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Friday, June 9 • 9:50am - 10:00am
Co-designing narratives: Reimagining a safe Gainesville for our future

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This short talk and poster will introduce Co-designing narratives, a collaborative project between students of the Design and Visual Communications MFA at the University of Florida and representatives of the City of Gainesville under the nation-wide artistic initiative One Nation/One Project (ONOP). Gainesville and eight other cities in the United States were selected for the first ONOP cohort, with the goal of using the creative potentials of art and culture to promote community well-being in the post-COVID era.

The focus of ONOP in Gainesville is to address youth’s perceptions of gun violence, and how to reimagine a safer Gainesville for future generations. Since September 2022, we have collaborated with Anne Wolf, the Community Engagement Manager at the City of Gainesville, in co-designing a series of workshops that center Gainesville youth as change-makers, explore the role of design as a powerful tool for change, and use artistic expression as a driver for trauma healing (Lynn 2012, Richman 2013). This builds from scholarship that recognizes the value of individual and collective lived experience as subject expertise (Hill Collins 2009), and how to decolonize design by expanding who gets to be a designer of social change (Tunstall 2020, Caroll 2017).

As co-designers, we aim to amplify the voices and experiences of marginalized communities on social and systemic issues. Through participatory action and collaborative design, we have partnered with community experts and local organizations to create safe spaces for critical conversations and making. We have partnered with Project YouthBuild, a local AmeriCorps branch, to host workshops with students about their perceptions of safety in the community, and the current structures of society that foster inequality across cultures. Through creative making and special emphasis on the how and why of making, the students were able to express complex emotions towards racism, violence, mental health, and have their perspectives inform the foundations for upcoming community initiatives. Our visual outputs for this collaboration were exploratory mood boards about perceptions of safety, booklets with prompts on how to re-imagine pop culture into a culture of wellness, and a collaborative poster session where students collectively reflected on the mood boards and expanded on the conversation about safety and culture with visual input materials. At the end of the semester-long project, these visual outputs were collected in a zine to show our process and the students’ outcomes. Through this process, our team learned how to communicate our individual and collective goals, unlearn biases, lean into co-design with mutual respect, and delegate tasks to our strengths. Together, we aim to better serve the local community by building trust and creating long-lasting partnerships with diverse community members.

Taking inspiration from the work of designers and activists such as Antionette Caroll and Dori Tunstall, we understand that redesign is the key to subverting existing systems of oppression, inequality, and inequity, and that the power to enact change is not individual, but collective (Caroll 2017). ONOP Gainesville will run until 2024, and we hope to continue to collaboratively expand what it means to be a designer for social change.


Isabella Arrazola

University of Florida, United States of America

Hien Phan

Graduate student, University of Florida

Friday June 9, 2023 9:50am - 10:00am EDT
ARC E-02