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August Design Thinking Breakfast with Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM
Friday, August 27, 2021

Woodrow W. Winchester led the August 2021 session of Design Thinking Breakfast.

Presentation Materials


#WideningDesignNarratives:  Culture and/as Context in Design

Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM

Director, Professional Engineering Programs

University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)

In her blog, Olga Werby states that: “Nothing exists in isolation. Design divorced from the context in which the product is used is of little value to its audience. Cognitively, this makes sense—most designers agree that they have to consider the environment, culture, and situation as part of the process of developing a new product (or redesigning an old one). But practically, context and culture get little play in design meetings”.  Why is this the case?  This talk explores a possible reason – translation.  While the what and why of culture in design are understood, the how – how cultural insights are translated into design – remains rather elusive.  This talk considers this premise through an interactive discussion of several culturally informed design examples ranging from architecture to game design with the intent of highlighting the challenges and opportunities in grappling with culture.  This talk concludes with discussing Vision Enabled Design Thinking (V.E.D.T) as an approach to engage with culture more fully in design.



Where Are The Black Designers 2021 (#WATBD2021)

Culture Sensitive Design:  A Guide to Culture in Practice, Annemiek van Boeijen and Yvo Zijlstra

Culture-Driven Product Innovation, R. Moalosi, V. Popovic and A. Hickling-Hudson

Towards Culture-Centred Design, S.T. Shen, M. Woolley, S. Prior

A Design Thinker Reckons with Design Thinking, Tania Anaissie

The Most Popular Design Thinking Strategy is BS, Tricia Wang

Dimeji Onafuwa Designs for a World Where Everyone is Represented

Omar Degan


Video Games Encourage Indigenous Cultural Expression

The People Are Beautiful Already:  Indigenous design and planning



Afrofuturism as a Design Lens

Assets-Based Design

About the Hosts

Woodrow W. Winchester, III, PhD, CPEM is the Director of Professional Engineering Programs for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

Woman smiling wearing a white shirt.

Niesha Ford is a second-year graduate student at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Niesha works with multiple organizations committed to causes such as: providing services for people experiencing homelessness, encouraging positive racial perspectives, and working with historically marginalized groups to combat the current COVID-19 pandemic.



Julia Lang (she/her)


Yes, that sounds good.


Good morning, everyone Thank you so much for being here with us today. It’s great to see some familiar faces, some of whom I haven’t seen for quite some time and I also see some new folks including some new folks that are joining our Taylor Community so, Welcome.


And, before we start, I just wanted to acknowledge that there is a lot going on in our country and in our world right now. Here in New Orleans I know that many of us are feeling some stress and anxiety about an impending hurricane. If you’re in higher ED you might be swamped with the semester just starting, we all continue to be worried about the safety and health of our loved ones, including for those of you that have young kids, I know this is an incredibly stressful time.


So, in design thinking we talk a lot about empathy, and I know many of our hearts are hurting for those near and far, and I don’t know about y’all but in this Zoom world where people can feel so apart and so disconnected, I find it helpful to ground myself in where I am in my body, and in my breath.


So, I wanted to start today with just a brief breathing exercise, you’re welcome to turn off your camera if you would like to do so.


So, allowing yourself to free then, allowing your breath in to fill the whole cavity of your chest, and then exhale, allowing some tension to wash through you.


Breathing in, filling yourself up with fresh, new breath of a new morning, a new day, and breathing out, snding a little love to someone who might need it today.


Breathing in filling yourself up with something or someone that you are grateful for and breathing out, letting that gratitude flow through you from head to toe.


One more time breathing in, and breathing out.


If your camera is off, I invite you to turn your camera back on, and take a moment to look at the beautiful people that are here with us today in this space.


And just acknowledging our shared humanity and our gratitude for one another and all the things that we’re all dealing with in our personal and professional lives and just feeling a moment of gratitude that we are able to be here in community for the next hour together.


So hello, my name is Julia Lang, I’ m a professor of practice at the Taylor Center. And at Taylor we support many different kinds of learners who want to build skills in design thinking and social innovation.


So this event, many of you have been here before, is part of our design thinking breakfast series which is hopefully a casual, playful way to learn about and try on new designerly ways of thinking, being, and doing and thinking about how design thinking can be used to create social impact.


So we also hope that today, not only are we learning from our amazing speaker, but that we have a chance to learn from each other. That each of you are bringing in a wealth of knowledge and experiences that we know are incredibly valuable to the community that we’re creating.


So for folks that are new to this space, this will not be a formal lecture. We invite you to engage informally in the chat throughout the session, and also, many of us are in the central or west coast time zones, feel free to eat breakfast, secure coffee, we encourage you to take care of yourself in the next hour, while we’re here together.


So with that, I would like to welcome Niesha Ford, our graduate assistant, who has fearlessly lead this series all summer, and she is really the one that has planned everything.


But before I hand it over to her, she just graduated and so I’d love to give her a little round of applause, either with your zoom hands, you can turn off and actually give her applause.


