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Friday, June 9 • 4:50pm - 5:00pm
Powerful Voices: Co-designing Zines for Equity

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This short talk will provide an overview of the participatory design project Powerful Voices, a collaborative workshop series exploring zines as a personal and political mechanism for amplifying marginalized voices. The project builds on recent scholarship which poses zines as radically disruptive objects (Damon 2022, Licona 2012), and powerful tools of agency for marginalized individuals and communities (Boatwright 2019, Grech 2022, Ramdarshan Bold 2017). It leverages zine-making as an activist practice for social change (Gray et al 2021, Hart-Mann 2020) and a narrative format which can be shared by diverse participants and across many audiences (Atalay et al 2019, French and Curd 2022, Turner 2022).

In the Powerful Voices project, graduate design students and faculty collaborated with non-traditional high school students and faculty. High school students are participants in YouthBuild, an AmeriCorps program providing education and job training for young people (16-24) forced out of public schools before graduation. In our local context, as in many, most participants are BIPOC students.

Powerful Voices participants co-designed, conducted, and published the results from a series of zine-making workshops. Participants learned about and deployed zines as a tool for amplifying the political impact of BIPOC voices through visual storytelling and first-person narrative. Materials and printing were grant-funded by the University of Florida College of the Arts.

Using co-design methodologies, designers structured and facilitated the workshops in response to students’ interests. Designers navigated the challenges of cultural and language barriers, trust-building, and fostering mindful participation in the real-world context of working with systematically disadvantaged students. Time proved our most powerful tool: time together in a variety of contexts and environments, engaging in conversation and co-design, and returning again to repeat the process.

As visual communicators who participate in structured design-educational frameworks, we as designers initially faced challenges in understanding students’ visual languages and expressive modes. Cultural exchange and mutual respect for diverse designed outcomes emerged through conversation and shared processes. Designers' international cultures and multiple languages added complexity. The project required applied awareness of cultural differences and intersectional identities at every design stage, from ideation to execution.

Design students sought to collaborate with high school students as true co-designers, with all participants equally valuable to the design process and its outcomes. As designers, we didn't see ourselves as outside experts dropping in to offer professional solutions. Instead, we came together as diverse people with multiple perspectives, each person speaking as a respected expert in their own lived experiences. By embracing co-design methodologies and working outside traditional designer/client frameworks and timelines, participants leveraged design as a tool for co-creating inclusion. High school students expressed deep satisfaction with the printed zine outcome, an embodied object that validated the power of their individual voices and their collective narrative of change.

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avatar for Dori Griffin

Dori Griffin

Assistant Professor, University of Florida
I'm a visual communications designer and design historian on the faculty of the University of Florida's School of Art + Art History. I occupy a disciplinary space informed by both practice and scholarship, focusing on visual culture and its use in the narrative construction of social and personal identity. Graphic design's history is an emergent field... Read More →

Friday June 9, 2023 4:50pm - 5:00pm EDT
Main 210