Diversifying your Design Syllabus: Recommended Readings by Women, Non-binary, and Culturally Diverse Authors

A snapshot of my bookshelf, design and racism books intersecting

My PhD dissertation is focused on anti-racism and design, so people sometimes ask for advice on more diverse or socially-oriented readings for course planning. As a student in the classroom myself, I have felt the frustration of a syllabus filled primarily with white men. It is especially painful as our courses are often made up predominantly of women, and if we’re lucky, include a diversity of cultural backgrounds.

Here I present a list of readings for you to consider adding to your design syllabi to demonstrate that women and People of Color do have a voice and place in design. This list is not perfect, and it’s not exhaustive. It reflects my bias as an American design researcher at Carnegie Mellon, who reads only English. I will appreciate feedback on my selections, I’ll edit to add additional readings, and if it’s helpful, I’d like to create a Google Doc version where others can contribute. Links to PDFs are included for most of the listings.

Design Practice and Theory

“Design functions as symbolic violence when it is involved with the creation and reproduction of ideas, practices, products and tools that result in structural and other types of violence (including ecocide).”

— Boehnert & Onafuwa, 2016. p. 1

Interaction Design & HCI

“Theories that recommend strategies to address large populations often fail to incorporate or interpret inequalities, history, privilege, and power and their impacts on people.”

— Ogbonnaya-Ogburu et al. 2020, p. 5

Service Design/ Design for Justice/ Socially Conscious Design

“Feminist dis-ability studies similarly questions our assumptions that disability is a flaw, lack, or excess. To do so, it defines disability broadly from a social rather than a medical perspective.”
— Garland-Thomson, 2005, p. 1557

Eco Design & Transition Design

“Science fiction is simply a way to practice the future together. i suspect that is what many of you are up to, practicing futures together, practicing justice together, living into new stories. It is our right and responsibility to create a new world.”
— Brown, 2017.

Design Research

“Within both data collection and analysis, the authors sought to highlight their own place as participants in, rather than observers of, the politics of the Activation, following notions of reflexivity and participant ethnographies.”
— O’Leary et al., 2019, p. 5

Communication Design

“Part of my goal in writing this article is to shine a bright light on the gender stereotypes hidden within the scientific language of biology.”
— Martin, 1996, p. 1

Design → AntiRacism → Design | pursuing a PhD in #TransitionDesign @CarnegieMellonDesign