She has been such an incredible assets to our Taylor community and she’s going to be deeply deeply missed, so thank you Niesha, thank you for everything you’ve done, and take it away.


Niesha Ford


Thank you so so much Julia. You know, not only for the breathing exercise for that warm introduction. It’s really been a joy to lead DT Breakfast and work with the Taylor Center for the past year and over the summer.


So, again for those that have attended DT breakfast before my name is Niesha Ford. I’m a graduate assistant of the Taylor Center. This will actually be my last DT breakfast I will be hosting. I’m very sad but I’m so happy to turn this over to the Taylor Center and another graduate assistant to take my place but without further ado, I’m happy to introduce our last speaker of the summer.


Today we have Woodrow Winchester III. He is the director of professional engineering programs for the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). He is also the director professional development and continuing education for the American Society of Engineering Management, where he coordinated and facilitated in partnership with UMBC, a webinar series that explored diversity equity and inclusion in technical management and technical, technological development. Selected as a member of the second cohort of the IAspire leadership academy, Woodrow is an advocate for more equitable, inclusive, and consequential approaches to technology design and deployment.


As a thought leader, Woodrow has published works and influential practitioner oriented publications, such as in Cost Insight magazine, AMC interactions, fast company magazine, and the conversation. He has been a featured speaker at such venues as premier health experience design conference and the University of Maryland, James Clark School of engineering.


And without further ado, I’m going to pass it on to Woodrow. Thank you so much for coming all.


Woodrow Winchester, III


And thank you so much, now, you should and just soundcheck everyone can hear me?


Awesome. Thank you so much again thank you Niesha for that that introduction and Julia. Thank you so much for that opening and really kind of contextualizing the day. And it’s really fitting, not only for just putting things in perspective, as we are as humans in this world, but also in contextualizing this talk. The focus of today’s talk is kind of evolved a bit, but the but the premise is kind of stayed the same.


So it’s really interesting as now, you should kind of introduced. Today, in the series and the focus of the design thinking breakfast series around empathy and again kind of reiterated by the opening that Julia kind of facilitated, really talking about at the core, more impacting approaches to design.


And today what I would like to do is just kind of have a focus discussion and, again, is not Niesha, kind of detail, want to keep it interactive very informal. I do have it unfortunately structured more so as a lecture as a professor, I think that’s how I’ve just been trained to kind of think and got a structure presentations and thoughts. But I love the nature of this series, I’ve been an active participant and and I think we’ll be able to kind of navigate this in a more informal sort of manner.


To kind of give some additional sort of context in terms of how this presentation is structured, I’ve got a series of kind of quotes, kind of provocative sorts of quotes to really kind of catalyze thought and discussion. So we’ll use those as kind of prompts to kind of move through, the content of this talk.


So just a quote here to kind of level set and just kind of reiterate the criticality of culture in design. And what I will do and I feel to do that now, you should I did modify the abstract for this talk with all the resources that I talked through, and I have those links, so i’ll send that to you immediately after this talk and all the participants can have that.



So to give a title to the talk, I’m using this title ‘”Widening design narratives culture and or as context in design”.  I love this sort of image here have been kind of utilizing this, this has been kind of inspiration and motivation for me, for the last couple years, in terms of my exploration is now, you should kind of introduced about me. An inclusive and consequential or anticipatory sort of design. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Alicia Wormsley, she did not create these words and she is adamant about the fact in terms of you know, the statement. But this statement specifically here there’s been installations of this throughout the country, but while I was in Pittsburgh, this was done in a recently gentrified neighborhood and it just sparks such you know conversation in the in the community around you know gentrification, equity, inclusion through different sorts of context so it’s just a really nice reminder in terms of art and art as inspiration and motivation for us in design.


So again, this talk is kind of evolved a bit when I was first invited and thank you so much for the invitation to be with you today. I had the opportunity, I guess it’s been in the summers just flown by, maybe two months ago, where the black designers 2021. This was the second sort of conference or convening of design black design thought leaders, and it really just so motivated me and inspired me and really kind of helped to trigger, some new kind of thought trajectories as I think about inclusive design and what that means, and I wanted to integrate some of those newer thoughts, you know into this presentation, as we explore kind of culture design. So additional level setting at best. I mean the bar is so high, with this design thinking breakfast. Again I have just been so inspired by the speakers so for me, setting the bar here, at best, more questions and answers.


So again, hopefully catalyzing some some thought, and at the core also what I would like to achieve here is to motivate a more reflective sort of practice, kind of moving towards that vision of the reflective practitioner that I’m sure many of you have heard about. And really at the heart of that is looking at design as a conversation, you know with the situations which then includes considerations of culture and then also what I would like to do kind of extending those thoughts connects and connecting some dots with the intent of amplifying some thoughts and for me specifically as its exploration of Afrofuturism as a design lens and additional voices around culture and underpinning more inclusive approaches to design.


