Designs of the Oppressed

Designs of the Oppressed shares the accumulated experience of the Design & Oppression network, weaved by educators and professionals who refuse to take part in reproducing the oppressions studied by Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1972) and Augusto Boal in Theater of the Oppressed (2000).

The course will begin by summarizing the colonial history of design in Brazil, discuss other forms of oppression, and finish by availing the possibilities of designing for liberation. Guest lectures and conversations held by the network members will represent the variety of situations in which designers face oppression in Brazil. Beyond describing how the social issue manifests in Brazil from multiple perspectives, the lectures will show that Brazilians also have advanced pedagogies, theories, and practices to deal with that.

The course will run from 13/10/2022 to 17/11/2022, with synchronous meetings on Thursdays, 11:00 – 13:00 (GMT-3). Course materials will be available for asynchronous study. Only the participants who can attend at least 70% of the synchronous meetings will be qualified to earn a certificate. The course is free of charge and the course materials are open for consultation.

Check the previous syllabus, register for the 2022’s cohort below, or get in touch if you are interested in working with us.

Introducing the Design & Oppression network

Design & Oppression is a network founded in 2020 to promote solidarity between all the struggles against oppression that, in one way or the other, puts design into question. This network extends the Latin American critical thinking that is already known in Education, Arts, and Sociology to Design. In addition to actions aimed at training critical designers, the network also promotes concrete and continuous social actions. The network has 376 subscribed members, 20% of them are professors, 46% students, and 33% design professionals, spread across several regions of Brazil and other Latin America nations.

Read more about the network’s history here:

VAN AMSTEL, Frederick M. C.; BATISTA, Sâmia ; SERPA, Bibiana O. ; MAZZAROTTO, Marco ; CARVALHO, Ricardo Artur P. ; GONZATTO, Rodrigo Freese . Insurgent Design Coalitions: The history of the Design & Oppression network. In: II PIVOT 2021 Virtual Conference, 2021, London, UK (Online). Proceedings of the II PIVOT 2021 Virtual Conference. London, UK: Design Research Society (DRS), 2021. p. 167-182. ISSN/ISBN: 9781912294435.


The network is weaved by complicators of different backgrounds and interests.

“We had no interest in concentrating privileges. However, we were concerned that letting anyone do whatever they wanted on the server could pave the way for trolls and other kinds of oppressors. Hence, we defined a role for the network founders with special privileges to delete messages and ban trolls: the complicator. These members are also responsible for articulating the debate, adding new problems, and preventing easy conclusions, acting in the opposite role of the facilitator in design thinking (Mosely et al., 2018). The complicator role was inspired by the joker role in the Theater of the Oppressed, a jack-of-all-trades who produces, stages, and directs the play (Boal, 2009).” (Van Amstel et al., 2022).

Read more about the network’s critical pedagogy here:

Serpa, B.O., van Amstel, F.M., Mazzarotto, M., Carvalho, R.A., Gonzatto, R.F., Batista e Silva, S., and da Silva Menezes, Y. (2022) Weaving design as a practice of freedom: Critical pedagogy in an insurgent network, in Lockton, D., Lenzi, S., Hekkert, P., Oak, A., Sádaba, J., Lloyd, P. (eds.), DRS2022: Bilbao, 25 June – 3 July, Bilbao, Spain.

These are the complicators committed with the 2022’s edition:

Claudia Bordin Rodrigues is design professor at Federal University of Technology – Paraná (UTFPR) and a researcher at XUE Participation, Interaction and Computing research group. Her research spread through the fields of Open Education and Interaction Design. She has a doctoral degree and a master degree from the Graduate Program in Technology and Society (PPGTE-UTFPR), where she studied Brazilian Human-Computer Interaction and Interaction Design education, based on critical and liberating perspectives. Claudia is an advocate of open educational resources (OER) that stem from collective projects and individual hopes, in line with Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy. Her publications develop humanistic concepts for project-oriented studies on Science, Technology, Society, and Culture (STS), including the design and use of digital computer artifacts. In 2021, she cofounded the Laboratory of Design against Oppression (LADO) at UTFPR, a self-managed organization affiliated with the Design & Oppression network.

Frederick (Fred) van Amstel is Assistant Professor of Service Design and Experience Design at the Industrial Design Academic Department (DADIN), Federal University of Technology – Paraná (UTFPR), Brazil. His PhD thesis, accepted by the University of Twente, maps the contradictions faced by architectural design and service design in contemporary practice. Instead of eliminating them, expansive design harnesses contradictions as a source of change. Several articles on this topic have been published by international journals like Design Studies, Digital Creativity, Strategic Design Research Journal, and Building Research & Information. His recent research deals with the contradiction of oppression and the possibility of designing for liberation through decolonizing and hybridizing design. In 2021, he cofounded the Laboratory of Design against Oppression (LADO) at UTFPR, a self-managed organization affiliated with the Design & Oppression network.

Marco Mazzarotto is a designer, filmmaker, musician, NGO TETO volunteer, and professor at UTFPR. He has a degree in Industrial Design from PUCPR and a Master and Doctor of Design from UFPR. He researches and works in the areas of participatory design, social innovation, critical design, and design pedagogy. As a designer, he has worked in ​​communication projects both for large companies such as HSBC, GVT, Renault, Unicuritiba, as well as for various artists, cultural projects, and NGOs in the Curitiba area. For the Federal Government, he was responsible for the Brazilian International Humanitarian Assistance visual systems for new civil registration documents (Birth, Marriage and Death Certificates). As a volunteer for NGO TETO, he works in diagnosis, community development, and construction of emergency housing in precarious communities in Paraná. As a filmmaker, he wrote and directed the short film Fala, scheduled for release in 2021. He believes that Design cannot and should not be just a tool for the perpetuation of a society full of oppression and guided by unbridled and unsustainable consumption, but rather a factor generating improvements and transformations in all aspects of our lives. He firmly believes that can only happen through critical, horizontal, and participatory design approaches. In 2021, he cofounded the Laboratory of Design against Oppression (LADO) at UTFPR, a self-managed organization affiliated with the Design & Oppression network.