Pivot 2021 Virtual Conference July 22-23 2021
Dismantling Reassembling - tools for alternative futures

Trauma-informed and trauma-responsive design: anticipating and creating new design methods to support the future

This paper looks at the integration of the principles and practices of trauma-informed care in the context of design and design research. Although we may not realize it, designers, design researchers, and design educators interact with clients, participants, and students’ histories of trauma. Trauma-informed design acknowledges the prevalence of adversity in peoples’ lives and trauma-responsive design understands more deeply how trauma might shape one’s fundamental beliefs about the world and the way one lives their life. Becoming trauma-informed is especially relevant for human-centered, social impact, and service design as individuals and communities may have experienced historical, generational, racialized, and communal trauma, and may have been traumatized by the very services and innovations we create or are working to improve. By rethinking design methods and integrating concepts of support from helping fields like social work, trauma-responsive design seeks to center the safety and empowerment of the people we are presumably designing for, especially as we collaborate more intentionally with them before, throughout, and after the design process. By examining the principles of trauma-informed care in the context of design, I illustrate the opportunity of future-making for trauma-informed and trauma-responsive design.

human-centered design, social work, trauma-informed care, trauma-informed design

About Rachael Dietkus

Rachael Dietkus is a macro-focused Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional, and a design practitioner-scholar with a focus on trauma-responsive design research and strategy. She is a Social Work Health Futures Fellow and founder and principal of Social Workers Who Design. Rachael is currently working on her MFA in the inaugural Design for Responsible Innovation program with a focus on trauma-informed and trauma-responsive design research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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