DESIGN ACT is a cultural program highlighting and discussing contemporary design practices that engage with political and societal issues. Practitioners question issues of gender and class, ownership and authorship, power and welfare, for example, in genres of conceptual, social and activist design. As practitioners engage both practically and ideologically in such issues, the project has explored design as a ‘critical practice’. Topics in and around criticality are present in architectural design, and this project was set up to build a network and a discourse including product, fashion, interactive, graphic, service and experience design. Motivating and structuring the project have been the questions: WHAT are examples of these movements? WHERE does it happen and in what contexts? HOW does it happen and what does it take?

The project is set up as a platform for dialog among practitioners and related communities. This is aligned with the mission of Iaspis to build networks among practitioners. DESIGN ACT has operated through an international network of contributors, an online archive of project examples and a series of public events. The network, archive and events were set up to grow in number and coverage over time. Concluding the project, a book elaborates on the views, tactics and contexts that emerged in the course of the project. The book gives a material form to further dialogs among practitioners and an expanded range of educators, historians and curators, as well as further extending the geographic reach and audience.


DESIGN ACT was initiated and produced between 2008-2011 by Iaspis (the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Programme for Visual Arts) in collaboration with the Interactive Institute. At the Interactive Institute, DESIGN ACT is part of the Forms of Sustainability project funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet).

Project initiators and managers: Magnus Ericson and Ramia Mazé; Project coordinator: Sara Teleman; Research assistant: Natasha Marie Llorens; Graphic and website design: Friendly Matters with Johanna Lewengard and Fredrik Sterner, and programming by Jens Almström.

The book

The program resulted in a book - Magnus Ericson and Ramia Mazé (eds) DESIGN ACT Socially and politically engaged design today – critical roles and emerging tactics (Berlin: Sternberg Press / Iaspis, 2011). Editorial board: Magnus Ericson, Ramia Mazé and Cecilia Widenheim; Project coordinator: Sara Teleman; Graphic design: Johanna Lewengard.

The book reflects on the questions framing the program through a series of texts by practitioners, educators, curators and researchers including: Ana Betancour, Otto von Busch, Mauricio Corbalan, Pelin Derviş, Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, Joseph Grima, Peter Lang, Yanki Lee, Tor Lindstrand, Natasha Marie Llorens, Helena Mattsson, Ou Ning, Doina Petrescu, Meike Schalk, Christina Zetterlund. The book also includes descriptions of 36 projects from the DESIGN ACT archive.

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