About the lab
DEED is a research laboratory founded in 2007 at Parsons School for Design, The New School, New York City. We focus on the future of indigenous artisans and their children. Through fieldwork programs, strategic partnerships, and academic research, our focus is on models that equally support poverty alleviation, artisan empowerment, and cultural preservation.
Featured research (5)
SDS Voices is a series of ongoing conversations related to the programs and themes of the School of Design Strategies (SDS) at Parsons. Conversation 01: “On Ethics Business, and Design,” features Cynthia Lawson Jaramillo, Dean of the School of Design Strategies, in dialogue with Matthew Robb, Associate Director of MS Strategic Design and Management.
The artisan sector is the second largest employer in the developing world and an estimated 34-to-526 billion-dollar industry (Nest 2018). Why then are the majority of the world’s artisans living in poverty? And what role have designers played in extracting money and value from these marginalized communities? Co-authored by an economist and a design educator, this paper posits that a critical and productive way to get to the bottom of these questions is to analyze the artisan sector as a member of the gig / on-demand economy. Most importantly, it proposes a fairer economic and design architecture for this sector that achieves a better alignment of compensation and value creation, particularly for those with the least economic resources (the artisans). Using several designer-founded-and-run artisan enterprises as case studies, the paper questions the key variables that determine the success of such a venture vis-a-vis artisan livelihoods. These include scale, ownership models (cooperatives vs. outsourced labor), and various social justice issues including power and privilege. A further concern is that, as they are submitted to the logic of rational economic exchange rooted in a market economy, some artisan practices that were traditionally embedded in social and cultural institutions were transformed in ways that jeopardize patrimony, traditions, and social fabric. The paper concludes by outlining economic principles for a proposed collaboration methodology through which designer/founders can frame their future work with an understanding of how they can strive to reach ventures that emphasize poverty alleviation, artisan empowerment, and the celebration/preservation of cultural heritage. Keywords: artisan, capitalism, gig economy, inequality, design
The past decade has seen an increase in design curricula focused on social and economic development such as designMatters at Art Center and University of Florida’s Design 4 Development. Since 2007 Parsons The New School for Design has been engaged in DEED: Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design, a multi-disciplinary university-wide program that brings together students and faculty of design, management, and development. In DEED, teams of students are prepared on campus for international fieldwork during which they work with artisans in emerging economies and local professional designers to support the artisans in establishing sustainable income-generating opportunities through craft-based services or products. This paper provides an overview and discussion of the beforementioned programs and focuses on DEED’s successes and failures as a case for social collaborative projects. It specifically looks at the student experience in this kind of work and, through surveys and conversations with DEED students and alumni, discusses the long-term educational value of such collaborative and social projects. This paper argues that institutions must offer these types of experiences to better prepare their students to position design, not with products as the end goal, but as a process for innovation, collaboration, and social change.
The faculties of international affairs and design of a university in New York have been working together since 2007 on the international program DEED: Development through Empowerment, Entrepreneurship, and Design. The course Designing Collaborative Development prepares students to complete summer fieldwork in collaboration with communities in need. This paper focuses on this course and an international program in Guatemala as a central case study and argues that for a valuable and responsible immersive experience to occur there needs to be a lot of beforehand preparation with each student. Such preparation focuses on particular practitioner skills, but most importantly, students need to prepare for unexpected challenges and to be resourceful and reflective of their practice. The paper includes the history of the class and the program; the course’s pedagogical methodology, and the successes and challenges of a multi-disciplinary classroom (for both students & faculty), where social sciences and design frameworks are explored side by side, resulting in innovative multidisciplinary approaches to project design, needs assessment, program development, project implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Keywords: design, development, collaboration, sustainability, pedagogy
Published in the Journal of Design Strategies, this article looks at two approaches to design-based social entrepreneurship within the artisan sector.