Dr. Christina N. Harrington

Our back to school theme continues this week with a conversation with Dr. Christina N. Harrington. I first met Dr. Harrington as a contributor to the first volume of RECOGNIZE, and now she’s an assistant professor in the HCI Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and the director of their Equity and Health Innovations Design Research Lab! Impressive!

After a brief pandemic check-in, Dr. Harrington talked about some of the design research work she’s doing at Carnegie Mellon, and spoke about how her past teaching experiences helped prepare her for this opportunity. We also talked about how she got into design via engineering, the utility of design Ph.Ds, and some of her latest obsessions. I’m glad we have educators like Dr. Harrington who can expand the concepts of design for the next generation!

Transcript

Full Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right. So tell us who you are and what you do.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
All right. I am Christina Harrington. I am a Southern, black, queer creative technologist. I have backgrounds in both engineering and design. I’m a tinkerer. I’m a crafter. I’m an inquisitive, how does this work, inside mechanics, logic type person. Right now I am in the space of higher education academia. I’m an assistant professor at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And I teach at that intersection of design and HCI, where we think about people and what people need when they engage with technology, why people engage with technology the ways that they do, the ways that technology can better support black and brown folks, folks that may not have the infrastructure to interact with the newest or coolest tech or gadgets or whatever, but that could really benefit from tech being ubiquitous in their everyday lives. I’m a writer a little bit, in terms of talking about design and figuring out ways to have these conversations about design outside of the walls of academia.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Speaking of writing, you were one of the first people that we published on Revision Path when we did our recognized design anthology back in 2019?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
2019. Yeah.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Yeah. You scared me with that one. It’s crazy because going through school, it was almost like you were told you can either be really good at math and science, or you can do the humanity side of things. And I always wanted to write, because I just felt like sometimes expressing ideas is just as equally powerful through text as it is through sketching something.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
When I saw that Revision Path call, I was like, I’m just going to jump out there and see what happens. And I was super, super, super nervous, which is crazy because I had done like a whole dissertation and conference preceding papers and journal articles, but I was like, I really, really, really want to get into this anthology. And I really want to do writing that has a little bit more of my voice and a little bit less of like academic, technical jargon. Very, I don’t know, polished speech. It was really, really cool. Thank you for that opportunity.

Maurice Cherry:
No, thank you for submitting it. Unfortunately we had to, I don’t know if I mentioned this on the show, but I certainly had wrote about it. Unfortunately, I kind of took a hiatus from Recognize this year. The pandemic really did a number on, honestly like the number of people that were submitting, which sort of made sense. I mean, folks were just trying to survive out here. They weren’t thinking about trying to write stuff.

Maurice Cherry:
But then the things that we would get, people just wouldn’t write to the prompt. They’d write what they wanted to write. To give you an example, the year that we did the first anthology, and the theme was space, a lot of people wrote about Nipsey Hussle. I’m not super familiar with Nipsey Hussle. I don’t know if there’s like a space theme in his rap or anything, but I was like, why are so many people writing stuff about Nipsey Hussle. This has nothing to do with space. Or maybe it does, I don’t know.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Is that the year he passed?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, that was the year he passed.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I mean, I imagine that might be part of it. I don’t know anything about Nipsey Hussle either.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. If people are listening and want to clue me in, please do, because I was like, why am I getting all these … It wasn’t just that people were writing poems, people were submitting artwork. And I’m like, “No, I just need an essay, I don’t need something in Photoshop. I don’t need to see something you painted. Thank you, I guess.” I plan to bring Recognize back at some point in the future. I just think right now, probably the timing’s not great for it, but hopefully in the future, with more support, I’ll try to get it back out there.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
That’s one of the things about thinking about how we stretch design. Saying that you got so many people that we’re submitting artwork and Photoshop, and it’s like, designers are afraid to write sometimes. I’ve literally heard running jokes, designers, engineers, computer science folks that are like, “I’m an engineer or I’m a computer scientist, I don’t write.” And it’s like, “Wait, wait, wait, how do you communicate what you’ve done? Or how do you communicate your ideas behind what you’ve built or what you’re envisioning?” There’s so much space for that, yet folks shy away from it so, so much.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. It’s certainly something that I was trying to put forth through Recognize, is to have more people just write because it helps you, like you said, formalize your ideas. If you’re an entrepreneur, it helps with writing better proposals, writing better proofs, just communication in general, it tends to be really helpful. I mean, we even had a writer, actually a couple episodes ago, had our first writer on the show. I think in his background, he called himself a verbal designer, which I thought was really interesting.