So just to kind of again additional sort of level setting here as we get started, when we talk about culture, what is culture mean, how do we define culture, there are lots of definitions that exists, there a lot of thought leaders and design of kind of operationalize culture in a design sort of context so i’m going to use these words to kind of best describe, how I kind of operationalize culture in this particular context. So we’re looking at culture from a social, cultural sort of lens so common traditions mindset social patterns habits beliefs of a given sort of group.


So again, some prompts to kind of get us thinking so, and again you’ll have the resources here technology is not a good traveler unless it’s culturally calibrated so that’s that’s kind of this overarching premise and how do we culturally calibrate our design practices and outcomes. So again, this is reflective of really reflective in nature, where the black designers really been the kind of the catalyst for this sort of reflection. That truly reflects you know my journey from you know engineer as designer I’m a little, I would say in terms of background, a little different than most of the speakers I do come from a traditional engineering background.


My undergrad and graduate degrees or an industrial and systems engineering and kind of moved into more of a design sort of practice. My dissertation work was in human factors ergonomics, which really kind of put me more on that design sort of trajectory, and, more specifically kind of design research so moving from that arena to you know engineering design educator so, practitioner to educator and now as a program director, so a person that you know develops, you know programs which, which I think you know we’re going to kind of get to this a little bit in terms of kind of the influence, that has in terms of kind of moving the discourse forward as well.


So some things kind of came out of this sort of reflection and reflect that sort of activity that i’ve kind of been going through. That really that I would like to kind of put out there and and have you to reflect on as well, especially, you know as an engineer. This notion of technosolutionism. You know, really, you know when we talk about problems, you know with engineers want to quickly song got a problem or to solve it, and specifically want to solve it with some sort of technological solution. So you know coming to the table with that sort of mindset and what does that mean in terms of you know how I approach design. So some questions kind of came out of that and a little bit of this we’re going to explore this morning, so you know what is technology? you know how do we define that and then, when we talk about technology as a solution, you know from what perspective?


And you know i’ve really been kind of thinking about that as well you know this notion of technology is an enabler, and what does that mean, and you know oftentimes we think about you know that it’s to fix something you know. So is there a place in space for us to kind of counter that deficit sort of narrative when we think about you know, technology and technology as an enabler, in different sorts of context.  This notion of reductionism again, you know coming from an engineering sort of background kind of reducing simplifying in order to better understand and tackle may not be the best approach you know, especially as we look at you know technology being engaged in in different sorts of you know aspects of humanity and, as we see the consequences and implications of that.


So kind of this notion of the criticality of context and culture as as context. And what I’ve really appreciated about this series, and and really has begin to kind of catalyzed in my thinking and my reflection, you know positionality. And really begin to kind of think about that in terms of you know, bringing your whole self to the design, you know conversation and and what does that mean? So I did as earlier with with the talk about it was going to go in a different sort of direction, there was a paper that i’ve hosted, excuse me that Niesha posted for me, that kind of some pre reading that explored kind of what human computer interaction could do in terms of HIV prevention some work that I did early on in my career, but what that kind of brings to life is this notion of kind of lived experience and what lived experience can actually in potentially kind of offer, in terms of enriching the design narrative and and what that could actually again with that could actually offer. So that being said, you know kind of you know the value of this it truly is there, so without deep self and systems awareness, we often reproduce the systems of oppression, regardless of our intent. And that’s why I really wanted to kind of talk about this this journey that i’ve been on in terms of you know my career.


You know it wasnt, it isnt –my intent is not to do to replicate the status quo and to further oppress. But when I think about kind of these guiding sort of principles and kind of how operationalize in my thinking, and in my action and, in my doing you know, am I actually you know, reproducing you know those same systems of oppression or am I kind of dismantling and and rebuilding so you know really have to take some time to really kind of you know step back for a moment and really kind of think about you know what these things that are kind of you know, guiding and governing, your thinking and doing and what the implications of those those are you know to your work.


So kind of roadmap for today kind of talked about my journey in terms of read this kind of reflection. I’m using these hashtags because these are the hashtag that we’re kind of utilize in where the black designers so there’s some really cool sort of quotes floating around on Twitter that you can pick up on, you know, by querying on those on those hashtags. So why need design narratives that’s where we’re beginning to kind of talk about culture to do that. Expanding the centering, you know as we talk about culture and culture in design, you know what what I would offer in terms of oftentimes the challenge associated with, that is, then, how do we we have a lot of work that’s been done in terms of developing specific sort of design methods, tools, and techniques that we can utilize to understand culture and those relevant sort of cultural considerations, but the challenge often is translating those into design, so I have some cool examples to kind of talk through that.



Some work that i’m beginning in terms of apple futurism so as we expand the centering what does that mean, as we go beyond white imagining. And then kind of closing here in terms of you know how now can we in essence shift the power? So talk a little bit about some work that i’m doing with this design thinking approach called vision enabled design thinking which really begins to kind of frame and approach, with the premise of shifting power. So excited to kind of talk about that, some thoughts are in terms of moving forward, and then not that we’re going to wait until the end for questions and closing thoughts, but have some dedicated space for that.


