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.
Imagining Otherwise was a program October 2018 – December 2019 that emerged as an organic continuation of Beyond Change Symposium and Building Platforms at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel. Following the symposium, students expressed the need to expand the discourse about intersectionality within design, both practice, and theory, focussing on voices, practices and learning modes that have not been present enough or at all within the curricula, trying to explore how we could depatriachise, decolonise and deprecarise the design education.
Drawing on the paper of Arturo Escobar "Worlds and knowledges otherwise" and the dissertation of Danah Abdulla "Design otherwise: Towards a locally- centric design education curricula in Jordan” as well as the contents produced during Building Platforms, Imagining Otherwise attempted collaboratively to create an intersectional, fluid design laboratory at the HGK FHNW, fostering student-centred pedagogy, throughout diverse learning and teaching formats.
Imagining Otherwise was also a site-specific program, as space defines our freedom. Therefore, it included making space on a conceptual level – for marginalized, silenced contents and practices – as well as on the physical level starting with the foyer of the high-rise building, to continue what was initiated during “Building Platforms”, trying to create a space in which ideas can be discussed, exchanged, displayed, curated, conceptualized, designed and to which everyone studying, working, visiting the campus can have access to, either within formal course or through informal gatherings and initiatives.
Imagining otherwise expresses hope, hope for design education – as researcher and educator Danah Abdulla proposes –"drawn from the process and praxis curriculum models—a design education and design otherwise.” (Abdulla, 2018)
The program included different thematic blocks exploring diverse methods, formats, and ways of co-creating knowledge and designerly ways of thinking:
– Space, object, body
– Fluidity and non-binaries
Imagining Otherwise is a collaboration of students, researchers and mid-level academic staff at the HGK, making space for conceptualizing their vision of design education.
Imagining Otherwise: Can we illustrate non-Western Heroines and Heroes? by Muhammad Jabali
Imagining Otherwise: Accessibility of Design Education – Borders and Narratives by Mayar El-Bakry
Imagining Otherwise: How to infect and smuggle feminism in design: an experience from Buenos Aires by Griselda Flesler