Maurice Cherry:
He’s a writer, and we talked all about how writing is, at least nowadays’s, such a crucial part of the design process. It was good just to have someone who’s a writer come on and really talk about like, yeah, I’m a writer and this is how I work within design teams and on design projects and giving feedback to designers about what they could do to either strengthen their writing or improve their writing, or even see the importance of writing in the whole design process.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Yeah. Definitely. Definitely.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean, aside from the new appointment, how’s the year been going? What’s been on your mind?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
The year has been transformational and also kind of like, you feel like you’re sludging through mud at the same time. I think the world is like a really crazy place right now. I don’t know if it’s like, oh, all of these things are going on, and 2020, 2021 is like this unprecedented time in life. Or if it’s like, no, the world’s always kind of been crazy, but as you get older, you have more of a connection to why.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Politics have always been wild in the United States, but for some of us, it’s not until we get older that you start to really see how like, oh, the ways that we’re voting are impacting like, I don’t have healthcare. I can’t go to the doctor and take care of myself. I can’t do the things with my body as a person who identifies as a woman in the United States that I want to, because of the state that I live in.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think that all of those things on top of a global health pandemic are happening at the same time. I’m like, am I becoming an empath in my old age that it just … I literally have days where I’m like, “I can’t today.” Because everything feels so heavy and it feels pointless to be writing a journal article or to be writing a conference paper. And these are things that I like to do, but there are some day ease lately where I’m just, I don’t have the motivation.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I’ve been seeing a lot of memes and all of these articles that are talking about how black women in particular are just like, we are collectively burnt out. And I think it goes to earlier, the question you asked about the things that have happened in the last year in terms of really intensified racial moments. And it’s like, we dealt with a couple of months of white people coming out of the cracks of the sidewalk, asking us how we’re doing and apologizing for things. I don’t even know you. All of that contributes to this like just community exhaustion, I’m kind of feeling, from a lot of my friends and a lot of folks.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
So on the one hand with this new job and with this new role, it’s really exciting. It’s a blessing to be here. My career in terms of academia has shot through the roof to places I don’t think I ever would’ve imagined, but I am very tired. I’m very tired with just holding all of the emotions of what’s happening in the world.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I think that’s been a general sort of feeling that I’ve gotten from talking with a lot of black creatives, just a lot of black friends of mine. It’s been like, we’re just tired. It’s like a lasagna of fatigue. There’s tiredness of just like, you being a black person in this country, and then on top of that, whatever other identities you have on top of that, whether you are queer or trans or what have you. Then on top of that, just like this whole pandemic and coronavirus and these variants. And then on top of that, there’s the government like forcefully pushing people back out into the world like, no more masks mandates, get back out there. Even the whole, and I don’t mean to get super political, but the insurrection was this year. So much has happened.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Time is so warped right now. Time is so warped right now. There’s no concept of time because it feels like things are back to back. And it also feels like there’s so many intertwined struggles that you can’t parse out something to say, this is what’s upsetting me, because everything’s connected.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think that when we think about the moments that we had the uprisings that we had last summer, and it’s like, you’re mad about that. You’re angry about that, because collectively, black lives have been proven over and over again to be disposable in this country. But then at the same time, within those conversations, we have to talk about how black, queer and trans people are treated when they also too are part of those black lives. And what does it mean to have to have those conversations among other black folks who are telling you, we can’t talk about that right now. Don’t be divisive right now.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And watch the number of black trans women being killed continue to rise. Watch people not mention the names of the black trans men or the gender non-binary folks who have also been murdered at the hands of the state and police. Watch folks not want to talk about the rates of homelessness and just all of these things. And it’s like, whew, you can’t touch on one part of it without feeling that thread and the whole sweater unraveling. So, yeah, it’s a different type of … I think I ask my social media once every two weeks, what’s the word for past exhausted? What happens after you’re exhausted? What is that called?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I don’t know. I feel like we’re all at some point trying to persevere through whatever that state might be called, but it’s there. Now, we’ve jumped in like both feet in this discussion. I do want to bring it back to your work and what you’re doing. You mentioned your assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon at the HCI Institute. Can you talk about what that is and what you’ll be teaching?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Yeah. So the HCI Institute, it’s kind of like a dream job for me. It’s like this collection of, they joke like a collection of almost misfits of people across computer science, human-computer interaction, design, folks that are interested in that intersection of people and technology, technology and environment, people and environment, and anything that has to do with the ways that we interact with the digital world is kind of that area of human-computer interaction.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think what’s so dope about the HCI Institute at Carnegie Mellon is it’s one of the few, if not the only spaces designated purely to human-computer interaction degrees. You could study human-computer interaction in schools of computing, sometimes in schools of design within the United States, but to find a space where they’re like, we know exactly what this is. It’s kind of thus become like the leading institution for how HCI is thought about. To be at the place where it’s kind of like, this is … Some of the work that’s come out of this institute, this university, is what we’ve based other research on, is definitely cool for me.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think a little larger than that, being at Carnegie Mellon, where they also have a really high ranked school of design. And folks that work across that so seamlessly, because they do go hand in hand. I think that that’s just, it’s really, really, really exciting for me. And a lot of what I’ll be teaching is everything from foundational courses and introduction to user experience design or human-computer interaction. I like to say that I’m a methods girl. I love design research methods. Or engaging with students around how they learn about the people that they’re designing with or for. How they engage people in design and all of that is like design methods.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
You could go your traditional research route of just doing an interview, or you could be doing like card sorting, or role playing, or artifact analysis. Like all of these really cool things that designers have in their tool belt. I will be teaching any one of those things, but also hopefully introducing courses that consider design equity and design justice and thinking about design where design has not been talked about.

Maurice Cherry:
I first got exposed to HCI, wow, I’m dating myself. This was 20 years ago. Oh, my God! It was 20 years ago. I was an intern at Marshall Space Flight Center, right outside of Huntsville, Alabama. It’s normal, Alabama’s a city. I remember my mentor at the time, he was studying HCI, as it related to like haptic interfaces. And it was so funny because he was like, “In the future, we’ll have like a computer that’s just like the size of a sheet of paper.” Basically he was talking about a tablet.

Maurice Cherry:
And this was, my God, this was 2000, 2001, something like that. But talking about like learning how we interact with haptic interfaces. I think it was still very new at the time. I mean, I find that a lot of innovation that tends to happen sometimes through NASA, eventually trickles into consumer stuff. Because that was also where I saw my first 3D printer, was back then, because they print the nose cone of the space shuttle is made out of this substance called Marco. It burns up on reentry when the space shuttles reenter the atmosphere. They print that out every time. They literally like print it out, a big machine, and replace the nose cone every time. And I was like, “Oh wow!” I was like, “So you’re printing in 3D.” I mean, that was what? 1920 at the time. It blew my mind, like you’re printing in 3D.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
It still blows my mind. I didn’t know that. Definitely learned something. HCI has been around for a while. I mean, definitely since the late nineties, just from like the academic texts that I’m familiar with. Actually let’s say, I can think of papers in the mid to late nineties that have talked about human-computer interaction because the minute we started talking about computers, we had to talk about how folks are interacting with computers. And I think initially that was done in like the human factor space. Thinking about work and cognition and like mental load and task load and what it takes for a computer to remember chunks of information and memory and how that is likened to the human brain and then what the person can be expected to be able to do and task and stuff like that.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And then human computer interaction came along. And then somewhere down the road, design kind of like attached itself in a very particular way, because we started talking about, how do we develop the tools that we’re either building computers with? How do we develop the code? How do we create the housing of the computers? We’re talking about new phones and we’re talking about new tablets or iPods. When Apple came along and started doing that so, so, so, so well, and not to say that this was the initiation of it, but it’s always my go-to example because Apple is just kind of like the Mecca of design for me, when you’re talking about technology consumer products. Then I really think folks started having conversations about the way things looked in the technology space. And the way things were experienced in the technology space. I think it’s a cool place to be, in terms of like the work that I do.

Maurice Cherry:
And now with HCI, are you focusing on hardware software or both?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Neither.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, okay.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I am the anti-technologist technologist. I’m focused on how we think about everyday technologies in people’s lives. I am not necessarily trying to design the software of the phone and I’m not necessarily trying to design the casing of the phone, but I’m trying to think about how the phone can be used as a tool for health information, for folks who might not have access to medical professionals on a consistent basis.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I’m the researcher that’s trying to consider, well, in what ways can we embed public displays? How can we get community health information out there for people who don’t have wifi in the home or computers at home, such that they’re not behind … When we think about the pandemic and how out a lot of that information that was coming out from the CDC, I was seeing it on Twitter. I was seeing it on Instagram. You’re getting alerts. Like the CDC just made this update, here are the places where you can get tested and things like that. How do we get that information to people who aren’t so heavily reliant on their phone? And do we do that through computers and public libraries? Do we do that through health kiosks that are at the Walgreens or the CVS? That’s the level at which I’m thinking about technology?

