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Racism Untaught: Revealing and Unlearning Racialized Design

Racism Untaught is focused on cultivating learning environments for people to further explore issues of race and racism, from the obvious to the invisible. Racism Untaught is a framework that was inspired by the need to incorporate design-led interventions into the design research process to assists participants in identifying racialized design and critically assess anti-racist design approaches. Developed by Lisa Elzey Mercer and Terresa Moses, this toolkit is meant for educators, students, and organizations interested in uncovering design that perpetuates elements of racism and creating artifacts, systems, and/or experiences that help re-imagine racialized design.

Mercer and Moses will share how the framework assists people in identifying, contextualizing, and reimagining forms of racialized design, designs that perpetuate elements of racism. This provides individuals in academia, industry, and community with the tools necessary to foster conversations and learning environments focused on diversity, inclusion, and equity. The identifiers focused on include critically analyzing and identifying artifacts of racialized design (more obvious); shared experiences of microaggressions and implicit bias (less obvious), and systemic forms of racism and how we and our culture perpetuates them (essentially invisible).

Your Speakers

Lisa Elzey Mercer (she/her) is an assistant professor in graphic design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in developing and executing design interventions that responsibly fuel and sustain responsible design for social impact. Her work has been integrated into academic, industry, and community settings. The developed frameworks and tools are meant to create a space for conversation and knowledge exchange where participants can actively collaborate in the creation of new ideas and solutions. This type of methodology is evident in all of her major projects, which are titled Racism Untaught and Operation Compass.

Racism Untaught, in which she co-coordinates a pedagogical framework focused on revealing and unlearning forms of racialized design, or design that perpetuates elements of racism, through a design research framework. Operation Compass, an ethnographic research study concerned with developing design-led interventions to combat the complex social issue of human trafficking.

Mercer has been published and invited as a keynote speaker internationally. She has also been featured on several media outlets, including the Dallas affiliate for NBC and the National Public Radio (NPR) shows Texas Standard, Illinois News Rooms, All Things Considered, and Sirius Radio She received her BFA in Visual Communications and Design from Purdue University and her MFA in Design Research from the University of North Texas.


Terresa Moses (she/her) is a design researcher, creative director, organizer, and educator based in Minneapolis. She is a proud Black queer woman dedicated to the liberation of Black and brown people through art and design. As a designer and illustrator, her work focuses on race, identity, and social justice. She advocates for positive change in her community using creativity as tools of community activism like her recent solo exhibition, Umbra.

Terresa is the Creative Director at Blackbird Revolt, a social justice-based design studio. She is also an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Minnesota’s College of Design (CDes) and the Director of the CDes Design Justice Network. As a community engaged scholar, her design research interests include; Project Naptural, which creates spaces to educate, connect, and empower Black women about their natural hair and self-identity, and Racism Untaught, a curriculum model that reveals ‘racialized’ design and helps students, educators, and organizations create anti-racist concepts through the design research process.

She earned her BFA in Fashion Design and African American Studies at the University of North Texas in 2008. In 2015, she earned her MFA in Design Research and Anthropology. She is currently a PhD candidate in Social Justice Education at the University of Toronto.

She serves as a core team member of African American Graphic Designers (AAGD) by helping to organize and craft organizational structure. She also works as a collaborator with the Black Liberation Lab to co-create solutions that support Black liberation.

Previously, she served on the executive committee of the Duluth NAACP as the 2nd Vice President, Young Adult Committee Chair, and Charter Advisor to the UMD NAACP Chapter. She also served on the board of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, and on the board of AIGA Minnesota as the Director of Diversity & Inclusion.

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