Design Museum Everywhere, creator of the groundbreaking exhibit We Design: People. Practice. Progress, is placing design at the forefront of the Black lives and policing conversation with the release of a special edition of its Design Museum Magazine, The Policing Issue: How one of the most powerful institutions functions by design. Guest edited by writer and educator Jennifer Rittner, this powerful issue includes thoughtful contributions from 20 BIPOC writers, artists, and researchers, to challenge and explore the relationships, limits, and futures between design and policing, tackling the unspoken truths and history of policing while being a person of color in America.
In America, Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police compared to their white counterparts. Furthermore, one in three Black men can be expected to be incarcerated versus one in 17 white men. It is no myth that police brutality and racial profiling have taken place in America for centuries but there is rarely an explanation as to why it continuously occurs. The methodology and design of policing, as well as our collective narratives about safety, security, and community, are informed by our beliefs about policing and its place in our lives. The design concepts behind architecture, urban planning, environmental graphics, lighting, transit systems, digital devices, apps, schools, and workplaces all intersect with policing in manners invisible to those privileged by its inner workings. This latest issue showcases how design can be used to deeply oppress people of color, whilst also opening up non-BIPOC readers’ eyes to the duality of benefits versus disadvantages exhibited in design. In addition, the issue takes a deep dive into the root causes, history of design, and its subsequent intersectionality with policing.
“We are hoping to reveal some of the ways in which models of dominant-cultural supremacy frame design practices, and have entrenched some of the same oppressive inequities produced by policing,” said Guest Editor Jennifer Rittner. “You cannot change what you cannot see. This issue unpacks the current state of the system, exposing the creation and design of systems that perpetuate racism. It is a call for change.”
The recent increased awareness of racial inequalities and the demand for a reckoning following the murder of George Floyd created a catalyst for The Policing Issue, but it has been on Rittner’s mind since the murder of Amadou Diallo by NYC police in 1999. She explains, “This issue has been a long time coming. And the Design Museum, an inclusive organization built on giving designers a platform, is the right partner at the right time. The collaboration resulted in writers and artists being able to freely express themselves, honestly, and openly from a design and, more importantly, a Black and POC vantage point. My hope is that this special publication creates a new model or inspires others to create something that has both equity in this process and the product.”
From the cover illustrations to the interior content, every aspect of the publication uses a visual and spoken design language to communicate and evoke a visceral reaction, engaging the reader to more closely examine the world in which they live. At first glance, the cover art by 20-year-old illustrator and painter Blacksneakers, appears not to be about policing at all, but rather depicts a utopian hope for the future of what an urban space without policing looks like. Rittner further explains, “It is messy, real and absent in ways that make the greatest statement about what the BIPOC community wants for our future — the freedom to live and to be whole.”
Inside, the 88-page special edition is filled with riveting articles, colorful illustrations, and imagery from multiple artists of color and notable BIPOC voices and contributors, including A.D. Sean Lewis, Ajay Revels, Annika Hansteen-Izora, Ariel Sinha, Blacksneakers, David Lamb, Dustin Gibson, Ivy Climacosa, Jamie McGhee, Jennifer Rittner, Jon Key, Lamees Rahman, Liz Ogbu, Myahn Walker, Niki Franco, Sarah Fathallah, Shanti Mathew, Sophia Richardson, Stephanie Yim, and Timothy Bardlavens. Featured articles address topics from how the design of physical objects currently in use by officers perpetuates unjust practices, to the ways in which the design of prisons, and even the design of protest movements, all play a role.
Printed on archival paper, The Policing Issue will be mailed to subscribers and Museum members on May 4, 2021. Dedicated to continuing this important conversation, the Museum will publish special online content, host roundtables, and feature contributors on Design Museum’s podcast, Design is Everywhere, to go deeper, contextualizing and elaborating on their pieces. Subscriptions to the quarterly publication are available on the Design Museum website for $36/year and include this special issue — individual copies are also available for purchase without a subscription on Design Museum Everywhere’s website.