Barcelona Cultura

We go from “designing for” to “designing with”. Anaïs Esmerado

Anaïs Esmerado is the founder and director of Ojalá projects, an association which arose out of the concerns of university teachers with the aim of innovating the teaching of creative disciplines, whilst still fostering social and cultural values. In addition, she is also a graphic designer, university teacher as well as being behind the promotion of “Design for Inclusion”, a learning and co-creation project that brings together design students and different groups who find themselves in a situation of vulnerability. We talk to her about this initiative and about inclusive design.

This year is the 3rd edition of the “Design for Inclusion” project. How do you value these three editions?

The “Design for Inclusion” project is research based on action and as such, each edition has been re-formulated taking into account what was learnt in the previous one. In general, I’d say that there are different things to be learnt for all those involved. The overall valuation is very positive, both for the different social entities which have understood design as a complementary tool to the services they offer, and for the design students who have approached a diverse reality by executing a real project for the first time. And, of course, for the people of each group who have designed and executed their ideas.

What characteristics must an artist work on both professionally and socially speaking, in a participatory way and at the same time with different groups?

Based on the experience of the participatory projects that we have carried out so far; I think that the first thing we have to rethink is that we go from “designing for” to “designing with”. This breaks with the idea that as designers, we have the solution to a particular problem of a collective with physical or intellectual functional diversity or who are in a vulnerable situation. This exercise is a challenge for people who are used to being in control over the entire process, since in these processes you know where you start from but not where it ends.

What kind of training do the students of schools receive before they start the project? What is involved in the process of selecting the groups and students?

It is important that they already have an interest in social issues, an impetus that is usually already reflected in their career. To participate in the projects run by Ojalá Projects, a portfolio is required, a letter of motivation and sometimes an interview is also carried out. All students receive prior training in the social context, which is essential to understanding the people who we are working with, the intersectionality, discrimination and vulnerability.

As it is an academic project, it is necessary to document the entire process. What route, beyond the experience in itself, is expected from this research work?

There is all the academic documentation, interviews, indicators, reflection exercises, etc., which the students carry out.

This year, a neighbourhood protest communication campaign has been carried out by students from different design disciplines together with users of TEB Sant Andreu. What will we see in this mural?

We have made a mural at TEB Sant Andreu which reflects on the multiple capacities we all have, a cooperative and diverse universe. It has large letters created by everyone in the group and the slogan “100% capaces” (100% capable) and as you get closer a wide variety of scenes, characters and objects that represent their harmonious coexistence can be perceived.

Ajuntament de Barcelona