I was just checking the chat to see if there was anything there that I needed to address. So starting off starting this conversation around culture, I love this quote you know nothing exists in isolation. And it was really interesting and it was just truly brought the life with the opening, you know that we had today, by Professor Lang you know you know, putting into context you know what’s happening in the world, and how that influences, you know our being and thus our doing.


So we really have to be mindful of that and I really appreciate that exercise this morning, which really kind of brings that to life. So again, this quote designed divorce from context in which the product is used as a little value to its audience. You know cognitively, this makes sense, most designers agree that they have to consider the environment, culture and situation is a part of the process of developing a new product or redesign an old one, but practically context and culture get little play in design meetings. And also, not only in design meetings from our practice sort of perspective, but also what we do from an education sort of perspective as well, in terms of talking about culture and culture in design and most of our design and engineering sort of program. So you know, the question is, you know why is that the case? So when we think about you know what we’ve kind of what we’re doing and how we’re kind of yeah I guess doing it’s got the word to use in this in this, in this case culture, you know in design is is their opportunity for more? And you know one thing that kind of stood out to me, and this this happened during a black history month, so I don’t know if we’ve got some Apple aficionados in the audience.



I’m sure we got a lot of designers, so a lot of designers love Apple products so it’s really interesting to kind of watch apple with their apple watch for black history month, which was really interesting to kind of see that in terms of what they did. So, you know really kind of excited, heard some press around it, you know that they’re this redesign or this this edition of the Apple watch, which really kind of takes into, that was designed by black designers and and and mention of culture in the context of its design so it’s just really kind of intrigued to see what this could possibly be. Spoiler alert, I was disappointed. But you know what they were what they did with this watch in terms of you know, for black history month and they’re calling it the the “black unity watch”. You know redesigned the band so kind of utilize the the red black and green you know colors which has some significance in terms of, black people’s in the in the United States, the colors of a Pan African flag, specifically, and then you know the watch face displays an ever changing pattern, so you can actually get this watch face even if you have the one of the earlier sort of additions of the Apple watch. That dynamically shifts is you know it moves creating a unique unique face for everyone. So just a play on you know just the interface itself in terms of the coloration and then some graphical design elements associated with it, so you know that’s that was the Apple watch, you know you know black unity.


So again, this notion of you know, can we go further, you know when we talk about you know, culture and integrating culture, you know in design? So another quote to kind of you know, add some some some some thought here. Just as we can end racism by stopping winnetka violence against the black indigenous or person of color we can prevent exclusion or by his only focusing only on the colors of user interface elements.


You know everyone involved in product development needs to take responsibility for creating inclusive technology, you know and oftentimes that’s you know that’s what we see, and as I step through some examples that I have a little later in the presentation, you know when when when designers think about culture, you know if these surface sort of elements, you know astetics you know, but again, you know, can we go further, widening the design, you know narrative? So you know again beginning to kind of answer that question, you know early on posed by Olga you know, in terms of little plan meetings you know why you know, there’s understood there’s understanding that’s involving to that that suggests, you know that why, you know today’s designers work at a distance from their wildly diverse communities of users.

We can do designers a great service by finding ways to take them beyond your own experience and culture. So this is Jane Fulton Suri famous cultural design anthropologist doing some, I think she is pretty much retired now, but did some really cool foundational work in terms of you kind of exploring culture and culture and disign. Designers hold the power of the process and outcomes, the work, and yet, our lives are rarely directly impact it, you know by the challenge. So again, you know this issue of little play of culture, you know because we’re oftentimes distant you know from these communities of diverse communities and and oftentimes you know and in terms of the work that we do we’re not the ones directly impacted. So it becomes one of those, not that we don’t care, but you know really that understanding of, so back to kind of earlier thoughts expressed as we kind of opened up today, you know this, the empathy so you know where is the empathy?



So how we design technologies reflects you know what we value, who we think is important, and in what ways which places people you know impossibilities so as we, as we talk about the narrative so you know design is political, there’s been discussion of that in the context of this series. You know those empower you know kind of drive this sort of decision making. You know, current ways of designing technologies frequently narrow those possibilities, tech design is dominated, as we know, by narrow demographic predominantly white and asian, white collar highly educated and urban.


So kind of shifting in terms of then, what does that mean what are the implications to design as a result designers proposed products that suit their own needs. You know and it’s interesting so again we’ve got this this great resource and I think this was brought up in the previous design thinking breakfast this piece about Tricia Wang and fast company, the most popular design thinking strategy is bs you gotta read that incredible sort of peace, and she kind of uses this example, of the jewel. So it’s really interested in terms of you know how design thinking think about you know, ultimately, what the outcomes of that you know, should be you know, h ow did we end up with this this product with this, you know addictive sort of property and with these these consequences that we’re seeing in terms of abuse and the addiction of young people, you know to these products. So you know you know really kind of thinking about that, and how we got to where we are at this point.