Maurice Cherry:
Actually, that makes a lot more sense too, to think about it in that way. I think it’s because now, I mean just thinking about haptic interfaces and everything like that, I mean, everything that we utilize with technology, it feels like it’s through some sort of a touch interface or an audio interface or something like that. Thinking about how it works within the context of our lives and spreading information and stuff like that is really crucial.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s a good point that you mentioned about with the CDC stuff, because my folks are in rural Alabama. Basically I was passing the information to them on the telephone because they don’t have an internet connection. They don’t have a computer, so they’re not going to get that information in the way that it’s going out, especially because, one, they’re in the rural south, but two, broadband is not everywhere in this country. So it’s not a public utility in that way, like the plain old telephone services.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Yeah. And unfortunately, the reason I focus on digital access and design equity is because is I’ve been the poem and the quote like, [inaudible 00:24:30] on the moon. Like we’re trying to get information to our folks in rural areas, but we have communities that are literally shipping off to Mars to escape the realities of what’s happening down here. And it’s like, there’s such gap. There’s such an imbalance in the ways that technology is utilized between certain communities.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
So it’s like at some point we have to say, hey guys, we can’t keep building new, new, new, new, new, while we have communities that are still like, wait, what’s a Google Home? What’s Alexa? Oh, I could use that to track my doctor’s appointment? Like, what? That gap, that dissonance is something that I feel like I’m always going to have an area where my work is needed because we have folks that are so focused on creating these technologies for the year 2032, and we are still trying to get some folks caught up to the year 2005.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. A lot of those futurist innovations really just like, they just completely blow by a lot of communities. I mean, even with smart speakers, I think I got my mom a smart speaker, I don’t know, a while ago, probably back in the early 2010s or whatever, when they first started coming out, and Alexa couldn’t recognize her. Couldn’t recognize her accent. So it’s like, well, that’s not good. She ended up giving it to me. I don’t even still have it anymore.

Maurice Cherry:
But to that point, like, yeah, you’ve got these other interfaces and stuff like that. The tech tends to be so focused on the next big innovations when like there’s still so many issues right now that need solving. And I don’t know if it’s because these are not like flashy, sexy news making issues that need to be solved, but it’s a huge chasm between the work that needs to be done and the work that’s being done.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
It’s also why you don’t have a whole lot of people focusing on it, because it’s not sexy, innovative work. I get hit with the same question, oh, do you do hardware? Do you do software? Are you in AI? Are you in machine learning? Are you in VR? And it’s like, I’m in this space of information because folks are still trying to understand the full features of what your phone can do, to support your everyday living. To jump to, here’s a headset that can make it seem like you’re pumping ice cream at McDonald’s in Kansas. It’s like, okay, that’s cool, but we’ve skipped a whole area for certain folks. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. That reminds me of what I saw on, I think it was maybe last week or this week, I think, with Good Morning America Facebook debuting these virtual reality work rooms. And like everybody’s got on a $300 VR headset to meet in a virtual space to have meetings. I’m like, this is the most ridiculous shit I have ever seen in my whole life. I mean, it’s one thing that we can’t get together because of the pandemic, where like now I have to buy a $300 peripheral just so we can sit in second life and talk about status updates? It’s ridiculous. You’re also heading up the Equity and Health Innovations Design Research Lab. Talk to me about what that is and like what some of the projects are that are coming out of the lab.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Yeah. I mean, the EHI lab is literally just that. I came through both my masters and my PhD in heavy lab cultures. I was involved in the research in ergonomics and design research lab at North Carolina state. And then I worked with the Human Factors and Aging Lab at Georgia Tech. Becoming a faculty, literally the first thing I wanted, and I don’t know why I was so obsessed, but I was like, “I need a lab.”

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I want a lab where I can curate projects, but not just for namesake or ownership of a space, but more so, one of the things I’ve really been trying to do is kind of like kick open the doors of academic research to the communities that we sit in. So I wanted something where communities know like, okay, if we’re trying to do something, if we’re trying to build something, we can come here and collaborate and build and work and voice concerns or discuss some of the things that we’re trying to do.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Most all of my work is community-based participatory design. What I call CBPD, which stems off of community-based participatory action research that you’ll find in public health sectors, where it’s like letting the community define the need, define the project, define the scope of what we’re doing, which in academia sometimes means flipping on its head, what the project outcomes are. How can we do a design research project and put something in the hands of community before we ever publish a paper or present at a conference or do a poster or whatever? And that means creating zines.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
One of the projects that we’ve been working on for almost a year now is the creation and the development of a speculative design toolkit for communities to be able to brainstorm without the leadership of a formal design researcher or a professor or academic PI or whatever you want to call it, to say, we want to brainstorm our own solution to this thing that we’ve been working on, whether it be re-imagining what to do with an abandoned building on a particular block, or we’re trying to get safety cameras put in at the basketball court, so that parents feel safe. So that with their kids being out there late, or we’re trying to get broadband access in a particular neighborhood, how can we think about that through a design lens? How can we brainstorm that? How can we iterate on what solutions might look like?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
So we’ve been developing this toolkit that we’ve been calling Building Utopia, and we’ve been working with community design practitioners who do just exactly that type of work. So, Jen Roberts, from the Colored Girls Liberation Lab. An amazing, brilliant end day who works with Black Womxn Flourish Collective, which you may or may not be familiar with. They’re one of the co-founders of that with Denise Shanté Brown. And they and Jen have been collaborating with my lab on the development of this toolkit, and we’ve been testing it and refining it and hoping to launch it maybe sometime this year, early next year.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I told myself that I wanted to do projects that I cared about. So what are the projects that matter to black and brown folks? I think what you mentioned about your mom is actually a really great example because that’s another one of the big projects I’ve been doing is looking at health information seeking with voice assistance for black elders. And how do we meet the needs of them being able to ask health-related questions of these devices that right now, for all intents and purposes, don’t want to understand our voices, our accents, our dialects, the words that we use that may not be formal language. And so that’s another one of the projects that’s coming out of my lab at the moment.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And we’ve been looking at, how do we redefine more ideal conversational assistance? How do we define what the conversational dynamic black elders want to see looks like? And we’ve been doing that in a very community-based participatory manner. I kind of let the work that I’m doing lead me, like doing this project, and when you hear enough, people say one thing and it’s like, okay, here’s that defines what the next project is. When the toolkit literally came out of us exploring speculative design with folks that are like, yeah, this is all well and good, but what are we doing when the academic researchers are gone? And the students have finished whatever project and studio classes are over, and we’re still trying to think through some of these things?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And it’s like, oh, well, what if we worked collaboratively with folks to develop a toolkit that is kind of like a resource for folks to do that work without the need of having to engage with universities or industry designers? So, yeah, that’s kind of what the EHI lab is about. And the things that I’m open to doing is really just closing that gap that I was mentioning earlier between the ways design has been used in communities of privilege and of fluency. And the ways that design can impact communities that are not defined in that way.

