A poetical list of essential knowledge for designers that both politicizes and inspires.
In 2018, the architect, urban designer, activist and critic Michael Sorkin published the now much-loved poetical essay-list “Two Hundred and Fifty Things an Architect Should Know.” Struck by the compelling form of this text, and also inspired by Antonio Gramsci's advice that “‘knowing thyself’ requires compiling an inventory,” the design critic, educator and researcher Danah Abdulla compiled a version for designers—“a list based on a search for knowledge and a designer’s commitment to making the world a better place,” as she writes in the introduction. “The list is generic,” she notes—“it applies to all designers no matter their specialization, as every designer also needs to be a generalist.” Abdulla’s list includes: the experience of scents; how critical theory does not account for the colonial experience; the dangers of seeking out simplicity; visual pollution; and how certain emblems and symbols make people feel. This list is not meant to be a definitive how-to guide but is rather approached as a series of prompts to consider or discard or spark a conversation.
Danah Abdulla(born 1986) is a Palestinian-Canadian designer, educator and researcher interested in new narratives and practices in design that push the disciplinary boundaries and definitions of the discipline. She is Program Director of Graphic Design at Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon Colleges of Arts, and a founding member of the Decolonising Design platform.