 acres of prime waterfront land in Somerville, MA. She now co-chairs the Citizen Advisory Committee in Somerville.

Paolo Cardini
Industrial Design
Rhode Island School of Design

Paolo Cardini came to RISD from the interdisciplinary graduate design program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. His work ranges from product design to interaction design and from integrated communication to strategic planning. He studied industrial design at Politecnico di Milano and Glasgow School of Art and has served as department chair for undergraduate and graduate industrial design departments at Istituto Europeo di Design in Turin. In addition to teaching, Cardini designs and consults for various international firms, lectures at conferences and design schools worldwide and contributes actively to the field with papers and publications.

Susan Yelavich
Design Studies

Susan Yelavich is an associate professor and director of the MA Design Studies program in the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons The New School for Design. Her research explores the cross-disciplinary dynamics of global culture and design, the relationship between textiles and architecture, and the parallels between design and literature. She is the author of numerous articles and books, including Design as Future-Making (Bloomsbury, 2014), Contemporary World Interiors (Phaidon, 2007), Pentagram/Profile (Phaidon, 2004), Inside Design Now (Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 2003), Design for Life (Whitney Library of Design, 1997), and The Edge of the Millennium: An International Critique of Architecture, Urban Planning, Product and Communication Design (Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, 1993). A fellow of the American Academy in Rome, she was awarded the Academy's Rolland Prize in Design in 2003. She lectures widely and has taught at NABA (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti) in Milan, Italy, and the New School's Transregional Center for Democratic Studies in Wroclaw, Poland. Previously, she was the assistant director for public programs at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York.

Charlie Cannon
Industrial Design
Rhode Island School of Design

Charlie Cannon joined the Industrial Design Department full-time in 2009. Prior to that he spent twelve years as a part-time member of the faculties of Landscape Architecture and Industrial Design, with forays into Architecture and Graduate Studies. Charlie has been nominated for RISD's Frazier Teaching Award three times. He is also a Co-Principal Investigator for Rhode Island's National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), a $20 million investigation of the impact of climate change on marine life.

Jo Guldi
Brown University

Jo Guldi is Hans Rothfels Assistant Professor of Britain and its Empire at Brown University. She is author of Roads to Power: Britain invents the infrastructure state; What is the Spatial Turn?; and The History Manifesto, as well as designer, with Chris Johnson-Roberson, of the digital toolkit Paper Machines. More information about her work can be found on her website and at the History Manifesto.

Barrett Hazeltine
Brown University

Barrett Hazeltine was Professor of Engineering at Brown University. He is now Professor Emeritus but continues to teach at Brown. In 1991-1992 he held the Robert Foster Cherry Chair for Distinguished Teaching at Baylor University. From 1972 to 1992 he was also Associate Dean of the College at Brown. His teaching and research interests are in engineering management, technology planning especially in developing countries, teaching of technology for Liberal Arts students, and digital computers.

Sheridan Coleman

Sheridan Coleman is an artist and writer based in Perth, WA. She is currently studying at Curtin University of Technology as an APA- and CUPSA- supported PhD candidate. Sheridan's practice delves into cultural geography in order to study the history of landscape art and how it can be reshaped and fitted into contemporary living. Her PhD and current practice have revolved around a reconsideration of the cultural role that landscapes play in a digitally-dependent urban society. She asks whether the prevalence of the Internet, personal digital devices, GPS and geographical images tools have induced new ways of thinking about landscapes, space and environment, and whether today we have a new, digitally-appended mode for looking at the landscape. Sheridan has completed a BA, Honours and MA in visual art and in 2014 exhibited at The Daphne Collection in North Perth. Sheridan recently presented two research papers on contemporary landscape artmaking at the 2014 AAANZ conference and the biennial 2015 GANZA conference. She has also published writing in Art Monthly, Art Guide, RealTime Arts and Artlink.