So, you know how do we then begin to kind of think about, so why need to design narrative so in order to do that really thinking about how we can ultimately expand the centering. So again kind of utilizing that quote from Phoebe Singers at Cornell you know, in terms of who’s dominating and how design is now centered, how can we now expand that centering?


So, you know I would offer you know culture is a way, by which we can do that, but we can do better, you know, in terms of that. So to use as a case study I’m going to kind of use some some early work and work that i’m hoping to pick back up on because again my career trajectory is going to change more in an administrative sort of capacity versus research, but did some early work in the connected fitness space and really kind of thinking about you know connected fitness technology design and who are they responsive to and who was actually centered and you know, in the design of these sorts of technologies, meaning, like the fitbit you know apple watch.


So it’s really interesting, so I have this is to provide some some thought in terms of kind of when we think about expanding the centering and what that means and culture and kind of how culture, and is contexts,  kind of flavor and change the design narrative. So black women possess because specifically my work was kind of looking at you know you know opportunities, in terms of increasing engagement of black women, you know and the use of these technologies to meet, address health disparities in physical activity is critical, so what can technology offers an enabler, you know for physical activity that’s impacting some of these health disparities among black women. So lot of work has been done in terms of exploring you know that there are a variety of social or sociocultural norms, that can influence aka motivate black women’s engagement, you know in physical activity. And this really is brought to life, I’ve been following this this this movement GirlTrek and very successful movement around motivating black women in movement and physical activity.


It’s really interesting so to kind of look at this and contrast. So you know when they talk about when girl track kind of talks about movement, you know it’s it’s you can see in the song that i’ve got I got highlighted here, you know we walk for healthier bodies, families, you know community, so you know this different sort of, these different sort of motivators around you know physical activity it isn’t about you know, and then it isn’t about so kind of moving to what we see in a typical sort of implementation, and this is what Apple has is utilizing, for you know the Apple watch. They call it the the “burn bar” I don’t know how many of you all actually kind of utilize it. I do, but not the best, but you know it’s what’s suffices until we could get something better out there, but you know again it’s centered around you know heart rate, calories burn So those are the sort of you know motivators that are kind of utilize you know about this particular

kind of interface, you know in regards to physical activity, so you kind of see that kind of stark sort of contrast, you know, in terms of when we think about you know design of the sorts of technologies, who’s being centered? And what can be the result of that, you know as a technology in an enabling you know physical sort of activity and what those possibilities could be. So we kind of see those sorts of differences.


So again, you know can can we go further? you know and really you know back to one of the quotes that I had it cited earlier in terms of you know, us as designers you know designing for us, you know, not for you know our communities and diverse users. It was really interesting so, kind of carrying this example of Apple. There was a recent article, I believe it was in men’s health and the VP of I think it’s “Connected Fitness” I think is his actual title for Apple you know, is really kind of talking about you know the inspiration and kind of the process in terms of developing you know this interface.


And you know, is really interesting so i’ve cut and paste here because I was like I can’t believe this, you know you know we know as designers you know what was the the the original sort of that, not canon but mantra, in terms of we are “you are not your user” you know he goes on to state here, you know. We had to think hard about how to curate the experience or you’re not overwhelmed by metrics animations and those things happening and it works too, and then he goes on to say in my fitness plus workouts I found that seeing my heart rate bolted or spurred me to push harder, so you know, but you know i’m sorry it’s not about you.


But you know really kind of again, you know that that mindset oftentimes that we have, and you know it may be, not consciously aware on some level that these assumptions and biases, around how our thoughts and our assumptions and what works for us, you know, in terms of working for everyone else. Again, you know how do we then begin to kind of you know, expand that centering and then, as we see you know other sort of players, you know kind of you know reconceptualize or conceptualize design in this particular sort of context as well, you know it was really kind of disappointed to see Peloton kind of going similar sort of direction so really again, you know, playing on this notion of you know gamification.


So you know it’s like you know gamification doesn’t it doesn’t respond for everyone, are there other ways by which you know again expanding the centering– widening the design narrative that we can really begin to kind of think about design in this particular sort of context.


So i’ve really been kind of again back to some some reflection here. And what and really kind of building off a lot has been discussed in the in the talks in this particular series, especially around decolonizing design and I do see Professor Noel all here and so so great to see her face, I tell you, she has been such an inspiration to me, and has afforded many opportunities. Ijust had to say that. So you know again so as we expand, you know the centering and culture can that be a means by which to kind of facilitate that. So i’ve really been excited about some work and I don’t want to butcher his name, but we do have, I do have the links associated with some talks and papers that he’s written. As he talks about this notion of going beyond inclusion, you know and what does that mean and kind of situation that, within this context of you know decolonizing design.