Maurice Cherry:
As you’ve been going through these things with the lab, it’s interesting that you said that the problems or the things that you all are working on, kind of uncover themselves as you start talking to people, as you start using the things that are coming out of the lab more. It’s almost, I don’t know, self-generating in a way. Like you’re finding new ideas as you get out there and talk with other people. I mean, I think that’s a good thing. That’s how labs are. Labs are for experimentation.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Yeah, definitely.

Maurice Cherry:
And now, prior to this, you were teaching at DePaul University in Chicago for a number of years. When you look back at that time, what do you think you learned that really prepared you for what you’re doing now?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Several things. Definitely I think DePaul, being one of the few formal schools of design that had a PhD, that also was open and starting to define design in this very like social good, social impact way. DePaul, A, I’d say is known very well for like games design, graphic design. And then you had folks that were also starting to define this sector of like Dr. Sheena Erete’s lab, the technology for social good and this area of social impact.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think it was a great home for me to start off and define my own research interests and my own research agenda, and how I was going to maneuver through some of these projects in an academic space. And I think Chicago was a really great city to do that because Chicago is kind of like this very, I don’t want to say social impact, when you’re talking about things outside of academia. But Chicago has this movement activist, equity driven lens just inherent throughout a lot of the work being done in the city. So I think engaging with outside organizations and then seeing how other faculty were engaging with the city and different organizers and community partners is definitely something that rubbed off on me.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And then I think DePaul as a university, being a place where you really get to harness teaching students. I’ve been in this research thing since I started my master’s program. But teaching is very rarely something they teach you how to do. Like how do you effectively develop course objectives and evaluate students in ways that’s not just throwing a 300 question exam at them? And I think I was able to learn a lot of that at DePaul.

Maurice Cherry:
I want to go general, like more into your background, because you have an extensive educational background and everything. Let’s start from the beginning. You mentioned at the top of the show that you’re Southern. Where did you grow up?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I am from Fayetteville, North Carolina, born and raised. At some point my parents moved to Richmond, Virginia. And then when my parents split, my mom’s side of the family and my dad’s was still back in North Carolina, but we had the closest relationship with my mom’s side. We literally were in Fayetteville whenever she was not on the clock at work, because that’s where her support system was. So North Carolina is very ingrained in me, but I did a lot of my schooling during the week in Richmond, Virginia.

Maurice Cherry:
Were you exposed to a lot of tech and design growing up?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
What I would consider the tech and design that I know now, no. I went to the math and science center. I was one of those kids in middle school, I went to the math and science center in middle school. I forget how I got into that. I was always a tinkerer, even in like my younger elementary school days. I was always trying to take things apart, put things together, build things from scratch. I remember one year when I had the concept of like what a birthday is and you get people a gift. I tried to build my mom these shoes by taking one of her pair of shoes and tracing it on paper and then foam. And then the stuffing of the foam that comes out of like a packing box.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I’m trying to build up these layers so I could build her a more comfortable pair of shoes, because she was always working. Because design hadn’t really reached a lot of high schools and middle schools, it was like, okay, you’re doing that, so you’re supposed to be an engineer. There was no concept of like, you’re supposed to be a designer. I never heard the word design or like designer. I literally was told you’re good at math and science, you’re tinkering, go be an engineer.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I remember telling my high school guidance counselor. I was clearly doing well. And I was in gifted honors classes, and this, that, and the third. So I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to go to college. Here’s where I’m applying.” He’s like, “What do you want to do?” And I was like, “I want to build electronics. I want to create electronics.” And he was like, “Oh, go to school for electrical engineering.” And then my uncle was an electrical engineer that graduated from North Carolina A&T.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I went to college for electrical engineering, and it wasn’t until I did a summer bridge program at Virginia Tech, that’s no longer there, but it used to be called Aspire, but it was for incoming black, Latinx. And I believe at that time, even Asian students to take these summer courses at Virginia Tech, the summer before you started your fall semester as a way to promote retention, because minority students had low numbers of finishing in these degrees at institutions like Virginia Tech.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I did this program. And so you then came into the fall semester of your freshman year with this cohort of folks. I became really close with some of the guys, because it was mainly guys. And I think it was like maybe six girls out of like 40 students. But I remember two of my guy friends that did that program with me. They were mechanical engineering students. They were getting a minor in this thing called industrial design. And I was like, “Boy, one day, I’m going to go to class with y’all.”

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I went to one of their industrial design classes. I think it was Mitzi Vernon teaching design research at Virginia Tech. And I like fell in love with it. I was like, “What is this thing?” And I literally left that class and I went into the College of Architecture’s front desk office, and I was like, “How do I sign up for this minor? I want to do this too.” And then I went to my undergraduate advisor and was like, “Okay, now how can I make my senior thesis integrate industrial design?”

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I changed my whole senior thesis to like, instead of just electrical engineering project, it became designing a sensor and designing a hardware of the sensor that could detect vehicles that were coming at joggers and bikers at a certain speed for like safety. I’ve always been about like safety and designing for impairments and things like that. I just fell in love with design, taking this design research class and then taking this sketching classes. I forget the other classes that were needed for the minor.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And as I moved through that minor and then going back to get my master’s in industrial design, I realized that like, that’s where I want it to be, because engineering, and this is no slight to the engineers, but I just felt like engineering put me in a cubicle where I didn’t get to talk to people. And I didn’t get to understand people the ways that I wanted to. And design was like, okay, you’re designing the thing. You’re also thinking about the core guts of the thing, but you’re also understanding the person that’s going to be interacting with the thing.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And the period between when I graduated from undergrad and before I started my masters, I worked at Motorola as an RF systems engineer. I was sitting in a cube, eight, nine hours a day, designing radio packages for the government. I never talked to anybody. I never went out. And I hated it. So when I went back to get my master’s in industrial design, it felt like some clouds are opening up. So I was like, oh, this is where I want to be. And the further I explored that, the better I defined like exactly what design meant to me and also realized how limited a lot of folks are in being exposed to design, because I could have been doing that the whole time.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I think an interesting kind of trend that I’m seeing here that is what you’re continuing in your work is that you have the idea that in terms of going into your education, you knew that you were good at these things, but you only had a very limited view of what that could look like, which in turn ended up being engineering. I empathize with that too, because like when I went into school, I wanted to do web design. This was in like late 90s, early two 2000s, and I remember my computer science … Well, no, first of all, I was told, “Oh, you should go into computer science, to design a website.”

