DESIS Lab at Stamps
DESIS, which stands for “Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability,” is a collection of design programs from schools and colleges across the globe whose faculty and students are interested in creating meaningful social changes in collaboration with other stakeholders.
The Stamps DESIS Lab, situated within the Master of Design in Integrative Design program at the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design at the University of Michigan, engages graduate students in using design thinking and critical making to address rampant inequities in society towards social and environmental justice.
The Stamps DESIS Lab is led by Audrey Bennett, MDes Program Director and University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor.
Stamps DESIS Lab Statement
Equity is a state in which all people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and various other markers of social disadvantage, have fair and just access to the resources and opportunities necessary to thrive. Equity disparities often reflect reciprocal influences between biased or unfair policies, programs, practices, or situations that contribute to a lack of equality in expectations, circumstances, and quality of life. Improving equity begins with improving access.
Major questions the Stamps DESIS Lab aims to address include:
- How might we use integrative design methods to intervene in our education systems, food systems, and housing networks to address inequities?
- How might we use integrative design methods to compensate for pre-existing biases and prejudice in American society and locally in Michigan?
- How might we use integrative design methods to disrupt cycles of low expectations that are reinforced and perpetuated by social and cultural stereotypes?
Within the Stamps DESIS Lab, each MDes cohort works as a pro-bono design research studio of sorts, collaborating as a team on inquiry-driven and evidence-based design alongside real-world stakeholders, constituents, partners, community-centered and place-specific issues in the real world. The 21st century is rife with multi-causal, socio-culturally complex issues like global warming, healthcare, food justice, and poverty where a true-or-false rationale is disingenuous, unproductive, and even detrimental. Centered in cross-disciplinary research, the Integrative Design approach is adaptive, utilizing varied tactics and strategies as the project or problem requires.
At key moments, MDes students conceive of and host design charrettes with community partners, stakeholders, and other community constituents. These intense systems and strategy design sessions lead to tangible outcomes and recommendations that address vital elements of the cohort’s inquiry.
- Designing Decisions: Care providers, patients, and policymakers face a near-infinite number of big choices when it comes to managing healthcare. Graduate students from the third graduating class of the Stamps Master of Design in Integrative Design (MDes) program spent four semesters working on addressing appropriate care in healthcare settings, including ways to support healthcare decision-making processes through design. For more information about the public presentation delivered by this cohort, please follow this link: Designing for Equity in Public Education | MDes Stories.
- Caring for the Caregivers: How can doctors, nurses, and medical staff improve communication with and support of patient family members—and how does this impact patient outcomes? What guiding principles should inform design when it’s for something as significant as end of life care? Graduate students from the second graduating class of the Stamps Master of Design in Integrative Design (MDes) program addressed these big questions through two separate projects to design interventions that help families and loved ones navigate the complexities of healthcare systems. For more information about the public presentation delivered by this cohort, please follow this link: Caring for the Caregivers | MDes Stories
- Making Justice (forthcoming Fall 2020-Winter 2022): How can integrative design approaches address the wicked problem of global poverty and catalyze social justice locally in Detroit? “Making justice” can be read in two ways. First, how can the process of making (fabricating, designing, producing, visualizing) integrate concepts of justice (inclusion, equity, diversity, access, and decolonization)? Second, how can the social process of justice (in institutions, civic spaces, legal systems) benefit from integrative design? Thus, making justice is itself an integrative topic, asking how the value generated through integrative design can be democratized, flowing back to the makers—the community of stakeholders, including the student designer. “Making justice” as a topic centers the next MDes cohort, C6, around the power of integrative design and its evolving cross-disciplinary research approaches to facilitating access to equity by communities perennially affected by inequality in its varied social, environmental, political, and socioeconomic forms.