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Monthly Design Review - May 2017

In this month's review, a call to arms: Socially Engaged art and design groups around the world, architecture preservation, design for better living and the power of narrative storytelling in shaping humanity's future.


LIVING AS FORM Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011 (Creative Time 2012)

Living as Form grew out of a major exhibition at Creative Time in New York City in 2011. Like the exhibition, the book is a landmark survey of more than 100 projects produced by artists or collectives coming out of a community context; they emphasize participation, dialogue, and action, and appear in situations ranging from theater to activism to urban planning to visual art to health care. Engaged with the texture of living, these art works often blur the line between art and life. This book offers the first global portrait of a complex and exciting mode of cultural production--one that has virtually redefined contemporary art practice.

To buy the book, go to MIT Press or Barnes&Noble.


DESIGN KIT: the Field Guide to Human-Centered Design (IDEO 2015)

IDEO is a global design company whose goal is to create positive impact through design. In April 2015,, the company's nonprofit arm, launched the Field Guide to Human-Centered Design - a first-of-its-kind book and teaching tool that lays out how and why human-centered design can impact the social sector.

IDEO believes that Human-centered design is a practical, repeatable approach to arriving at innovative solutions. The Field Guide comes with 57 design methods, a full slate of worksheets, and case studies from projects that show how putting the people you serve at the center of your design process to come up with new answers to difficult problems.

To learn more about the project go to IDEO's website.

To interact with the toolkit, download a free PDF and absorb its ideas go to the



Assemble are a collective based in London who work across the fields of art, architecture and design. Their working practice seeks to address the typical disconnection between the public and the process by which places are made. In their Garnby Four Streets project, for which they won the prestigious Turner Prize in 2015, they collaborated with the local community in Liverpool to refurbish housing and public space in a derelict neighborhood.

Granby Workshop is a social enterprise making handmade products for homes which was launched through the Turner Prize Exhibition 2015 and grew out of the neighborhood's community-led rebuilding. Training and employing local people, the Workshop sells a range of products that are Made in Granby.

To read more about the group, see their website

To read about the workshop and its products visit their store



The World Building Institute is a USC non-profit organization founded by production designer Alex McDowell and dedicated to the dissemination, education, and appreciation of the future of narrative media through World Building. WBI's network of preeminent World Builders transcends borders and boundaries in film, animation, fashion, gaming, theatre, television, music, architecture, science, interactive media and more.

The Institute organizes workshops, panels, talks and research projects with the goal of connecting narrative storytelling and cutting-edge technologies, and exploring best practices for designing vast storyworlds that unfold across multiple media platforms, including those that don’t exist yet.

For more information about the Institute visit their website


CITIZEN JANE: Battle for the City (Documentary currently playing in theaters in the US and online)

'Citizen Jane: Battle for the City' retraces the battle for New York City, fought on opposite sides by preservationist Jane Jacobs and city planner Robert Moses through the 1960s and 70s. Jane Jacobs’s book, "The Death and Life of Great American Cities", which was published in 1960, sent shockwaves through the architecture and planning worlds, with its exploration of the consequences of modern planners’ and architects’ reconfiguration of cities. She followed by taking up her causes in a fight to stop “master builder” Robert Moses from running roughshod over New York City. The film sets out to examine the city of today though the lens of one of its greatest champions.

For more information about screenings visit the film's website.


THEASTER GATES: The Minor Arts (National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C March-September 2017)

Theaster Gates is known for his large-scale projects that transform vacant buildings into work of art in his native Chicago. In 2009 he started the Rebuild Foundation, which has worked with the city to transform more than 30 vacant local buildings into aesthetic and affordable living and cultural spaces.

'The Minor Arts' imagines a world in which up is down, the past is present, and the marginalized becomes central. Salvaging discarded materials found in and around Chicago, Gates responds to the decline of urban institutions and traditions, and resurrects them as art. At the same time, he draws from African sculpture and unheralded forms of craft and labor, including the homegrown traditions of roofing and ceramics.

For more information about the exhibition visit the museum's website and read a related NYT article.

To read more about Theaster Gates' work through the Rebuild foundation visit its website.


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