design and he goes into this notion of you know, we talked about a-center, and this is what I think Professor Noel has kind of you know, influenced me in terms of thinking to that there can be these multiple sort of centers you know this this pullovers to kind of you know kind of exists in design. And you know he’s really kind of picking up on that as well and thinking about well then, how can we kind of implement that you know in practice? So kind of really excited to kind of see this this sort of work happening and going beyond you know centering to thinking about you know multiple centers and how can this eventually kind of play out again, you know, in practice. So again so to kind of step through some examples, so you know you know what are these cultural factors? Kind of utilizing connected fitness space is a little bit of context you know, and then, how do we translate in designer these sorts of questions. So again, you know we have tools and techniques that we learn that have been developed in terms of capturing these insights but what do we do with them once they’re there capture, you know how can we then incorporate these insights that reflect these this multiple sort of centering you know in design? So I have this quote here that really kind of you know, brings to life, you know this this centering you know kind of utilizing the GirlTrek is kind of the centering, so, then you know what what could that possibly mean in terms of you know, actual product design.


So, you know as opposed to you know calories burned and heart rate and that sort of thing they emphasize the rewards of taking time for yourself getting outside and connecting with others. They don’t talk about hypertension or body mass index, but about feeling less anxious and having more energy. They don’t talk about looking good, and you know oftentimes that’s what we see as the focus, so you know terms of calories burn, but about looking alive, you know, having that Girl Trek glow you know, so what what could that possibly mean, as we, as we think about you know translating those insights into design.


So to kind of illustrate that the conundrum, in essence, you know we have to be clear in terms of what our intentions are. And there’s a great resource if you’re interested in exploring culture in design as a basis, this text and I have that as a resource.


“Culture sensitive design” I’ve read this like several times and actually was reading it just got off a little bit of a vacation but, again, great book in terms of just just talking about, culture in design and a very theoretical sort of level. So I challenge you if you’re interested to read that. So and the intention in terms of kind of leveraging you know culture in design can vary and our focus in terms of this talk and in the works that i’m going to explore is what’s called culturally in tuned design so design that is in tune with a certain cultural group. So, and then what are those relevant sorts of insights and how do you gather those sorts of you know insights so we’ve got again different design research methods and tools that we can utilize to do that.


But then I offer it’s been my experience and and affirmed by the literature, you know translation becomes kind of this this challenge. So you know, there are some art, you know with the translation is we talked about you know, creativity and and there is some science associated with translating those insights into design and then you know there’s, some magic thrown into the mix as well you know, so you know it’s kind of question mark there you know and what what is that sort of magic, you know that that exists or the magic in terms of that process to get to design this into you know with the given sort of cultural group so again we’re kind of focusing on that that translation sort of piece.


So to step through some examples in indesign from, I’m going to look across different sorts of domains of design, so this was a really cool piece, a challenge you to to look at this this brilliant, Somali architect I think he’s actually a Somali American, yeah born in Italy to Somalian parents so he’s hoping to rebuild Somalia by looking into the past for a vision, the future specifically from an architectural sort of perspective. So you know this this premise of you know I wanted architecture to bring back the sense of belonging that was destroyed and the war, so we talked about culture, you know and and and architecture, you know in that particular culture and how that was destroyed from war, you know what what does that mean today to modern architecture. So you know really beginning to kind of understand you know what does that mean what are those sort of cultural sort of factors and then, how do we translate that into design? So in that, thank you so much Niesha for providing that link, if  he thinks about culture in that context, so utilizing the principles of Islam to actually so in this is Twitter piece,

So working on prototype middle class low cost housing that respect the principles of Islam, that is culturally corrected with common spaces that respect the privacy that are open to how get to think there was a typo in the in the tweet but how guests and family I think navigate you know this the sort of space. So you know what, so those principles of Islam so then, how do we then translate those you know into design specifically architectural design, in this context. And that’s what he’s he’s grappling with and some of these prototypes begin to kind of you know explore.


And Stephanie brings a really important sort of notion to bear is we kind of think about this, it is so much of culture and thank you for articulating that is below the surface and that’s what I mean that we can go further, you know, in terms of you know, Putting red green and black on it, you know, in terms of you know, these are the colors of the pan, you know African flag, and this is that we’ve got a culturally attune product, you know we add some motifs that that reflect, maybe even out of context, you know, on a particular product, you know we’ve got this culturally attune product no it’s not.  It’s problematic. And when we talk about engaging with culture and designing what that means and how culture is appropriately translated in design, it does go deeper, and we have to go deep in terms of understanding to obtain that sort of understanding and then to translate into design.