Maurice Cherry:
And at the time I enrolled in this computer science, computer engineering dual degree program, you do three years at Morehouse. You do two years at Georgia Tech. You get out with a master’s and a bachelor’s. And I was telling my advisor, I wanted to design websites, and he just laughed in my face. “The internet is a fad. This is what you want to do? We don’t do that here.” I switched my major and went into math because Morehouse doesn’t have a design program. I do think about now how different my career might have been if I ended up going into more of that design route.

Maurice Cherry:
I’m bringing this up because what it sounds like for you is that you started out doing this engineering and then as you learn more information and saw these other paths that were open, that then shifted you more towards design. So like it’s that thing about access and I guess equity in some respect, but just access to knowing that this is an option that you can take.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Yeah. I mean, definitely. I think hearing your story fuels that point of, how often are young black and brown students being pushed towards these degrees or this area? You don’t necessarily have to have a degree to be a designer. I think design is like a skillset. Design is also a way of thinking that a lot of people inherently have or what we all inherently have, it’s just whether or not we express ourselves in that way. I wonder how we are exposing like black and brown kids to exploring that as a potential thing to do to harness your creativity or to make a living or whatever it is you want to do out of life.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And it’s not a lie. I think that there’s so many reasons why design is an expensive, especially like a master’s or a PhD in design, it’s an expensive area because design proper doesn’t fall under a lot of the NSF and the fellowships that are going to pay your way. Oftentimes people that are going back and getting post-baccalaureate degrees in design are paying out of pocket or loans. That’s already going to curate a particular type of folk that’s able to do that, and not feel financial stress.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And then I think now people have more of an understanding and a vocabulary around design. But 10 or 15 years ago, when you say, I want to be a designer and it’s was like, well, are you going to make any money doing that? And I think black and brown students are oftentimes limited in having that as a constraint when they come out. If they go to school, it’s like, I got to pick a major that I’m going to do a job that makes money. We’re not always afforded the opportunity to say, I want to do this thing regardless of what the return of investment is going to be.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And so all of these things contribute to, we push, in the past at least, our communities have been pushed to do certain things, to study certain things, and design has not been one of them. And so then it becomes this like elite thing that people think I can’t do design. [inaudible 00:46:38] doesn’t think in that way. And it’s like, if you had a problem at home this morning and you no longer have it because you figured something, you created some type of work around, or you Jimmy rigged your door to no longer creak. Or you’re trying to go in and out of your bedroom to get watermelon in night, like whatever, you’re doing design.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And it’s reframing how we think about what design is and how people think about what they can do with design. I think we’re starting to see that more now. You have designed this trickled out throughout so many sectors. You have literal government agencies that are now wanting to hire people talking about design, to address city infrastructure problems. To address urban planning problems. All of these things, there’s so much value now. And people considering design as a lens to just think through things. It might not even have to be about problems. It can just be about the process of ingenuity and creativity. But I think for my generation at least, that’s just such a new thing, because when I was coming out of K through 12, people were not talking about [inaudible 00:47:54].

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. And I’m going to just put this out here and folks can quote me on that. I attribute a lot of that, I think, new thinking around how folks approached design to the fact that the people that are talking about design, like you look at just the general makeup, has gotten a lot more diverse than it has been in previous years, because you’ve got more black and brown people, more queer people, et cetera, bringing their perspectives, which are a mix of education and lived experience into what design is, that it’s helping for a lot of people to expand what the definition of design looks like.

Maurice Cherry:
I mean, I remember in like the two thousands, I mean, I was out of college. I was like early in my career and everything about design, at least around like web stuff, because it was still pretty early. It was just all about web stuff. What’s the latest framework. And it wasn’t about, how are we solving problems? Like UX wasn’t really a … I want to say UX wasn’t a thing. It certainly wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. People did UX stuff, but it was not as, I think, known or accepted, I want to say, as being like a hardcore frontend person or backend person or something like that.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, I mean, it’s amazing the titles that you see, the type of work that you’re able to do in design that is, in large part, I think there’s just more diverse people are out there talking about it, sharing their experiences and really showing other people how design is not just something that’s done like on a computer or with a pen and paper or something like that.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
But even to your point, those tools have also helped to break down the barriers to design. One of the reasons I love what people on social media and the ways, I don’t know if you saw like, it was like a couple of years ago, and someone created a movie poster, like coming soon for Set It Off 2. And it was so real that I got upset, because I was like, no, leave, Set It Off alone. We do not need a Set It Off 2. There’s nothing you can do with that. I think it had Teyana Taylor on the cover and somebody else, but it was because someone got in Photoshop and was so sick with Photoshop, that they created this thing that looked like it came out of somebody’s media company. Like it was actually happening.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
We’ve gotten so sick with our Photoshop and illustrator and just our creative skills because of these digital tools, that you have so many people that you don’t need the four year degree to be like, I’m an illustrator. I’m a designer. I create flyers. I do the promotion for this restaurant. You know what I mean? I help this photographer clean up their prints. There’s so many different ways to do it now because of digital tools.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And I think that that’s the dope thing about design, because we’ve now started to see it literally infiltrate corners where folks never would have thought about doing that type of thing. And again, like I said, that then starts to bleed back into one of designs origins of political propaganda, because now I can literally build a career doing the social media promotion for Elizabeth Warren, or I can literally build a career doing a design for Black Lives Matter direct action.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think now when you’re seeing organizations and collective designers protests and design justice network and all of these people that are coming to use design as a lens with all of these different mindsets and backgrounds like, oh, I studied social work, but I now lean heavily into design for ways to really communicate my work and to get things out there and to make change. It’s like, that’s what design to me is and how it should have been talked about for all of this time.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Design, it’s not just this insular, oh, I am in design studio for eight hours a day, studying at this university. And I have this portfolio of these very specific pieces, and now I’m a designer. Design is so many different things, so many different people coming to the table or literally the streets and moving in so many different ways. And I think that all of these things have built for us to get to this moment. I just think that that’s so, it’s dope. It’s dope, where we’ve been able to get it.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, absolutely. And one thing that I have to mention, you shouted out some of your peers earlier, Dr. Dori Tunstall Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel. Raja Schaar is a doctor also, right? I know I’ve heard her name. I don’t recall if she’s a doctor or not.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Raja’s not a doctor. But Raja is actually one of my academic mentors, because Raja was teaching at Georgia Tech when I was a student there and gave me my first teaching gig. I always have to shout that out. Raja is the first person that let me teach the class, when I was like, please somebody, let me teach. I need to know how to teach for what I want to do. Raja let me do that.

