Fifteen years ago, I began a design collaboration with Sarah Corona Berkin, a professor at the Universidad de Guadalajara, and a group of Wixáritari teachers and community leaders in San Miguel Huaixtita, Jalisco, México. My students at the University of Florida and I worked with Sarah in the classroom and with the Wixáritari in San Miguel Huaixtita, to create a new cultural artifact—a calendar—with and for the community.
This project started me on a path working with Indigenous groups in various parts of México to bring western design concepts into conversation with Indigenous epistemological. In subsequent collaborative projects, in which contemporary Indigenous people have sought design for their products and services, I and my students have sought to decenter our western approaches to design and to make design available and vulnerable in the face of knowledges and practices that are central to those with whom we work.
We are guided by dialogue with the goal of mutual transformation as we make many centers visible. Here I share some lessons learned on the relationship between western design and Indigenous epistemologies, and about how design itself should be transformed by such encounters as we create un mundo donde quepan muchos mundos.
Indigenous, dialogue, co-design, horizontal design
About the Author
María Rogal approaches design through a horizontal framework to co-design for equity.
“As a designer, my experiences co-designing in México have shaped my praxis, although my interest in horizontality began taking shape much earlier, in my formative years living in Laos, Perú, Liberia, and the US. To experience multiple ways of knowing and being in the world—albeit through a privileged lens—fostered my engagement with design and a worldview that bends towards social justice.
Today, I explore this through research, teaching, and service as a professor of design at the University of Florida (Gainesville, USA). I recently founded the Design & Visual Communications MFA to focus on and expand horizontal design. Through my research initiative—D4D Lab—I explore how we might support peoples’ self-determination through co-design.
To contribute to community and disciplinary discourse, I have lectured and published about co-and horizontal design. Recently I co-authored “CoDesigning for Development,” with Raúl Sánchez, which appears in the Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Design. My research and creative activities have been funded by AIGA, Sappi, and Fulbright, among others, and featured in international juried exhibitions. I am currently at work in a manuscript about co-designing in context.