1st Edition

Collaborative Social Design with Mexican Indigenous Communities Critical Craft and Transformative Practices

By Carmen Malvar Copyright 2023
    220 Pages 51 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book builds on the work of anthropologists, designers, and ethnographers to develop an original methodology and framework for indigenous engagement and designer/non-designer collaboration in the field of social design.

    Following a collaborative case study conducted over a five-year period between the author, project team, and indigenous artisans in Mexico, the book outlines the practical challenges of design research, including funding, logistics, relationships between designers and communities, failures, successes, and pivots. Social design literature has often focused on introducing important questions to the design research process, but fails to deeply interrogate and demonstrate how these theories inform research projects in action, which can then be open to misinterpretation, bias, and unintended harmful consequences. Centering the indigenous communities, this book provides a detailed and clear example of not just why, but how design and designers can work authentically and responsibly through different approaches and systems. The book examines the specific cultural, epistemological and socio-political history of Mexico as it relates to colonization and indigenous peoples, exploring the systemic influences of globalization and grounding the research in its unique context. It includes field notes, conversations with the indigenous artisan communities, workshops and prototypes to offer unique insight into a detailed, collaborative social design initiative.

    This book intersects with the growing awareness of the necessity of decolonial approaches to design across the world and will be an important and useful study for academics, students and researchers in social design, sustainable development, cultural studies and anthropology.

    Foreword: Collectivizing Design by Maria del Carmen Castillo Cisneros

    Foreword: The Other by Maddalena Forcella

    Part One: The Framework

    Chapter One: What Does it Mean to Collaborate? A Study in Power

    Chapter Two: Framing the Practice: Globalization, Social Design, and Proximities of Design

    Chapter Three: Articulating Cultural Differences: Indigenism, Politics, and Social Context in México

    Part Two: The Journey

    Chapter Four: Design as a Practice of Correspondence: El Hacer – The Making

    Chapter Five: Field Notes: Interviews, Workshops, and Prototypes

    Closing Chapter: Exploring Continuity, Measuring impact, and the Legacy and Future of Social Design Practice

    Afterword: Proximity and the Ethics of Engagement by Barbara Adams


    Carmen Malvar holds a PhD in social design, is a member of the international GIS research group for Retail and Service Futures as part of the Design Research Society (DRS) and collaborator with the UNESCO Chair of Sustainability Barcelona with 20 years of experience on leading teamwork based on design practice. Carmen has worked on projects developed with indigenous communities in the highlands of México and is currently researching the social and ecological impact of some global industries and their backstage production, designing and implementing strategies where their production process and distribution chain shares the concern with stakeholders and the community. She is the founder of CADA Foundation, a platform for understanding cultural heritage through social design. Carmen works regularly as a consultant and speaker for various institutions, local governments, foundations, and academia.