Maurice Cherry:
What is it like being a black woman at the top level of design education in this way?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
That’s an interesting question, because I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it like that. The design PhD in general in the United States is not widespread. We’re still trying to figure out what’s the utility of it. Like why do you need a design PhD? In the United States, you get a master’s, that’s the terminal degree you can teach. You can go into industry. You don’t even need a master’s to have your own firm or your own consulting, whatever. Well, you can teach in certain design programs.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Having a design PhD is, in my perspective, literally because Lesley-Ann, Dori and myself, we all do a particular level of writing and research and getting grants and things like that, to move in the ways that some of the other sciences do. I think about it less than the framework of like, oh, I’m one of the few black women that has a PhD in design.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Although I think that if I stopped and thought about it, that is kind of like, oh, that’s … Whoa! I’ve thought myself as another black woman academic. Still few. Still few and far between. Like if you looked at my department right now, it’s not like, oh, I’m the only black woman with a PhD in design. I’m the only black woman in my department. Differentiating myself in that way is not something I oftentimes think about, but I do hope, and I do see, coming on the horizon, if not already here, maybe not myself. It’s just because I don’t always put myself in that equation. It’s kind of like an imposter syndrome thing, but I definitely see where the Doris and the Lesley-Anns are shifting design.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And I think last year was a moment to put that on grand scale, because more people were coming to them, but their work was already at that nexus of like, y’all, the way Lesley-Ann thinks about design, the way Dori is talking about design, what Dori is doing at OCAD and bringing in all of these black faculty and design. And even Raja, I don’t think a PhD really matters, because Raja is one of the people that is … I mean, you want to talk design, to me, the first person I’m going to mention is Raja Schaar. I think it’s more so the impact that they’re going to have in the field of design because of the types of work that they do, not necessarily because they have PhDs, but I guess they’re probably synonymous or maybe I don’t know.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, we spoke about this a bit before we started recording and I really want to talk about it more now. Last year, a lot of organizations and companies really stepped out there to talk about how they support black folks across a number of different fields, design included. And we talk about sort of what it looked like to have that influx of interest and support. Do you still see that support now, a year later?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Yeah, like I said, I don’t, but I also am not particularly looking for it, because I don’t think anybody was naive to what that moment was. As I mentioned, there were literally foundations that came and were like, we want to put you on an advisory board so that we can start to think about the equity within our products and our projects. They were also, again, throwing out the same names that I mentioned, you, Lesley-Ann and Dori and Raja. I haven’t heard from them. I couldn’t tell you what’s going on with that project.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
It’s one of those things where it’s like take from it what you needed to take from it and continue with the work. Don’t let that be the sole motivation for the work. Don’t let the die down of that make you feel like the work is any less important or necessary. Because for a lot of us, we’ve been talking about these things and we’ve been doing this type of work, way before anybody was slapping our faces on flyers or panels or whatever. And we will be long after folks no longer care we are. And I think that that’s what energizes me. I think about like a Chris Rudd, who has been talking about anti-racism and design. That’s the whole reason that he ever started working in design. And how in the moment of what happened last summer, I’m sure he like other folks, folks became really familiar with who he was and was speaking on panels and this, that, and the third.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
But he’s been doing that. He’s been doing that work. He’s been so invested in the community in the south side of Chicago. That is his whole lens to design is equity and anti-racism and workers’ rights and thinking about design from a lens of, what would a less racist Chicago look like? What would more equitable Bronzeville corridor look like? He’s been defining those things. I hope that the moment of last year doesn’t overshadow the fact that folks have been talking about these things.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
A lot of the organizers with designers protests, Brian Lee has been doing this area of design. A lot of folks just came to know him in the moment of what happened summer of 2020, but he’s been organizing in this way. He’s been talking about design in this way. To me, I didn’t really even see the companies as much as I saw my friends and colleagues and people that I knew from afar and looked up to, kind of pushed into people knowing their work as people should.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
The companies and all of the organizations and all that, all that was like kind of noise that I knew would fall off anyway. That was never my focus. It’s more like, okay, great. Now we have folks knowing the name of Chris Rudd, of Brian Lee, of Dori Tunstall. That’s kind of what came out of that moment for me. I don’t even really think about the fact that in 2021, those organizations or whoever, are not still knocking down, at least my door, I don’t know about other folks. And the folks that I’m mentioning, they’re still doing the work. They haven’t stopped doing the work because whoever is no longer showcasing 31 days of black on their social media page or whatever, they’re still doing the work.

Maurice Cherry:
To piggyback off of your response there, you’re a hundred percent right. I think what last summer did is that it did help to, I think, amplify a lot of the work that those of us have been out there doing. It sucks though, that that support hasn’t been continued or sustained. Like you can very much tell it was just like a, in some respects, kind of like a flash in the pan kind of thing.

Maurice Cherry:
I’ll share the anecdote, I won’t name the company, but I’ll share the anecdote that I share with you before we started recording, that there was a certain, very large pharmaceutical company that I spoke at last year. That definitely was like, yeah, we really want to help out and do this, that, and the third and whatever. It had just becomes sort of very clear, because they were asking like, is this going to be like a continued thing? Do you think that there’ll be more support out there that people know about this?

Maurice Cherry:
And I’m like, “Ask me next year.” Because right now, I mean, for those of us, like I said, I have been doing this for a while. We’ve seen these kind of like spikes of support that come along as it relates to, it could be a societal issue or it could be an industry issue or something like that. And you get that little spike. That’s great when it happens. If you can sustain that, that’s even better. But a lot of that support I know of from last year did sort of just like dry up. Or the company got selective amnesia about what they said or what they promised. It’s been all sorts of stuff. It is what it is. How can the listeners get more involved in the research areas that you’re a part of?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think a lot of the organizations that I mentioned. I mean, I think that there’s always going to be like that shameless, you want to do a PhD, come to death row type comment of like, come work with the kid. You could definitely do that. I also know that academia is not the only avenue to do this work. I even push some of my students to be a part of design justice network, be a part of do the check-ins with designers protest.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think that a lot of the collectives that I’ve come to learn about, when we did the Denise and Designer project, which it started before the pandemic even hit, but we weren’t able to put things out until I think like late last summer. It kind of overlapped with, we were talking a lot about this area of design and then it was like, oh, the timing just kind of coincided of us starting to put out the zine and the website and highlighting folks on social media.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think following the Denise and Designer project on Instagram and some of the folks that we highlighted, like looking into their work, looking into the collectives that either they lead or that they’re a part of, or some of the projects they’re doing on their own, I think that there are so many ways now, as we talked about equity and design justice is becoming more widespread. There’s so many ways to get involved. I think that people can tap into any one of those.

