Before the country’s new national celebration means something, it needs this simple fact.

Let me tell you about my experience with Botswana’s 50th birthday.

When I first entered the country for my own research, I happened upon the yearlong celebration of Botswana’s independence. Sure, independence technically happened on the specific day of September 30, 1966, but based on the celebration, it might as well have been a yearlong celebration.

Though back then I hadn’t built as strong of a relationship with the country as I do today, it felt like the whole country was alive. BOT50 was on the tip…

Is your relationship to the past cursing your view of the present?

My father and I have a little debate we can’t seem to defuse.

Every time I see my father in person, we have a huge hearty hug, exchange pleasantries and talk about our little worlds, and then somehow fall into a debate about music. It’s his fault, of course; he’s the reason why I built such a strong relationship with the craft. He was there at every single stage of my music career, from my piano recitals playing hot cross buns, to my final marching band performance, finishing…

Photo by Amanda Lins on Unsplash

Why do futurists, designers, and innovators have such a limited understanding of how power affects social change?

“After three weeks of co-design, we felt like we truly made something special.”

As a part of an International Development Design Summit, dozens of designers from over twenty countries flocked to a small village named D’Kar, Botswana, to co-develop appropriate technological products intent on addressing the complicated problems of the local villagers. Our project was to develop a deep sand wheelchair; an endeavor that required three mobility professionals and engagement across the entire D’kar community to be successful.

However, the project didn’t continue…

“How exactly is a design “racist”?

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article called A Hundred Racist Designs, detailing just a few of the millions of ways racism shapes design and how design shapes racism. The speculum? The tipping system, intellectual property laws? Racism intersected with many more examples than I initially realized.

Before, I thought it was enough, to sum up the point with a simple answer:

Just because a design isn’t intentionally made by a racist doesn’t mean it hasn’t adopted racist politics.”

As you might expect, though, I got some real pushback from the Internet…

Everyone loves to talk about systemic racism. Why not use systems thinking to better understand how to address it?

Sometimes, it feels like history is repeating itself.

In our world where the unprecedented is the norm, there are still a few things that remain consistent:

  • Every day, we wake up.
  • (Some of us) brush our teeth, have breakfast, and check the news for the next unprecedented catastrophe.
  • We drive (or walk twenty feet) to your place of work.
  • You eat some food, talk to some colleagues, and then leave. …

Photo by Darren Halstead on Unsplash

On building a system where everyone has a voice.

Who deserves to be a part of our society?

Our Time is Now by Stacey Abrams is a scrupulously detailed text on today’s unique opportunity in American society. By unpacking the value of identity politics, emoting the crushing experience of her 2018 Georgia election, and interweaving stories of lost opportunity, she makes the case for rebuilding the voting system into one that represents the umbrella of American experience.

Source: Ethansmith

Have you heard of a kgotla?

Depending on the context, it’s a public meeting, traditional law court, a community council of Botswana villages, or all of these at once. I hadn’t heard of one until I visited the country for my research. In 2016, at Botswana’s second International Development Design Summit, I witnessed how the kgotla in the village of D’Kar introduced foreign designers like me to the local community members, to receive the community’s blessing for our four-week summit.

It was clear that the kgotla was significant to the culture, institutions, and daily lives of Batswana. A traditional Setswana…

To reach our dreams, it sometimes feels necessary to break the sound barrier accomplishing tasks. Soon enough, however, we’ll be ones left shattered.

Photo by Travis Colbert on Unsplash

What have you lost, on accident or purpose, because of the pandemic?

Flash Gordon has been my nickname my entire life. I got the name from a Morehouse brother who saw me zoom from one task to another with reckless abandon. I learned this important lesson the first time I wrote a scholarship letter to colleges and had to make a personal case for my value. …

Design centers a massive promise: that the field can shape the world. How does it fall short?

Photo by bady abbas on Unsplash

What made you fall in love with design?

Personally, the field made me feel like I could do anything. Our tools, mindsets, spaces, and creations have stewarded possibility for generations. I remember learning about how the methods of human-centered design — tactical empathy, brainstorming, prototyping, and many more — were tools available to any human that wanted to make something new in the world.

Over time, I learned more about the constraints caused by the actual culture of design. What actually happens in…

We need new ways to think about transforming the world. Fortunately, the path was trailblazed half a century ago.

Photo by Jan Huber on Unsplash

Does going to school make you feel empowered?

Think back to the last time you were in a classroom.

We’re not talking about when you walked across the stage, or the few times in your life you used your education at your job. I’m talking about those morose times in a lecture hall, learning about whatever topic you’ll forget at the end of the semester.

Let’s go back. Actively sitting in the seat, listening to a professor, taking quizzes and tests…

Pierce Gordon, Ph.D.

we think about transformation + liberation.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store