selected writing

My writing about design focuses on decoloniality, design for development, identity, tourism culture, and design education. Some of this work is included in this section.

Also find me on Research Gate and

photo of chapter spread, co-designing for development


“Co-Designing for Development,” in the Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Design

(ed. Rachel Beth Egenhoefer). Raúl Sánchez (UF English) and I co-authored a chapter that uses my decade-long design research initiative, Design for Development, a collaboration with indigenous entrepreneurs in Mexico, to explore its theoretical, conceptual, and practical contributions to the global conversation on sustainability.

Photos of tourists taking photos at Tulum

Identity and Representation: The (Yucatec) Maya in the Visual Culture of Tourism

In this paper I explore the many ways the visual culture of tourism in the Yucatán and the Maya Riviera shapes our notions of ‘the Maya’ and, simultaneously, (re)writes a contemporary history for internal and external consumption. Analysis of visual materials collected over an eight-year period suggests the development of a common symbolic, and political visual/textual language of representation. This complex imaginary dissuades the peeling of layers to reveal the lived realities and histories of people and culture.

In Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, 7:1, 49-69 (2012).

Positioning Communication Design

In this essay, I focus on three issues that are an integral part of my teaching and research practice. These key issues have long been underrepresented in design education and practice, and are increasingly important in a design education that is pluralistic, ethical and sustainable: Increasing cross-cultural and transdisciplinary communication and collaboration; Preparing students for technological, environmental, cultural, social and economical change: and Teaching qualitative and quantitative research methods (including ethnography) to solve problems.

In the ICOGRADA Design Education Manifesto Update, pp. 116–120.

Design for Development: Participatory Design and Contextual Research with Indigenous Maya Communities

Design for development (d4d) is an initiative where, I, along with my graphic design students, work together with people from marginalized indigenous communities in the southern Mexican states of Quintana Roo and Yucatán—and other disciplinary experts to develop solutions to problems we mutually identify and research in context. A major part of this research process is to learn about the lives of our project partners, all marginalized Maya who are highly skilled but have historically lacked access to capital required to bring their projects to market. Learning about disciplines also involves learning about cultures and contexts, which we begin at the partner site in Mexico as part of a participatory and responsible research practice. Of significant focus is the fieldwork component that empowers all participants to connect, exchange, collaborate, innovate, and create. It is a learning opportunity for all project participants working to create a more equitable world.

At Glide ’10, Troy, NY. Conference Proceedings, pp 1–18. Award for Best Paper

Design for Development

Presented at the Impacto Social de Diseño Conference at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, 2009. (view poster here)

Using examples and lessons learned from projects, I discuss some of the inclusive, socially responsible, and sustainable philosophies, strategies, and tactics we use – focusing on field research, ethnographic methods, sustainability, and responsible cultural representations to demonstrate how design can be used to foster development.

Experiential Fieldwork Enriches the Design Practice

I have sought out ways to provide US students opportunities to enrich their design and research practice by working in Mexico and to enhance their design practice through ethnographic research practices. Over the past four years, our work in Mexico has expanded students’ understanding of the lived realities of life in Mexico, contemporary design practice, benefits and challenges of working cross culturally, and the complexities of cultural identity and representation. Our projects focused on collaborations with indigenous people and subsequently join socially, culturally, and economically different communities towards a common goal – to better the lives and knowledge exchange of all participants.

(PDF), presented at the ICOGRADA 2007 Conference in Havana.

Designing Time, photograph of designers working on Wixárika Calendar Prototype

Designing Time

With Cassie McDaniel on
There is a great deal of talk about globalization and the importance of being culturally competent. While study abroad programs may increase global cultural competency, not all students are able to take advantage of these opportunities. Introducing international projects in the classroom provides students an alternative way of experiencing other cultures and working cross-culturally. These projects also allow for moments of radical departure from expected routine. It’s an opportunity to shake things up, foster an understanding of the “other,” and inform the students’ design practice. The 2006 Wixárika Calendar project is an example of design research and pedagogy specifically concerned with combining design, intercultural and ethnographic methods to responsibly represent a marginalized culture’s oral tradition of time. Visit the project website.

Radicals with a voice/Radicales con una voz 

In the course of my research on design and graduate education in Latin America, I found a new breed of designers and educators, guided by a revolutionary zeal, who are compelled to change the field of design. These designers speak of a design field which understands and is truly responsive to the needs of society, of a design field which affords inclusion in a global economy.