Another really interesting another interesting sort of example. I love this designer and i’m sure many of you as well. He is truly a hero of mine and just been following his career, since the early days and he’s a young himself. And most of i’m sure you’re aware of him and turn from a fashion sort of perspective, the Bushwick birkin is kind of what he’s known for right now but it’s really interesting as he kind of talks about that because that’s kind of in the everybody’s kind of radar you know he goes back you know i’m a fashion designer, I got clothes you know so it’s not just the Bushwick Birkin that I’ve done. So, it’s really interesting he was actually invited by The Liberian Olympic, he’s Liberian American, to design the uniforms, for I think I can’t remember specifically and it may be here, maybe not, but a number of the Liberian Olympic teams, I don’t think had a lot of team participation, Liberia didn’t, but I think track and field and a couple other events, but it was, but it was very interesting, you know, and I challenge you to read this piece, because it really kind of gives you a peek behind the curtain in terms of his process, and I screenshot this here, because it really brings to light, you know as he was invited in to do this, you know, the question that he had was you know to be true, and authentic and back to Stephen’s point, you know that it’s more than just you know the colors or motifs that we see, you know what is Liberian fashion?


You know, and he goes on to say again to Stephanie’s point it’s not just putting Kente print on a tank top. You know and then saying that’s Liberia right? And then you know even as Stephanie has kind of alluded to, as well, going deeper you know what does nationality, you know even mean? So, if we’re going to truly you know, design a tune to culture, you know what is that you know and how do we then translate that how is that translated into design? So you know that becomes, even you know, even more seasoned designers, as you can see across these different sorts of context kind of face that you know that similar sort of conundrum.


Some interesting work has happened in game design that I’ve really been kind of inspired by. So I know it’s a lot of words here, but I will again forward to Niesha this article that kind of talks about this, this was in, I can’t remember, Conversationalist. So talking about video gaming encourages -encouraged indigenous cultural expression. So some really interesting points this designer kind of made in terms of how they utilized, some cultural aspects in not only in in the design of the game, but then how, by integrating those, they catalyze discussion around you know culture in design and what does that mean.

And then, and then also I think there’s there’s also a third trajectory here, and also in terms of you know how culture, and again, these multiple centers you know, afford an increase the opportunity for innovation, you know within the game space as well, too. So it was really interested in here so to kind of bring that to life.


So, here they talk about you know, in terms of you know, winning or losing the game quote- unquote. The premise is, you have to gather salmon, wild blackberries, and clams for a community feast. So from a traditional sort of perspective when we think about games, you know what would be the objective you know who collects the most salmon, clams,  and blueberries right, wins the game. But that’s not the case in the in this particular context kind of utilizing this this this.


This specific culture, you know, in the context of designing this game. So but it players gather more salmon that is requested or try to grab it very so quickly that they gather unripe ones are stay too long. You know, they lose. But typically you know from a Western American sort of perspective, look at traditional sort of games it’s all about you know quickness and quantity, you know those are the metrics by which you know kind of utilize for for winning. But that’s not the case here, so in this particular sort of cultural sort of context, thinking about it more holistically so what what is not the win individually, but thinking about win, in the context of win for the collective, for the all so you know a whole different sort of raining you know around you know design so it’s interesting to that gives us some.


Some insight in terms of you know how we can then leverage these sorts of insights.From a cultural sort of perspective, you know in design so game design is doing some really interesting sort of work in that regard. Some some some additional sort of insights there and i’m getting close to time  so i’m going to quickly kind of go through that but, again, I challenge you to to read this this article.


Yes, so thank you Niesha, time check. So i’m just going to quickly move here. So you know what are the cultural factors, how do we translate into design and then a third question: So what are the implications?  And I love this headline, so what are the implications? Misunderstanding and ignorance are the implications, you know and it’s an unfortunate that’s the case. A lot of Olympic examples here, because you know, I was actually kind of pulling part of this presentation and kind of going through this reflected through in the context of the Olympics and i’m sure many of you heard about you know the controversy associated with the swim caps, the Soul caps, that was designed specifically for swimmers with more voluptuous curly hair to accommodate more voluptuous you know hair.


So you know, in the controversy associated with you know utilizing those caps, you know, in this context, so you know, I say that you know, for that third question so as we do we’re unfortunately fighting a battle, you know as we think about this, why need to design narrative but we’ve got to push we got to push.


And then kind of want to go here real quickly. So again, what are the implications so what’s what’s it what I found so intriguing, so as kind of doing some research, you know for this talk, I came across this this article in New York Times. So you know where you know Girl Trek, you know, in terms of this notion around you know “it’s not me it’s we” you know, white young males have appropriate it, you know fitness technologies around you know, support and support as a collective. So what that brings to life is, values can be universal. Oftentimes I get the question is so, what are you trying to say?


We’re going to have a black connected fitness device and we going to have a White- no, you know is that that’s not what this the premise is here. As we kind of windden, the narrative you know, increase the century multiple centers you know we we can, convert to converge on you know these these, a more universal oftentimes sort of solution so as we can see what work what works in a girl trek perspective, you know even works with young white men and how they’re utilizing fitness technologies, which is counter to kind of this this dominant sort of narrative and design trajectory that we’re going with these sorts of technologies. So I thought that was you know really kind of intriguing and this piece here is that inclusivity shows routing narratives in one experience need not mean the exclusion of others. So again, you know it’s not a zero sum game. And oftentimes you know when when we talk about inclusion, it means excluding someone, so no.


