This online lecture discusses product design practices beyond the Western canon and critically reflects on the social and political role of designing.
Working as a product designer can be a very exhausting experience—not only due to the countless underpaid internships, extensive working hours, or subordinate contributions but also because of the social and political issues underlying a practice deeply entrenched in capitalist and extractivist modes of production. Indeed the creation of new products for the sake of comfort, aesthetics, or profit conceals all questions of power relations, production methods, and oppressions related to its development to design in a convenient apolitical bubble.
Educated in a rigorous and modernist Western design school, Iskander Guetta faced the market-oriented, consumerist, and superficial design approach while working on his graduation project, stepping out of school with multiple questions: What does a designer work for? What values do their projects carry? Can design be a political tool? And how can a designer shift paradigms?
Since then, Iskander has been looking for different perspectives by situating his practice in multiple geographies. He moved to Morocco and then to India, trying to find narratives beyond Western product design that broaden the definition and role of designing. Through designing, discussing, and documenting, Iskander’s practice aims to challenge hegemonic and Eurocentric definitions of design. Instead, his work focuses on resourceful and ad-hoc practices in non-Western environments, commonly considered at the margins of the design field.
Creating a dialogue between the Western hegemonic narrative and the multiple and yet undefined design practices of the so-called “Global South,” Iskander Guetta’s practice leans towards questions around the politics of design through the lens of race and identity, building a critical reflection on the role of the designer and its social and political implications.
Iskander Guetta (he/him) is a designer, mostly based in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 2018, as part of his diploma work at ECAL, he explored the housing conditions in swiss underground shelters of asylum seekers and homeless people with his project ABRI+, shortlisted for the Swiss Design Awards 2019, exhibited at WantedDesign Brooklyn, and during the Dutch Design Week 2018. After graduation, he spent several months in Morocco in order to explore other design practices, outside the neo-liberal Western world. In early 2020, and again in 2022, he works as a fellow designer at the SELCO Foundation in Bangalore. This opportunity allows him to gain a better understanding of design in the Global South, in order to better perceive the intersecting issues of ecology and decolonisation, which he tends to bring to the fore in his design practice.
Title image: Plastic bags made of recycled polyethylene, Marrakech, 2019. In 2016, Morocco banned the production and use of plastic bags, promoting recycling processes and related livelihoods. (Photo by Iskander Guetta)
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