En el curso de mis investigaciones acerca de diseño y educación en América Latina, he encontrado una nueva corriente de diseñandores y educadores guiados por un celo revolucionario, quienes sientan la necesidad de cambiar el campo del diseño. Estos diseñadores se procupan más por el acto mismo de diseñar y el papel desempeñado por el diseñador, que por reforzar las tendencias acerca de un diseño dogmático y de un formalismo anticuado. Hablan sobre un campo de diseño que comprenda y responda a las necesidades de la sociedad.

In Zed, edited by Katie Salen

México: My, Your, Our Fantasy. The Problem of Flatness in Intercultural Representations of Mexicanidad

Representations of Mexicanidad are prolific in Europe and the Americas and, for the most part, they are “flat” lacking in depth, complexity or difference. Despite the promises of a globalized and connected world that would facilitate revealing the authentic, the globally representative and common visual culture that defines Mexicanidad is fixed. The increasingly competitive tourism, commercial, and entertainment industries play a primary role in concretizing a homogenous and colonial representation of the Mexican imaginary. Mexico continues to be colonized for mass cultural consumption. This article explores a range of contemporary visual culture representations that articulate and define Mexicanidad in a narrow framework of identity construction and strategies of resistance as a response to this “flatness” in visual culture.

In Intercultural Communication Studies

South of the Border, Down Mexico Way

For hundreds of miles on I-95 in each direction, from a spot just south of where North and South Carolina meet, travelers are prompted every 30 or so miles by billboards of Pedro reminding them of their imminent approach. Designated by its landmark 110 foot “Pedro” sign, South of the Border has provided an amusing, larger-than-life rest stop for over 30 years. Using South of the Border as a point of departure, this article explores how the myth of “Mexican-ness” is perpetuated through word and image in space and, to this end, how visual communication reflects the power structure found in the larger culture.

In Visible Language, edited by Sharon Helmer-Poggenpohl

101 Ways to Get Lucky

Roland Barthes, in The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies, tells the tale of Maupassant, who often lunched at the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower because it was the only place in Paris where he did not have to see it. Barthes speaks of the visibility of the tower, as a monumental object and a universal symbol. Instant lottery tickets are similarly both visible and symbolic, and like all artifacts, provide information about the larger social, economic, and political histories of which they are part. Yet familiarity with these codes often discourages a closer reading of the tickets as cultural and political objects, rendering them virtually invisible. And it is this invisibility that gives them power.

In Zed, edited by Katie Salen

The Computer-Integrated Design Studio as Social Space

In this paper, I explore the short and long-term benefits of our innovative studio approach to integrate design and technology. The creation of this environment may seem obvious, but it is specifically designed to increase collaboration and enhance study of and investigation into design and support fields. In this paper, I investigate how this can serve as a model at other institutions. The studio is an active, highly collaborative space. Introducing comments from students, alumni, and faculty, I will discuss general concerns (financial issues,over-dependency on technology, critical thinking, etc.).

At the European Academy of Design Conference

Design, Culture, and Social Responsibility, a Fulbright-Hays Pedagogy Project

The projects included in this documentation are intended to supplement advanced problems in graphic design/visual communication. Each project presented here is grounded in the idea of the designer as the constructor of culture and as an agent for change. Design does not exist in a vacuum and the design student should be fully aware and engaged in an understanding of issues related to social responsibility/ethical communication/cultural sensitivity and globalization. Ultimately, it is the designer who is positioned to construct a certain vision of the world.

Cultural Hybridization in the Visual Vernacular

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the cultural values and modes of communication of the “other” have historically played a subordinate role to the dominant colonial cultures. In this paper I investigate how issues of power and multiculturalism are manifested through visual and textual materials (store signage, posters, billboards, naming, etc.) in the public space.

At the European Academy of Design Conference, Barcelona

Cultural Mixing: Hybrid Visual Culture in the Dominican Republic

In colonized spaces, the cultural values and modes of communication of the ‘other’ have historically played a subordinate role to the dominant colonial cultures. In this paper I investigate how issues of power and hybridity are manifested through visual and textual materials in the public space of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and consider implications for the study of culture in general and visual culture in particular.

In International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 3.