So, really, it was kind of excited to show that, so the work that i’m doing so yeah quickly, is kind of you know, then this translation what can support with that. I’m really excited about this notion of vision consenting as a process to exist to assist with translation, so that means kind of, playing around playing with design– so utilizing design as a part of the research to kind of play around with different sorts of concepts and thinking about culture in different sorts of ways and instantiated in a different sorts of ways to begin to explore how we can eventually kind of translate that. Some cool work with done in terms of you know, this whole notion of reimagining or defund the police, what does that mean? So some cool work was happening in terms of you know, visualizations around you know, what that potentially could be. So that’s what vision concepting is, so some really great examples that exist in that space. This is where i’m going, in terms of utilizing, you know Afro futurism in design, so widening the design narrative culture, playing with culture through vision concepting.


So some of that “magic” is kind of going beyond the white imagining, is what I call kind of that that magic sort of space there,so engaging the imagination, vision concepting kind of supports with that. So as we talk about Girl trek, and that notion of you know “not I but we”, you know what does that kind of mean and how that could that look? Not that these would be about implemented, but inspire thoughts around actual implementation, you know in design.


I have been working on a method which kind of incorporates this , that’s vision enabled design thinking and Niesha will have the the link to that particular paper which kind of talks about that. And then here’s where I begin to kind of talk about this whole notion of shifting.


The power and how this can actually be utilized by you know the impacted, group I don’t wanna say user but users just, as a term you know shifting the power and and allowing community to design for themselves, and this is where I pick up from the brilliant talk that perfect Professor Harrington did two talks ago. As she kind of utilize Afro futurism, you know as this kind of vision consenting to kind of help inform not only design research but outcomes as well.


So, moving forward, I think we’re at a stage where we can begin to do some really cool work. In terms of you know, back to what the series is really kind of talked about decolonizing design. The winners behind our back really this thought about culture and designed to go beyond inclusion and what does that mean and thinking about the beauty that these groups, bring to the table and how that can can be centered in design.


And this need for more work around process. And I challenge folk on the today’s call to just you know let’s think about process. Because process dictates product. So we really need more work in that regard, in terms of providing design narratives. Spanning the centering, the magic of going beyond white imagining and then ultimately kind of shifting that path.


Okay, so some thoughts to kind of end with, and thank you.


That was alot and I apologize. More than, it didn’t seem to be that much when I went through it by myself but yeah. That is normally, what happens.


Niesha Ford


Well, thank you so so much Woodrow. I really do want to be cognizant of time, so if you do have, any questions, I will be dropping Woodrow’s Linkedin into the chat so feel free to connect with him on Linkedin. Again, I just want to say thank you so much for this very insightful talk Woodrow and I’m actually going to transition it to Julia for some last remarks.


Julia Lang (she/her)


Thank you, thank you so much Woodrow. I invite people leave any final comments or questions in the chat, really appreciate you being here with us and focusing to cycle off go ahead, but I just wanted to take one minute and we’re excited to welcome a new member that’s going to be heading up our design thinking for social impact work.


So Chris Daemmrich, is on the call here. He’s going to be visiting assistant professor at the Taylor Center and I wanted to just allow him to introduce himself and talk a little bit about what is coming down the pipeline for design learning more about design thinking and becoming involved.


Chris Daemmrich


Morning everybody thanks Woodrow for really wonderful talk and think, most importantly, to say, Niesha,  for setting such a solid foundation for this program. I’m really excited to continue it for the next year as i’m in this position.


And, as I know some of y’all are the people who applied for the position that Niesha currently holds, the design thinking and programs graduate assistant and so i’m really looking forward to speaking with you all next week and yeah I am sure I’ve looked through your material so far and it’s going to be challenging to have to choose between you all. Lot of wonderful applicants.


And I am sure If you are not the person who is selected, you will be able to continue attending these programs and be a part of other things that we do here at the Taylor Center. Yeah, so I guess i’ll just kind of leave it at that, with consciousness of time as well, but we will be hosting another design thinking breakfast probably late in September, maybe early October, depending on how fast will get a new people on board, but we really look forward to seeing you all again soon.


And I think that’s all we got? Right.


Niesha Ford


Yes, and with that I will close the DT Breakfast. Thank you all for coming and again if you have any questions for Woodrow please feel free to email them to me or connect with him on Linkedin but thank you, thank you all for coming. Thank you Woodrow.


Julia Lang (she/her)

Thank you all great seeing you.


About Design Thinking Breakfast

  • These casual events will be moving to an online format until further notice … and breakfasts will be BYOC – ‘Bring your own coffee’.
  • The goal is to learn from each other. The format will evolve as we learn, together, what might be most valuable (and enjoyable!) to us all. Breakfasts will include both time to mingle and one or two quick activities to foster knowledge-sharing or community-building.
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  • Please invite anyone who would enjoy both sharing with and learning from other practitioners and educators in the greater New Orleans area, the Gulf South, and connecting with other people in the local, regional and international design thinking community.
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