Events of the past centuries, the past decades, and most recently the past weeks and days, have painfully and plainly illuminated the disparities in our culture and society. It’s become abundantly clear that facing these challenges can’t be done alone and a widespread collective effort is necessary for great societal change to take place. The current protests and dialogue around racial injustice have exposed how much work really needs to be done for us to all “be in this together”—truly confronting racism, injustice, and inequity is critical.

We know that design is but one small part of that larger equation—so why not start with the change we can most immediately affect? Designers play essential roles in our responses to upheaval or crisis through the reimagining of both public and private space for health, safety, wellness, and accessibility. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everything about our daily lives, but how has it changed the ways that we experience design?

Now more than ever, society turns to visual culture to translate our current challenges and offer views of a better tomorrow. The ongoing civil unrest requires uncomfortable discussions and introspection—which in turn demands our creativity and skills, and more importantly, our empathy and humanity.

“Place” is more than a place.

Fundamentally, designers know that “place matters.” A sense of place and belonging is intrinsic and necessary for all human beings to exist comfortably and safely in this world. In a more equitable, post-pandemic future, what “place” means for us will evolve, the home and work environment will shift. As much as we may want to predict what this will look like, we know that it will continue to transform.

Design is a great equalizer—especially when humanity, justice, and equity are prioritized. A focus on health and safety in all environments should be considered with all aspects of place—affordability in housing, access in the workplace, and justice in education.

We have greater expectations of our physical surroundings.

As we all face the difficult work ahead, we know that we come to this from a wide range of locations and viewpoints. At NeoCon, this is often writ large, as designers and manufacturers from all over the world gather to explore and celebrate design in all its modes of expression.

This moment is an opportunity for the global design community to collaborate and put collective energy towards shifting our culture and society and committing to the equity of place. It's not easy and we certainly don’t have all the answers, but design is the best tool for envisioning and enacting the future.

Together by design.

At IIDA we support, celebrate, and inspire the design community and bring people together. We know how vital it is to facilitate those important conversations.

Much of the current state of the world would have been unimaginable on January 1, 2020. What we do know is that change is constant and that this moment can be the catalyst for deeper more lasting growth in all aspects of community and humanity.

So many from across the design community have reached out to IIDA to ask, “how can we help?” We’re grateful for the energy and input and look forward to the continued dialogue and commitment to Dignity, Equity, and Justice. As this is more than a statement, more than a discussion—this is long term, and this is work—but the best kind of work that leads us all into a better, stronger, collective future.