Welcome to the Design Thinking podcast! I’m Dawan Stanford, your host. Today I’m interviewing Alix Gerber. She’s currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and has been developing and teaching courses there, such as Radical Design, where undergraduate students imagine alternatives to civic experiences like policing, capitalism, or voting. During our conversation, we talk about speculative design, designing for justice in Ferguson, Missouri, teaching radical design, and how her practice and teaching have influenced her as a design researcher.

Alix is a design researcher who works with people to visualize and enact the futures we imagine, provoking discussion around how our society could be more equitable and meaningful. Alix has worked with residents of Harlem, New York, and Ferguson, Missouri, to explore alternatives to our current policing and court systems by making artifacts from divergent futures.

She grew up in a family of designers; both of her parents as well as her brother have all chosen careers in design. She enjoys learning from her students when teaching her Radical Design: Making Civic Experiences class at Washington University. Alix is always learning and restructuring her teaching method to create a better learning experience for the students in her class, and working to design real life experiences for her students to learn from at the university.

Today, we explore Alix’s design career path from her start while attending Cornell University, and then following her design experience and growth through several different design types and projects during the last eight years of her career. Alix explains the different types of design she has used, when each type of design worked well in a project, and how the design tools she uses are applied in design thinking.

We’ll also dig into her teaching assignment, where Alix instructs undergraduate students on social design issues, and on understanding the impacts of different design perspectives on society.

Learn More About Today’s Guest

Alix Gerber on LinkedIn

Designing Civic Experiences

In This Episode

[01:26] How Alix started her career with taking human-centered design at Cornell.

[03:00] Her shift to design with social problems, her shift to graduate schools and why she wanted this shift.

[03:57] Alix’s time at Parsons and studying transdisciplinary design.

[05:25] Types of projects she participated in when studying transdisciplinary design.

[07:25] Speculative design and how this differs from problem-focused design.

[09:01] How she assists clients with a speculative design project.

[11:45] Framing alternative problems in a design project.

[14:53] Alix’s work in Ferguson – how her work started and developed.

[19:18] Speculative design tools Alix uses in everyday work on her projects.

[21:14] How Alix defines radical design within design thinking and what she is teaching at Washington University.

[27:44] Light bulb moments for students in context to understanding the user experience.

[29:44] What Alix does to assist her students when they are struggling with ideas in class.

[29:44] Using radical and speculative design and her work projects in relation to how they influence Alix as a design researcher.

[39:45] What Alix would like to be practicing over the next few years based on her cumulative experiences in design.

Links and Resources

Email Alix at email hidden; JavaScript is required

Washington University in St. Louis

Design Thinking at Work

The Reflective Practitioner by Donald Schon

Innovation with Information Technologies in Healthcare

Designing Radical Futures

Instagram Tag #radicalcivics

Parsons School of Design

IA Collaborative

Lab at OPM

Introduction to Speculative Design Practice

Elliot Montgomery, Assistant Professor of Strategic Design and Management

Extrapolation Factory

Extrapolation Factory Operator’s Manual

Neighborhood Policing Steering Committee (NPSC) Ferguson, MO

Alix learned about non-reformist reform from Shana Agid, Assistant Professor of Art, Media and Communication, Mariame Kaba (Prison Culture), and Critical Resistance.

Kees Dorst, Professor, Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation

Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming, by Dunne & Raby

Convivial Toolbox by Liz Sanders & Pieter Jan Stappers

Discursive Design by Bruce and Stephanie Tharp