Maurice Cherry:
What do you think you would’ve done if you hadn’t went into academia?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Real answer, I wanted to go to culinary school. I wanted to go to culinary school. I wanted to do a bunch of different things when I was a kid. I don’t know if that’s like some sagitarious type stuff. But there was the point in time, pre 1998 when I was like, I’m going to be the first girl in the NBA. And then there was, I want to go to culinary school. Cooking was so sexy to me. I don’t know why I just thought I wanted to cook. And then I think when I got to undergrad and I was grounded a little bit more, and even then barely, because I remember end of my sophomore year under my freshman year, calling my mom and being like my, “I hate electrical engineering. I hate it here. I want to get my degree in Africana Studies and be a writer or something.”

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And my mom being, “No, you’re not [inaudible 01:04:08].” I wanted to do so many things and it was like engineering oddly was my safety net, because I was smart in math and science. It could have been a number of different things. And it still might be a number of different things, because I don’t believe that we are fixed to what we do in terms of our productivity or making money in this light. I don’t think we have to be fixed to that.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I still might end up opening a smoothie shop and being the old black lesbian in the neighborhood that’s just making smoothies and minding her business on the porch. That’s just my character and how I see the world of just wanting to do what feels good and what makes sense in the moment. I think this past year has showed me that I don’t want to die working myself to death and stressing over a job. So what that looks like in the next 15, 20 years is very up in the air.

Maurice Cherry:
Woo! You hit me with like a shot to the heart with that one. Woo! I know exactly what you mean when you say that. Stress will kill you. And if you happen to be black, if you happen to be anything else on top of that, it’s a lot out here. I don’t blame you. I think a lot of people are starting to come to their … I won’t want to say come to their senses, because that implies some form of like brainwashing. But I think a lot of people are realizing like, to be quite blunt, fuck these jobs.

Maurice Cherry:
The work is always going to be there. I think I had to come to terms with that a few years ago myself, when I really saw that I was really overworking myself. The work will always be there. I may not. Someone else can easily sub in for whatever, but like I don’t want to burn myself out trying to … You don’t get a medal for being a workaholic.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Yep. I think last year I was talking to a friend about this. I mean last year literally showed us whose job was essential and whose wasn’t. And the ways that we need to let go of some of that internal guilt of taking rest, of taking time off, of going on vacation. I know at least like black, queer, trans, non-binary folk in the academia and the academy, we tend to carry that. Like, I got to work harder to get where other people are, and so, no days off. I also have the invisible labor of holding space for all of the students who don’t see themselves typically on campus and all of these things. And it’s like, we also tend to statistically die younger because of it, and not last, and still not get tenured.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think the last year has taught me, I’m going to rest. I am going to take time. I’m going to take vacations where I’m not touching my laptop. I think as burnt out as I was starting to feel with academia, one of the beautiful things that I quickly realized coming into CMU, there’s a faculty by the name of Jessica Hammer in the HCI Institute, who is all about that. Making sure that you’re working efficiently, such that you can unplug and take care of yourself and have that balance.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And I think that that’s just the place that I’m kind of in, because we watched the world go topsy-turvy, and a lot of us didn’t know how to put down productivity. We didn’t know how to not be defined by that. It was kind of sad and a little scary, watching folks scramble to do what felt like normal, but what felt like normal was work, at least in the context of the U.S.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Shout out to the Nap Ministry. I first heard about them last year. I think it might have been right around the summer of last year. Shout out to the Nap Ministry, rest is resistance. Absolutely.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Shout out to the Nap Ministry, shout out to Pleasure Activism, shout out to any messaging that is just like, take care of you. We have to be reminded of that. I think Denise is a great example in the way that they’re operating Black Womxn Flourish is like, hey y’all, we’re taking a break in a couple of weeks. And I’m like, that is like such a symbol, but I’ve never thought to just be like, no, it’s not a holiday, but I’m just going to go to the lake for a couple of days and not answer my email, and y’all will be okay. We know the jobs that are essential now. We know what we need to literally survive as a society. More than likely my journal article isn’t part of that, so I can take a break. I can take a nap.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I love it. I love it. What are you obsessed with at the moment?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
So many things from Real Housewives of Potomac, do not shame me, but I love them. I’m obsessed with that. I am upset with, in terms of design, like this concept of futuring and speculative design, but through a lens of Afrofuturism. I’m obsessed with the concept of like, there are black people in the future. I think it’s become ingrained in everything I see and everything I do, from like TV shows. I like a lot of like sci-fi and those psychological thrillers or like those, the world has ended as we know it and now it’s 2442 and here’s what civilization looks like. You watch those shows and you’re like, wait, so in 2442 there’s no black people? In the casting call, you don’t even think to put one mixed girl, nothing?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
And it’s like that concept of like us, the longevity and what our futures looks like has become something that I’m super obsessed with. I’m obsessed with art, of course. I think that that’s what attracted me to design because I was introduced to design as like this mesh of engineering and visual art. So the visual art is always going to be something that like aesthetically … Like I love collecting art in my home. I love going to museums and learning the history of, especially like political art, what people were trying to say through their art. I’m obsessed with my travel bucket list. That is part of my selfish Americanism of like, when am I going to be able to just roam the world again and feel safe? Safe to the extent of being like black masculine presenting queer woman on this earth, as safe as we feel anyway.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I will admit this, but if you see me in person, I’m not going to want to engage in it in person. I’m not a LeBron hater, but I follow his career. So I’m slightly obsessed with how long is this man going to play in the NBA? It’s not even like a Vince Carter. Like where Vince was like, he’s old. He might go in for like five minutes and do a dunk and then you can see him kind of limping off the court and he’s done. LeBron is still playing as like the centerpiece of the team, going into what? 35, 36. So I’m kind of obsessed with like what that moment is going to be when he … Is that going to come? I mean, he’s conditioned his body so well, and I think he’s obsessed with proving to people that he can still do it. As an avid basketball fan, I’m kind of obsessed with seeing how long he goes.

