Decolonising design practices and research: reframing design led research methods

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Conference Proceeding
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Much of design teaching, learning and research in Australia is determined by Eurocentric traditions and the colonial project in a neoliberal landscape. In this situation Indigenous Peoples continue to experience erasure, silencing and appropriation of practices and knowledges. The School of Design at UTS is committed to subverting this trajectory and in this talk we are describing a deep interactive model that seeks to address the role of the design educator/practitioner/researcher on unceded Gadigal Lands in the city of Sydney, Australia. In this paper the authors will reflect upon the challenges of facilitating Visual Communication Design and Emergent Practices, an online studio experience, during Covid and in the context of climate crisis, bushfires and Black Lives Matter uprising (In Your Backyard Studio). This iteration is the result of three years of deep collaboration with Local Elders, Indigenous scholars and practitioners. In this research-focussed studio 180 final year visual communication design students are led by Local Elders, cultural and research advisors with the support of studio leaders. Drawing on design led research methods in a process that infuses Indigenous research principles (Archibald, Lee-Morgan, De Santolo 2019) and builds on the longitudinal research into the role of ‘the emplaced designer’ in Indigenous-led projects on Country (Gothe 2018), In Your Backyard Studio provides students with strength based design capabilities including the principles of United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples Rights (UNDRIP), Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights (ICIP) and the Indigenous Design Charter (2017). As a transformational studio this experience creates the condition of possibility for the re-orientation of the future for creative and professional practitioners re-directed towards relational and respectful negotiation of difference, and the capacity to action Indigenous self-determination in complex scenarios.
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