Design Justice Project at MIT


Anastasia K. Ostrowski

Anastasia K. Ostrowski

We take as a starting point for our work the recent scholarship by Sasha Costanza-Chock, Design Justice, in which she described design justice as a framework for analysis of how design distributes benefits and burdens between various groups of people. In addition, design justice calls for attention to how “design reproduces and/or challenges the matrix of domination.” The project aims to develop methods for design justice audits in classrooms, in academia broadly, and in the design process in educational institutions and corporations. Our work also extends to creating guidelines to inform how design justice can be leveraged in technology design processes and policy development. Overall, this project audits institutions to understand how they engage in design justice (critique) and suggests ways to achieve design justice in a variety of spaces (solutions). This combines for a focus on both critique and design solutions.

Our overarching theme is to understand how design and justice are taught, intertwined, and embodied and what techniques are successful and what aren’t for engaging with design justice in varying settings. We use MIT as an exemplar for extracting design pedagogy and justice best practices. We are specifically mindful of and intrigued by design pedagogy paradigms, encoded values, and student, instructor, and community partner experiences. This often includes identifying exemplars of how MIT currently incorporates design justice into design pedagogy, suggesting future techniques to increase design justice’s presence in the classroom, and designing new methods to support design justice in design pedagogy. Our approach can be expanded to other educational institutions and corporate settings.

Our goals and outcomes include:

  • Framing of design justice and impacts on design outcomes 
  • Considerations for what constitutes ‘positive’ design outcomes and the nature, quality, quantity, and goodness of those outcomes 
  • Recommendations for incorporating design justice pedagogy into design courses at MIT, other educational institutions, and corporations
  • Guidelines for how to/not to teach and incorporate design + ethics and equity + justice into design spaces

Our interdisciplinary team, listed below, is broadly interested in exploring how design pedagogy and practice can center justice and inclusivity:

Rima Das, Mechanical Engineering, PhD Student

Anastasia K. Ostrowski, Media Arts & Sciences, Postdoctoral Associate

Jana I Saadi, Mechanical Engineering, PhD Student

Aditi Verma, Assistant Professor; Nuclear Engineering & Radiological Sciences; University of Michigan

Sara Atwood, Dean of the School of Engineering, Mathematics, and Computer Science, Elizabethtown College

Catherine D’Ignazio, Assistant Professor of Urban Science & Planning, Department of Urban Studies & Planning, MIT

Maria Yang, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, MIT

Cynthia Breazeal, Professor of Media Arts & Sciences, MIT

Gillian J Roeder, Mechanical Engineering, Undergraduate Student

Previous Collaborators:  Olivia Dias, Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Undergraduate Student; Barbara Adjei, Cognitive Science and Linguistics, Undergraduate Student, Dartmouth College; Paige Lighthammer, Nuclear Engineering, Undergraduate Student, University of Michigan; Kimberley Kimura, Wellesley College; Shelly Ben-David, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Undergraduate Student; Raechel Walker, Media Arts & Sciences, Master's Student; Marina Santos, Biology/Biological Sciences, Undergraduate Student, Wellesley College;  Jennifer Zhang, Undergraduate Student; Kanokwan Tungkitkancharoen, Mechanical Engineering & Political Science, Undergraduate Student