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Equity Observer  |  Powered by Deloitte
From the award-winning race, business, and culture editor Ellen McGirt, Equity Observer is a twice-weekly look at the people and ideas working toward a fairer, better, and more beautiful world.

Read more about it. Sign up here.

You can also expect:
  • A year-long investigation into democracy in the U.S, focusing on voting access, gerrymandering, and ballot design
  • The latest thinking on inclusive leadership, directly from senior leaders, researchers, and experts
  • Key developments in artificial technology and related algorithmic tech
  • A focus on the human side of transformation — hope, healing, empathy, and (actual) self-care
  • Ongoing coverage of the legal challenges to inclusion initiatives in business and public life
  • Best practices to engage diverse and divergent voices in meaningful dialogue

To get a sense, check out the Design Observer Twenty: The Redesigners, a now annual list of remarkable people, projects, and big ideas solving an urgent social need.

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The Observatory
Come for the inspiration, stay for the joy. Curated by Design Observer editors and contributors for our community of more than 20,000 makers, thinkers, leaders, and wayfinders, this twice-monthly roundup features essays, news, opinion, global insights, and pithy observations on design and life. It’s guaranteed to stir the creative spirit.

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Observed


Scientists are designing a space suit that converts urine into drinking water. More here.

Graphology geeks, rejoice! A new book featuring a selection of treasures from the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford is out from our friends at University of Chicago Press.

Sad but true: according to Q1 data collected by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, undergraduates choosing to major in Art History, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, and Graphic Design are associated with the highest rates of unemployment across the nation.

The Underground Railroad Stamps, for the United States Postal Service—released in May— feature 10 portraits of some of the men and women who escaped slavery and/or helped others escape: Catharine Coffin, Frederick Douglass, Thomas Garrett, Laura Haviland, Lewis Hayden, Harriet Jacobs, William Lambert, Jermain Loguen, William Still and Harriet Tubman. Designed by Antonio Alcalá, of Studio A,  the stamp, observes Steven Heller, “has done an important job of teaching American history to the public through these miniature ‘posters’ ”.

Randy Hunt is the new chair of the MFA “Designer as Entrepreneur” program at the School of Visual Arts in New York, succeeding founding co-chairs Steven Heller and Lita Talarico.

At Tulane, architecture students build homes for the homeless.

Cesar Rivera—who leads design for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta—has been named the next board chair of AIGA.

Founded in 1944 by Winston Churchill’s government to help accelerate post-war economic growth, The UK Design Council is on a mission to put the planet at the heart of the sector’s work.

Figma's new AI tool hits a roadblock.

Unlike most of the world, Iceland's design scene skews overwhelmingly female. Nat Barker explores what makes the tiny Nordic nation so different.

"If MoMA is going to get serious about this world, it needs to start by dumping the whole concept of “Latin America” and start getting specific." Carolina A. Miranda skillfully reviews Crafting Modernity, an exhibition about design (yes, in Latin America) that runs through the summer at New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Logo lunacy for the New York Jets!

Professor Nayef Al-Rodhan—a philosopher, neuroscientist, geostrategist, and futurologist who currently leads the Geopolitics and Global Futures Department at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in Switzerland—holds strong opinions about architecture, which he characterizes as “an intrinsically philosophical enterprise grounded in aesthetics and ethics, including theories of human nature”. And he has something to say about its future, particularly in the age of artificial intelligence.

Co. Design is now Fast Company Design.

From our friends at the MITPress Reader (an occasional newsletter that we can't recommend highly enough), the architect Moshe Safdie offers a beautiful remembrance of steps—and insights on their complexity—that led him to a life in design. (Also in this edition: graphic design enthusiasts will love this story on the design of the original edition of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown's Learning from Las Vegas.)

At The Design Museum in London, a more "rainbow-hued version of the Barbie universe". 

Right-leaning public interest groups have filed a barrage of federal lawsuits intended to dismantle long-standing corporate and government programs that consider race in job placement. With an alleged goal of “complete race neutrality” (a view of radical equality that, for example, lawyers for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty think is “in line with the Declaration of Independence”) litigants are chippping away at the use of affirmative action across America.  

As we wind down Pride Month 2024, a look at how queer theory apples to urban design: as theory and practice grows more empathetic towards the needs of its diverse stakeholders, queer urban design brings a broad and holistic shift to understanding identity and community in publicly inhabited spaces, challenging traditional (and often rigid) methods of city planning by applying more inclusive criteria to reflect fluidity and interconnectedness. 

Longevity, by Design: Apple has published a 24-page document outlining its key principles for designing hardware that endures.

Manchester City released a brand-new club font to use on the player’s shirts. But instead of tapping the skills of renowned typeface firms who routinely work with sports teams and brands, the Premier League champions asked former Oasis rocker Noel Gallagher to submit a brief. So he did! And the crowd went wild.

Designer Vivienne Westwood’s personal wardrobe goes to auction.

The UK's Design Council has announced a plan to upskill one million designers for the green transition by 2030. Their report, A Blueprint for Renewal: Design and Technology Education, was published with a group of 20 design and education organizations. 

The Peabody-award nominated audio documentarians at Scene on Radio have just dropped CAPITALISM. A full season, a dozen or so episodes, exploring the world's dominant economic system -- how people shaped it over time and what to do about it now that more and more people see capitalism as the problem, not the solution. Produced by host/producer John Biewen with co-host Design Observer’s Ellen McGirt and story editor Loretta Williams, among other amazing collaborators.  The trailer is here; find it wherever you get your podcasts.

Speaking of AI, Kevin Bethune would like a word with Adobe. 

#Config2024: Figma announced a significant redesign, including new features and AI tools designed to help simplify the user experience. And, in case you were wondering, “All of the generative features we’re launching today are powered by third-party, out-of-the-box AI models and were not trained on private Figma files or customer data,” writes Kris Rasmussen, Figma’s CTO

Designed by PearsonLloyd for Teknion (a family-owned business with an environmental conscience and an international reach) Aarea is a chair that unites the concept of circularity and the simple reality of human needs: intuitive and ergonomic in use, it is made with a minimum of components and materials.

Old news: Apple rejected — “spurned,” actually —a proposal to integrate Meta’s AI chatbot with iOS “months ago,” says Bloomberg. Get a room already, gah.

It only touches the ground in six places: how to build a house that sits lightly on the land.

Graphic designer and artist Ming Hsun Yu is on a quest. “I explore human experience, metaphors and questions through graphic methods,” they say, “seeking possibilities within structures, fluidity between dualities, and constant joy.”

Forbes has accused Perplexity, an AI-powered search/chatbot startup, of stealing their content. The service describes itself as being able to provide “concise, real-time answers to user queries by pulling information from recent articles and indexing the web daily.” A new Wired investigation shows that it does that, in part, by surreptitiously scraping parts of the web that are deemed off-limits by operators. Wired also observed this: “[While Perplexity] is capable of accurately summarizing journalistic work with appropriate credit, it is also prone to bullshitting, in the technical sense of the word.”



Jobs | July 13