As I’m isolating away from London, I’m going to be reviewing from PDFs. These virtual reviews kick off with new launch Deem Journal , a magazine devoted to design as a social practise.
While it’s undeniably much easier on the eye to read a physical magazine, there is something impressive about scrolling through the digital pages – seeing it pre-print I am suddenly much more aware of the labour of love behind every new mag.
So what is Deem Journal? Issue one is subtitled ‘Designing for Dignity’ and in this context, as co-founder/creative director Nu Goteh explains, it aims to ‘provide an in-depth look into the function of design within communities through careful consideration of their histories and an exploration of futures where design forges inclusive dialogue and intersectional dignity.’
It’s about the inherent social responsibility that design is imbued with – if ‘good’ design is functional and beautiful, then we must ask ourselves: who is it functional for? Who will get the opportunity to enjoy it fully, rather than just be adjacent to it?
Editors Alice Grandoit and Isabel Flower spell it out in the journal’s introduction: ‘when we think about what counts as design, we tend only to consider its outputs and end results—whether a building, a chair, or the page of a magazine. And when we question the criteria for popular metrics of “good” design, we grapple with Eurocentric and post-colonial legacies of rationality, quality, and beauty that continue to pervade our perceptions of our world.’
Much of this first issue places emphasis on co-living, architecture and social responsibility; features by both Elke Krasny and Joal Stein both tackle the commodity that is housing, suggesting alternatives that promote co-ownership and community.
Another thing I like is Deem’s global outlook, covering projects large and small from Berlin to the US, each approaching notions of decolonisation and design from myriad angles – Ingrid LaFleur’s ‘The White Box’ is a great insight to the exhibition ‘NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism (NSAF)’ held in downtown Detroit.
In the context of the pandemic, Deem’s focus on ‘dignity’ is timely. An interrogation of the status quo when it comes to housing insecurity is perhaps more necessary than ever, not to mention the structure of overcrowded cities that have played host to a disproportionately high rate of BAME individuals in the UK who have died from COVID-19. Deem Journal is occasionally a sobering read in light of a world that has changed so quickly in such a short space of time, exposing the very cracks in the system that the magazine’s writers describe.
I’m so impressed with Deem and its cross-examination of design praxis; despite being fairly academic at times, the collection of essays and interviews don’t feel inaccessible. Unsurprisingly, this is partially thanks to the layout of the mag, designer Cody Cano has done a wonderful job. Considering the journal’s objectives: mission accomplished.
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