Maurice Cherry:
Where do you see yourself in the next five years? What kind of work do you want to be doing?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
I think I’ll still be doing similar work. I mean, I have great interest in doing more like civic technology fellowships, where I’m taking a year and focusing on a project that sits outside of the academic institution, like the walls of the academic institution or consulting with folks that are thinking about larger scale problems. I think that that’s the next direction that I feel like I want to go in at some point. I don’t know what capacity that’s going to look like. Because like I said, I tend to let the work lead me, but I would love to do some type of fellowship that was focused on like a larger scale problem that was dealing with digital access or design equity somewhere.

Maurice Cherry:
Well, just to wrap things up here, where can our audience find out more about you and about your work online?

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
So my personal website, christinaharrington.me, although it’s not, I mean, that flashy, it’s somewhat updated of like my travel and where I’m speaking, my research project, the papers that I’ve published and things like that. You can always follow me on Twitter @adapperprof. I’m always ranting about academia, design, The Real Housewives of Potomac, rest, productivity. I have pages on LinkedIn and stuff like that. I don’t use them as much, but I’d say that those are the two places.

Maurice Cherry:
All right. Sounds good. Well, Christina Harrington, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show. I know when we first met, actually it was a few years ago, we met at black and design, which they are having again this year. So I think by the time this episode comes out, people will start hearing some of the advertisements around the events. That’ll be happening in October, again, virtually this year.

Maurice Cherry:
It was just so good to talk with you and to learn about the work that you’re doing around design equity, your new role at Carnegie Mellon. I just feel like we’re going to hear so much more from you in these coming years about the work that you’re doing, because it’s really super important. I think now that so much of our world has been driven online because of the pandemic in terms of interactions and just general socialization that a lot of the work you’re doing around design equity and stuff like that is going to be super important. Thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Dr. Christina N. Harrington:
Thank you so much for having me. This is really exciting.

Sponsored by Adobe MAX

Adobe MAX Logo

Support for Revision Path comes from Adobe MAX.

Adobe MAX is the annual global creativity conference and it’s going online this year — October 26th through the 28th. This is sure to be a creative experience like no other. Plus, it’s all free. Yep – 100% free!

With over 25 hours of keynotes, luminary speakers, breakout sessions, workshops, musical performances and even a few celebrity appearances, it’s going to be one-stop shopping for your inspiration, goals and creative tune-ups.

Did I mention it’s free?

Explore over 300 sessions across 11 tracks, hear from amazing speakers and learn new creative skills…all totally free and online this October.

To register, head to max.adobe.com.

Sponsored by Black in Design 2021 Conference

Black in Design Logo

On the weekend of October 8-10th, join the Harvard Graduate School of Design virtually for the Black in Design 2021 Conference!

This year’s theme, Black Matter, is a celebration of Black space and creativity from the magical to the mundane. Our speakers, performers, and panelists will bring nuance to the trope of Black excellence and acknowledge the urgent political, spatial, and ecological crises facing Black communities across the diaspora. You don’t want to miss out on this weekend of learning, community, and connection!

Visit them online at blackmatter.tv to learn more and be a part of the event.

Sponsored by Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit

Brevity & Wit is a strategy and design firm committed to designing a more inclusive and equitable world.

We accomplish this through graphic design, presentations and workshops around I-D-E-A: inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility.

If you’re curious to learn how to combine a passion for I-D-E-A with design, check us out at brevityandwit.com.

Brevity & Wit — creative excellence without the grind.

Donald Burlock

2020 has been one hell of a year. What if you could go into 2021 being superhuman? Then you should meet Donald Burlock, Jr.! By day, he serves as the creative technologist lead for the physical experience design team at Capital One. But by night, he’s the author of the brand new book Superhuman by Design: Keys to Unlocking Your Creativity for Life-Changing Results.

We started off talking about his work at Capital One, and from there Donald talked about his time working as an entrepreneur, growing up in the Midwest, and his times studying at Kettering and Georgia Tech. He also spoke on the inspiration behind his book, and shared how he’s helping to build an equitable future through unlocking people’s creativity. If you need a boost, then I hope this interview gets you inspired to take action!

Happy Holidays!

The best way I can describe Ari Melenciano is that she is a renaissance talent. As an artist, researcher, and creative technologist, Ari is always finding new ways to express herself, speak to social issues, and find ways to use her art to enhance the lives of everyday people.

Ari talked about her residency at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, which helped her create Afrotectopia, a multi-day new media arts, culture and technology festival. She also spoke about growing up around art and music, including how technology ended up being the catalyst for the work she does now. I don’t want to spoil this great conversation too much — we were both coming off of this year’s Black in Design Conference, and I think you’ll really feel the spirit and energy that both of us still had from the event! Ari is out here doing important and vital work, and this episode captures that perfectly. Thank you Ari for showing us a vision of an equitable future!


Facebook Design is a proud sponsor of Revision Path. The Facebook Design community is designing for human needs at unprecedented scale. Across Facebook’s family of apps and new product platforms, multi-disciplinary teams come together to create, build and shape communication experiences in service of the essential, universal human need for connection. To learn more, please visit facebook.design.

This episode is brought to you by Abstract: design workflow management for modern design teams.

Spend less time searching for design files and tracking down feedback, and spend more time focusing on innovation and collaboration.

Like Glitch, but for designers, Abstract is your team’s version-controlled source of truth for design work. With Abstract, you can version design files, present work, request reviews, collect feedback, and give developers direct access to all specs—all from one place.

Sign your team up for a free, 30-day trial today by heading over to www.abstract.com.


Revision Path is a Glitch Media Network podcast, and is produced by Maurice Cherry and edited by Brittani Brown. 


We’re closing out March by talking with with London-based product designer and creative technologist Alex Fefegha. As the creative director of his own Alex’s work has taken him all over the world, and he’s currently creative director of Comuzi, an agency with clients like the BBC, the University of the Arts London and NHS England.

Our talk is less of an interview and more of a conversation. We touch on a few entrepreneurial topics like starting a studio and finding clients, the state of diversity in design in London and the United Kingdom, and I ask Alex what he thinks prevents more Black designers from becoming recognized leaders in design. It’s a little bit of a departure from the norm, but I’m glad that we were able to candidly discuss these topics. Thanks Alex!


rp_patreon_banner


Revision Path is sponsored by Facebook Design. No one designs at scale quite like Facebook does, and that scale is only matched by their commitment to giving back to the design community.
fbdesign_logo_75
Revision Path is also sponsored by Hover. Visit hover.com/revisionpath and save 10% off your first purchase! Big thanks to Hover!
hover_logo_75
Revision Path is brought to you by MailChimp. Huge thanks to them for their support of the show! Visit them today and say thanks!
mailchimp-logo
Revision Path is also brought to you by SiteGround. Save 60% off all hosting plans by visiting siteground.com/revisionpath. Excellent!