Design Fuel for the Neoliberal Fire
University graphic design education and professional design organizations in the United States have generally sidestepped critical conversations regarding the neoliberal university’s emphasis on professionalization and entrepreneurialism. The marketable socially engaged designer is positioned as a force of undeniable good and innovation, with higher education lauding an entrepreneurialism that engages social issues without providing necessary historical and political context. In this presentation, I will discuss two related neoliberal nodes that have persisted over the past decade: one, design’s insistence on the social as a marketable passion project that escapes history and socio-political relations, and two, design’s fixation on an entrepreneurial mindset that subsumes all leisure time into labor time. I will articulate the ways design education in the US has traditionally been ideologically complacent in these efforts and offer possible interventions for encouraging students to imagine new futures for living, laboring, and relating.
neoliberalism; design education; professionalization; labor
Becky Nasadowski (she/her) is a designer, educator, and researcher exploring design’s complicity in various formations of violence within neoliberal capitalist landscapes. Her interdisciplinary approach to design research particularly draws from the fields of feminist theory, cultural studies, urban planning, and anthropology.
She has shared her writing about the aesthetics of gentrification at the annual conferences of the College Art Association (Chicago, Illinois) and Architecture, Media, Politics, and Society (Tallahassee, Florida), and will be sharing related work at the attending [to] futures conference at the Köln International School of Design (Cologne, Germany) later this year. She maintains an active professional design practice, collaborating with artists, activists, and cultural institutions, among others. In 2019, she published the experimental book, i hate war, but i hate our enemies even more, with Heath Schultz and Minor Compositions in the UK. She holds an MFA from the multidisciplinary Design program at The University of Texas at Austin and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Art at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.