I am, we are … Different By Design: Manifesto

On this week’s Baseline Shift, the University of Reading ’s Different by Design team, currently consisting of Lamar Kaki and Minh Nguyen, joined us to give a talk about what it means to be inclusive in design.  Liselot van Veen, who has graduated in 2021, also joined in on the session. Even though she has since left the course, Liselot continues to be a firm believer in the Different by Design team and their work to make design more inclusive. 

What they do

The Different by Design team create an annual Zine for our department. The Zine project has been run three times so far, to a great response across campus and beyond. It’s created as part of a team effort through a combination of interviews, editorial work, design and print. Members described it as ‘an amazing experience to work as a team on a project as unique as this!’ It let the team engage with like-minded people who also want to make a change within their community for the better. For the last two years, the team have run digital collage-making events online where students can engage with each other and have conversations about the meaning of diversity. The Zine is a student-led project that allows them to make amazing connections that benefit their career. It also counts towards their Real Jobs module. 

Why they do it 

The Different by Design team created a list of 9 principles in their manifesto, telling us exactly why they do what they do. In the session, they encouraged students to challenge these points and be critical of their choices. By challenging points, they created an interesting discussion about how we can better improve our department.

Collage created during Baseline Shift by students attending showing their interpretation of the 9 Different by Design principles.

The DBD manifesto

1. Always ask why? 

As designers we influence the world we live in, this means we need to know why we do what we do. What purpose does it have? Why are we designing it? These are questions we ask every time we design anything as it not only affects the process and purpose of the design but also our mentality. 

2. Inspire others to make change 

How can we as a designers inspire both the audience and fellow designers to make change to the world? And should we? These were the conversations points that came up when we discussed this. 

3. Advocate for change 

In our department we have plenty of ways for students to advocate for change. We believe this is important, so every Reading student leaves confident and well rounded. This can be done through the Different by Design team, the design for change module in part 3 and various Baseline shift sessions. 

4. Share your passion 

It is amazing when we see other students being happy and truly sharing their passion through their work. When you are passionate you can bring out the best in your creative style. 

5. We are united in our differences 

Our department is filled with so many distinctive styles and people with their own unique experiences. Making it easy to find inspiration by working with others on projects. 

6. Open your mind 

The feedback sessions in our department are great, but only if we open our mind and are accepting of what other people think of our work. By doing this we can improve our work and learn more about design. 

7. Promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace 

The Different by Design team made sure to put this point in their manifesto because it is what they stand for. It is their goal to make sure everyone feels safe and included in our community. If there is anything you want to change or discuss, the Different by Design team is the place to start. 

8. Celebrate the differences we have 

This point relates to promoting and being proud of who we are while respecting others. Everyone’s creative process is different, and it is amazing to see other people’s style. 

9. Bend the rules and shape your space 

This relates back to questioning everything and being critical. As designers we have the responsibility to create positive change through our design skill. 

What it is like for the team?

‘I joined the Different by Design team two years ago and have enjoyed every minute of it. For me, being part of a like-minded team has helped shape my approach to university and it has been great getting to work across year groups.’ – Minh Nguyen, Part 3 Student 

‘Working on projects which raise awareness about diversity and inclusion has expanded my perception of design and the possibility to make a change through the work we do. This by far has been the most meaningful Real Job which did not only lead to eye-opening conversations but also gave me a chance to brainstorm, plan and manage a project alongside an incredible team.’ – Lamar Kaki, Part 3 Student 

If you are a student at Reading University you are welcome to join the team, for more information contact Minh Nguyen, Lamar Kaki or Jeanne-Louise Moys.

Student Feedback 

It was nice to talk and co-operate with fellow students to have a laugh and have fun while being creative.’ – Ben, Part 1 student