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Lesley-Ann Noel

How do we frame questions around design and sustainability? Do we consider the many different ways of being, doing and knowing across the planet? In this talk, Lesley-Ann Noel shares stories about design, sustainability and pluriversality and how (and why) she intentionally introduced critical theory into the design courses she was teaching, ultimately leading to the creation of design tools like The Designer’s Critical Alphabet and the Positionality Wheel.

Noel invites the audience to recognize pluriversality in sustainability and also share how these tools have impacted her own design practice and research, including providing glimpses into work in progress as a provocation for the audience to bring critical concepts into their own work.

Lesley-Ann Noel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Design Studies at North Carolina State University. She has a BA in Industrial Design from the Universidade Federal do Paraná in Curitiba, Brazil and an MBA from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. She earned her PhD in Design from North Carolina State University in 2018.

In her research, she promotes greater critical awareness among designers and design students by introducing critical theory concepts and vocabulary into the design studio, e.g., The Designer’s Critical Alphabet and the Positionality Wheel. She has won research and engagement grants to do research in public health, STEM education and social innovation. She is one of the editors of The Black Experience in Design, an anthology featuring the stories of seventy Black designers and is currently completing two books, one on design for social change and the other on restorative design methods.

Lesley-Ann practices design through emancipatory, critical and anti-hegemonic lenses,  focusing on equity, social justice and the experiences of people who are often excluded from design research. Her research also highlights the work of designers outside of Europe and North America as an act of decolonizing design. Lesley-Ann’s research interests are emancipatory research centred around the perspectives of those who would traditionally be excluded from research, community-led research, design-based learning and design thinking.

She practices primarily in the area of social innovation, education and public health. Before joining North Carolina State University, she was the Associate Director of Design Thinking for Social Impact at Tulane University and a lecturer at Stanford University and the University of the West Indies.

Lesley-Ann is also co-Chair of the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group of the Design Research Society.

NC State University profile

From A-to-Z: Lesley-Ann Noel and Decolonizing Design

Graphics by Chantal Spencer

Sketchnote by Patricia Kambitch | Playthink




Citation Data

Author(s): Lesley-Ann Noel
Year: 2022
Title: Critical and Pluriversal Design for a World in Crisis
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD11
Article No.: 003
Host: University of Brighton
Location: Brighton, UK
Symposium Dates: October 3–16, 2022
First published: 23 October 2022
Last update: 30 April 2023
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404