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De-modernizing Design

Early twenty century. Modernism gives birth to the discipline of design in Europe. As a loving parent, it nurtures and educates this new discipline, gives designers a set of values that still resonate and are exported all over the western world: a rejection of craft and ornament, favoring reduction over expansion, industry over craft.

The 80s and 90s of the twentieth century. Design goes through its adolescence and as happens during puberty, it rejects the values of its parents: ornament is celebrated again, and instead of serving the social good, designers become superstars. Design becomes a commodity.

Early 21st century, about a century after the birth of Modernism. Design realizes it is finally growing up. It recognizes and respects the values of its parents while acknowledging the fact that some of these values no longer hold. The discipline of design (especially graphic design) has grown up, has atomized in uncountable subdisciplines and is sometimes rarely recognized as such. The world in which it operates has become smaller and bigger at the same time and design is facing new values, ideas and belief systems defined by other cultures, technologies and ideologies.

These values raise all kinds of questions: why is the western perspective on design so dominant? Why is 90% of all design produced by the same software from one specific region (Silicon Valley)? How prevalent is the western design canon? How dominant is the western bias in our aesthetic preferences, computational algorithms and other technologies?

Can we counter this narrative? What are inspiring alternatives? In China, WeChat serves as an invaluable distribution model for non-government sanctioned independent publishers. In Kenya, locals make financial transactions with their smartphones by sending cellphone minutes. In Japan, Excel is considered an important design tool because it works better with Kanji.

In other words, how can we counter the hegemony of the white Modernist idiom, and try to find new and inclusive voices in design.


Is there such a thing as design sovereignty and who comprises the design diaspora?

Do designers educated in the West practice design colonialization when bringing back their methods to their prospective countries?

Even in countries with no shared (cultural) history with the West, why are the visual idioms of Modernism still pervasive in local (graphic) design typologies?

Who are the contemporary equivalents of Barthes, Benjamin, de Bord from Asia or the Middle East?

How can (sub)cultures outside the western bubble embrace their own intrinsic design histories without falling back into nostalgia or the vernacular?

Can there be a new design canon based on hyperlocality?

Is there a difference between being inspired by another culture and cultural appropriation in design?


Tools — what are alternatives tools available to designers, excel vs indesign, FLOSS, solar powered design, Feng shui as design tool

Economies — new distribution models, crypto-currencies, alternative funding models for arts, mecenas model, ‘1 stick of cigarette’ model of font (glyph) distribution

(Visual) language — non-western aesthetics, inspiration from non-western languages/writing systems, new folklore, myth, and vernacular, kimchi aesthetic, post-selfie design, value of hyperlocal dialects and languages (Achterhoeks, Fries), what is the new Helvetica? Alternative philosophical canon in design

Spaces — how to counter the ’studio model’ and re-organize/re-imagine design spaces and hierarchy, the copyshop model of design

Labor — Decentralized Differentiated Distribution of design labor, machine labor, just-in-time production,


Create a manifesto, parade, flag, podcast, studio, -ism, poster, language, intervention, movement, translation, cryptocurrency, software, atmosphere, law, dinner, ritual, lecture, workshop, event, grid system, typeface, experience, tool, designer drug, network, infrastructure, house etc. that expands, adds to, questions, critiques, rewrites or replaces the current canon of design.


Week 1

Kickoff: Thomas Castro & Hendrik-Jan Grievink
Divide into groups
Initial research debates
Mid-week: teacher and student-led workshops
End of week symposium (11 jan):
Nadine Stijns / Amal Alhaag
Urok Shirhan
Amy Suo Wu

Week 2

teacher and student-led workshops

Week 3

3 day seminars (21-23 jan)
Clara Balaguer 
Chris Lee
YinYin Wong
teacher and student-led workshops

Week 4

Final presentation
Winter BBQ!

Degrowth Webdesign Worskhop

16/01 - 18/01

The internet and internet-connected appliances have become one of the largest sources of energy consumption on earth[1][2]. At the same time ICT has become more energy efficient than ever, bringing the same possibilities for with smaller, cheaper and less energy intensive devices. Following Jevon's paradox[3] however, these efficiencies don't go towards using doing the same with less energy, but rather to do more with the same power.

Using the low-tech approach to webdesign that informed we will challenge the dominant modes of on-line publishing. Rather than believing that newer techniques represent progress we will look at established and old-fashioned techniques combined with contemporary insights to publish our content online.

Practically this workshop will give you an indepth understanding of web technologies and help you to publish lightning fast, easy to maintain and well made websites. We will touch on web technology fundamentals, compression, degrowth, POSSE[4] content strategies, hosting and more.

To join this workshop you need to join for three consecutive days. Please come with an idea or content for a webiste, this can be a personal portfolio, a project website, your blog with decolonial perspectives on anime or something else.






Day one 16/01

Theory Basics:
what is the internet?
what is the web?
what is a webserver?
what is a website?
what are html, css and js?
What can we consider low-tech webdesign?
Practice Basics:
setting up a static site generator with pelican or 
understanding markdown & static sites

Day two 17/01

Setting up a static site generator
Ordering your content
Begin designing your template

Day three 18/01

Work on refining designs.