The ‘dirty’ of design: highly-recommended reading

Recommended reading on Designers Speak (Up) — including a terrific interview from 1993 by Ellen Lupton with Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, published in Eye Magazine, No 8, vol. 2. 

“Diversity and inclusiveness are our only hope. It is not possible to plaster everything over with clean elegance. Dirty architecture, fuzzy theory and dirty design must also be out there.”

Shockingly, Levrant de Bretteville’s thinking on diversity and inclusiveness, feminism in the face of modernism, her deep motivations for what graphic design can, and must, do to effect change, conveyed in this conversation, are still relevant and vital here in Aotearoa New Zealand — A QUARTER OF A CENTURY ON.  

“EL: Many younger women are afraid of the word ‘feminism’, though they might support its principles. You’ve suggested that feminism is not just for women, but that it’s an attitude for including everybody. Do you think that feminism could be a design philosophy for the 1990s, an aesthetic and ethical attitude that could help fill the void left by Modernism?

SLB: I believe that gender is a cultural fiction, not a biological given. But while there have been many achievements in the last 20 years, racism and sexism are still rife. Some responses to my presence here really do come because people attach what I do to the fact that I am a woman. Those things have to become detached. But until we are able to detach gender from the ways we are in the world, it’s important for us to move towards equality. Moving towards equality is what the word feminism means. Until we’ve achieved that, we can’t give up the word. Feminist design is an effort to bring the values of the domestic sphere into the public sphere; feminist design is about letting diverse voices be heard through caring, relational strategies of working and designing. Until social and economic inequalities are changed, I am going to call good design feminist design.” — Eye Magazine No 8, vol. 2.

Every word in the interview is gold. Read on.

cover of Eye, No 8, vol. 2 / top: Reputations: Sheila Levrant de Bretteville
CG / Designers Speak (Up)

{ thanks to Nicola Devine for the reminder — at the time of publication, this ‘Reputations’ feature in Eye was hugely impressionable on me as a 27-year old graphic designer recently returned from London, working in Wellington }