Imagining Otherwise encompasses current and past projects at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design, and strives toward socially transformative educational and design practices and more equitable futures.
The project started in October 2018, against the backdrop of massive feminist mobilizations, such as NiUnaMenos, Women's March, and Feminist Strike; and the rising demands from the students for design education that counters patriarchal-colonial narratives. Inspired by the research and activism of Palestinian design educator and researcher Danah Abdulla, we joined forces to start imagining design otherwise—a practice that is critical, situated, reflexive, and socially transformative.
Believing in the transformative potential of design and echoing Colombian anthropologist Arturo Escobar's words, we began asking ourselves: “How can design be infused with a more explicit sense of politics?” How can we participate in the recentering of design education by specifically situating it in relation to structures of inequality, sexism, racism, and colonialism? And how can we disrupt hegemonic epistemologies, ontologies, and systems from within a Eurocentric institution, and strive toward more equitable, pluralistic futures?
On this website, you can delve into different projects realized since 2018. They do not attempt to answer the aforementioned questions, nor to provide universally replicable solutions. Instead, they invite you to open your mind to alternatives, and to open up spaces of potential for change—as expressed by feminist activist and writer bell hooks: “a space where there is unlimited access to the pleasure and power of knowing, where transformation is possible.”
Co-directors: Mayar El-Bakry, Maya Ober and Laura Pregger
Imagining Otherwise was co-conceived by Maya Ober and Laura Pregger. In 2019, Mayar El-Bakry joined the team to co-curate Educating Otherwise, a continuing education program.
MAYA OBER is a Basel-based activist, designer, researcher, and educator. Unsettled about the character of dominant industrial design practices, after immigrating to Switzerland, Maya began looking at ways to connect her activist drive with design. In 2017, she founded depatriarchise design, a non-profit design research platform with manifold investigative, educational, and activist practices rooted in intersectional feminism. Since 2018 she has been working as a research associate at the Industrial Design Institute and as a lecturer at the Institute of Aesthetic Practice and Theory at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel, where together with Laura Pregger co-conceived Imagining Otherwise program. As of October 2021, Maya is a PhD candidate in social anthropology at the University of Bern in Switzerland and a Doc.CH grantee by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Her interdisciplinary research looks at feminist practices of design education and their intersections with activist movements.