Justin Childress
Designer & Creative Director


Daily Record

April 5th, 2018

Early Thoughts on Design Citizenship

As I prepare for the talk I’m giving next week on “Designing for Cities” at the DSVC National Student Show, I’ve had to think a lot about what I’ve started to think of as design citizenship. From my notes:

An important part of design citizenship, of designing things in order to enhance and edify the conversations between citizens in your city, and perhaps your world, is to become a participant not only in the process, but in the result. By this I mean, if I were to only design for these [cultural events] based on some creative briefs and a Google Doc of copy, I’m not designing from a citizen’s point-of-view. I’m designing from a contractor’s point-of-view.

When it comes to designing for cities, and therefore for the people in cities, the difference between client services and cultural collaboration is your physical presence, and willingness to participate beyond your discipline. Approaching your projects from this perspective will only make you more informed, more, excited, and more qualified to do the work well.

This is somewhat echoed in a quote from Katherine McCoy that I ran across today:

“We must stop inadvertently training our students to ignore their convictions and be passive economic servants. Instead, we must help them to clarify their personal values and to give them the tools to recognize when it is appropriate to act on them.”

The question then become, of course, how do we do this as design educators? How do we support the growth of ideology in tandem with a more tactile design skillset, and how do we do this without imposing ideology on them, whether that ideology be cultural or aesthetic? How does this relate to citizenship? This is my great struggle at the moment.

February 11th, 2018


“Every designer is ideologist, even in situations where he or she does not even realize it. The history of graphic design is filled with symbolic cues about the attitudes and beliefs of client, designer, and audience. This ideological aspect becomes the potent link between design history and social history. The corporate designer embraces a philosophy of capitalism, the advertising designer advocates consumption, the social activist designer protests and demands action. The designer who does not see himself or herself as an ideologue is a sleepwalker oblivious to his or her social role.”

Philip Meggs, from a lecture presented in 1994 at the Universidad de las Americas Puebla, MX.

January 3rd, 2018


The kids have made it their practice to put an Open or Closed sign (or rather, OPAN and CLOSD) on their door to let adults know their visitation rights at any given time. It almost seems, however, like they make these rules only in order to create the exceptions to it. “No one is allowed… except for daddy,” As if the opportunity for benevolence that come with offering restricted access comes quite naturally to 6-year-olds. Indeed, they carry this power with a natural pomposity. Then again, maybe, the signage is just a strategy to stop us from keeping track of how messy their room is.