A collection of projects undertaken by the Design Innovation Research Centre in collaboration with the NSW Department of Justice
About OUR WORK and the team behind it
This body of work explores how access to social justice can be improved in prisons, courts and communities, through design. The people behind this work are a multidisciplinary team based at the Design Innovation Research Centre, who draw on practices from architecture, industrial design, visual communication and spatial psychology. This work is the product of this team’s collaboration with staff and end users within the justice system.
We use design research methods to first explore and understand deep human needs within a given context, and then develop frameworks that inform the creation of appropriate design responses. These responses include new spaces, products, services and ways of communicating. The learnings and experiences from this work feed directly into the team’s research, with the aims of contributing to a growing body of knowledge in this area and of being able to inform future policy and decision-making.
At the core of all of the work is the intention to create environments that allow for more meaningful, dignified and equitable experiences of justice.
What does “Design for Social Justice” mean?
“Design for Social Justice” has broad and varied definitions, so it is worthwhile explaining our use of the term in this context.
We use the term generally to refer to our work for the University of Technology Sydney’s Design Innovation Research Centre (DIRC). This work is embedded in the philosophy that design is a powerful lever to help foster and encourage positive social change to occur. Over the years, DIRC work has expanded beyond its initial basis of crime prevention to incorporate other areas of the public and social sectors.
For the Design for Social Justice exhibition, however, we use the term to specifically reference the exploration of social design practiceswithin corrective services and affiliated parts of the justice system. Though the showcased projects vary, the focus of all of them is to improve the experiences of people within the institutional settings of the justice system – namely, correctional facilities and courts. This means, at the bare minimum, identifying and building on opportunities within the system to promote humane treatment, fairness and justice. Beyond this, we look for opportunities to make experiences more meaningful and transformative for participants and to better understand how to generate change at a systemic level.
Reflections on designing within the system
We know that the justice system can be a complex and contested area to work in. Designed to be the legal or authoritative administration of what is “fair and reasonable”, we are aware that the justice system can in fact achieve the opposite– often creating or reinforcing systemic inequality and oppression.
The physical environment is, of course, a key component of the justice system – a detention centre, court or community corrections centre is often the main interface through which people engage with it. We recognise that it can support unproductive practices, ideologies and power relations (and, in some cases, is explicitly designed to achieve this purpose).
For these reasons, we understand and respect why some designers may choose to abstain from working in this context and we echo demands for systemic reform. However, we also recognise the enormity of this task and see the potential for projects focussed on incremental change. So, as a team we put our collective shoulder to the wheel – both to affect immediate positive change for individuals, and to begin exploring alternative ways forward.
Visit us at:
Design Innovation Research Centre
UTS Building 15
Level 2, front office
622-632 Harris St
Ultimo NSW 2007
Design Innovation Research Centre
PO Box 123
Broadway NSW 2007 Australia
+61 2 9514 4968
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