Design Joy + Design Education + Design Justice with Jennifer Rittner — DT101 E84

Jennifer Rittner is a design educator and writer. We talk about design, education, ethics, social justice, system design, and design joy.

Portrait of Jennifer Rittner

Listen to Learn About

  • The current state of design education
  • Human-centered design methodology
  • Important designers working at design’s cutting edge
  • Designing with and for marginalized populations
  • Smaller scale design
  • The empathy problem
  • The power-design ecosystem

Our Guest

Jennifer is a writer, educator and communications strategist who has taught at Parsons School of Design, the School Visual Arts, and SUNY FIT. In Fall 2021, she was a visiting lecturer at the California College of Art. She has been published in The New York Times, Eye on Design, DMI: Journal, and Core77; and recently guest edited a special issue on Policing & Design for the Design Museum Everywhere. She frequently writes and lectures about design and social justice.

Show Highlights

[01:00] Jennifer talks about starting her career as a museum educator before finding her way into design.
[01:56] Jennifer’s career teaching design, and some of the courses she taught.
[03:26] How design shows up in the world and how it shapes our reality.
[04:22] An important a-ha moment some of Jennifer’s students had about design.
[08:52] Human- and community-centered design.
[09:29] Dawan and Jennifer talk about design education and learning design as a never-ending process.
[10:44] Technical skills versus soft skills in design.
[11:50] Jennifer’s thoughts about human-centered design as a methodology.
[13:15] The need for a more critical thinking approach to how we teach design.
[14:06] Designers who are doing the work of critiquing current methodologies and offering alternatives.
[16:08] Something Jennifer would like to see design schools teach about methodology.
[17:45] Jennifer talks about her background and some of her current struggles in the design space.
[21:43] The concept of “inappropriateness” and design.
[24:51] Design on a smaller scale and designers whose work Jennifer admires.
[25:03] Design and technology.
[25:33] How design often marginalizes disabled people.
[27:09] The importance of design in helping the people being served find their own voices to speak on their own behalf.
[28:37] Advice for designers who are looking to move into work that is more socially impactful.
[32:41] Jennifer talks about the problematic nature of workplace culture.
[35:18] Dawan and Jennifer talk about empathy and how it is often misunderstood and misused in design work.
[40:30] Empathy and how it relates to people and organizations that hold power.
[43:29] The importance of knowing the history of a problem if you intend to design in that space.
[44:15] Making the case for systems design.
[45:51] Design and the institutions of power.
[51:29] Jennifer’s hopes for design as it begins to grapple with system design challenges.
[55:53] Where to find out more about Jennifer and her work and writing.


Jennifer on Twitter
Jennifer on LinkedIn
Jennifer on Instagram
Jennifer on Medium
Content Matters NY – Ideas
Design for Social Justice
Equity Representation Art
The Latinx Project interview with Jennifer
Jennifer at Montclair Art Museum
Core77’s interview with Jennifer
Sloan Leo
Liz Agbu
Annika Hansteen-Izora
Antoinette Carroll
Ari Melenciano
Liz Jackson
Alex Haagaard
The Disabled List
Marc Dones at King County Regional Homelessness Authority
George Aye
Sabiha Basrai

Book recommendation

The Black Experience in Design: Identity, Expression & Reflection, by Anne Berry, Kareem Collie, Penina Acayo Laker, Lesly-Ann Noel, Jennifer Rittner, and Kelly Waters

Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

How to Learn Design Thinking + Design Thinking Pedagogy with Julie Schell — DT101 E15

Critical and Emancipatory Design Thinking with Lesley-Ann Noel — DT101 E57

Trauma-Informed Design + Participatory Design Perils + Research with Vulnerable Populations with Sarah Fathallah — DT101 E72

Resources — Thinking and Solving Like a Designer


Fluid Hive’s Designing Facilitation Course launches soon. Get notified when enrollment opens.

Good events are essential when creating effective solutions while thinking and acting like a designer. Designing Facilitation shows you how to create effective, engaging events that are easy to lead.

You’ll learn how to apply the Event Design Questions, use over 20 event creation tools, how to avoid common facilitation traps, and make the most of every second people spend at your events. Notify me when the course launches!

Ready to learn new ways to think and solve like a designer today? Enroll in Framing: Creating Better Solutions by Finding More Valuable Problems to Solve — from Fluid Hive’s Design Thinking 101 Learning.


Ask Like a Designer — Monthly articles with design ideas, methods, frameworks, templates, and a question-fueled approach to design-driven innovation. Discover new ways to think and solve like a designer.

Sample pages from inside Fluid Hive's Innovation Shield


Download Fluid Hive's Innovation Shield: a guide to avoiding innovation traps by asking 9 of Fluid Hive's Design Thinking Questions.

Your Ask Like a Designer Studio

Your Ask Like a Designer Studio connects you with people interesed in thinking and solving like a designer.

Enjoy invitations to free, live Studio events. Receive articles, Design Thinking 101 podcast updates, tips, tools, templates, workshop information, and more to help you create and perform!

Innovation Smart Start Webinar

Your next project could be easier, faster and more effective if you play smart at the start. In this webinar Dr. Dawan Stanford will teach you ways to ask like a designer so your projects succeed more often and your revenue grows.