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Jan 25 2022 Event /

DesignTO Symposium: No Such Thing as Normal

Jan 25-26, 6-8 PM each day


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DesignTO’s seventh annual symposium brings 11 multidisciplinary experts together to discuss how we can dismantle the long-accepted idea of “normal,” in order to design for diversity, specifically in the context of a global pandemic. Speakers include Zahra Ebrahim, EDIT Collective, Eman El-Fayomi, Tiyondah Fante-Coleman, Laura Forlano, Esmond Lee, Andrea Ngan, Simone Shahid, Jay Shaw, Mona Sloane, and Jutta Treviranus, covering inclusive design, unlearning, artificial intelligence, co-creation, healthcare, post-pandemic design, and other thought-provoking topics.

The symposium runs online over two days: Tuesday, January 25 and Wednesday, January 26, 2022, from 6-8pm each day.

What is the new “normal” when there is no such thing as “normal”? In a post-pandemic world, how can we design to meet diverse needs? 

With over 7 billion people on earth, there are many different kinds of human beings in the world, each unique. As designer Kat Holmes describes in her book Mismatch, “[design] solutions need to work across a wide range of human diversity. But that’s easier said than done. People can be highly unpredictable. How do we design for so much complexity?”

Designing for an ideal is no longer a desirable outcome. Rather, this approach has proven harmful, contributing to systems of oppression that are intolerant of diversity, including race, culture, disability, gender, and sexual orientation. For many people, not feeling “normal” can be both a point of pride and a source of anguish. Canada’s forcible assimilation of Indigenous peoples is exemplary of the violence that “normal” can inflict.

This symposium invites design experts to explore how we can dismantle the long-accepted idea of “normal,” in order to design for diversity. How can we create great designs for both the individual and the masses? How can we present human-led solutions that move beyond the oversimplified average by designing “with, not for”? What tools can we use to build “one-size-fits-one” solutions rather than “one-size-fits-all”? What have we learned during the pandemic about systemic inequality? Has the pandemic created or revealed opportunities for change? How do we design a post-pandemic world that, to quote author and activist Sonya Renee Taylor, “fits all of humanity and nature”?

This symposium is organized by DesignTO and supported by BDP Quadrangle and ASTOUND, with media partner AZURE Magazine.


Session 1: Tuesday, January 25, 6-8pm

Jutta Treviranus
Laura Forlano and Mona Sloane
Eman El-Fayomi
Zahra Ebrahim

Session 2: Wednesday, January 26, 6-8pm

EDIT Collective
Esmond Lee
Tiyondah Fante-Coleman, Simone Shahid and Jay Shaw
Andrea Ngan