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Deem Symposium | Designing for Dignity: A Convening of Possibilities

March 04, 202310:00 am - 6:00 pm

A pair of dark-skinned hands gestures toward another person in an orange shirt; only their torso can be seen, with their hands held a chest level in a bowl-like shape.

Photo: Anjali Pinto.

About the Event

Deem Journal’s inaugural Symposium is an in-person and online hybrid event bringing together designers, practitioners, and community members to form dialogues around emergent and liberatory directions within design.

Hosted in partnership with the MCA, the Symposium explores how design can draw on diverse perspectives to create more equitable and inclusive communities and futures through the following themes: Dignity, Pedagogy, Equity, and Place. Experience thought-provoking and interactive presentations and conversations both IRL and virtually from intersecting voices across disciplines and generations, with a special reverence for the city of Chicago, which holds this experience for us.

In addition, Deem is organizing a three-day Reference Room to serve as a public gathering space for people to experience some of the reading materials that have inspired our four issues. These books, articles, and essays represent a combination of our research, specific mentions from our pages, and recommendations from contributors. It is our hope not only to provide context and access to educational tools around Deem’s processes and beliefs, but also to create a haven for reflection and repose.


10 am | Doors Open

10:30 am | Opening Remarks

10:45 am | Keynote Presentation on Social Practice

Architect and artist Amanda Williams, whose practice employs color theory to probe anti-Black racism, will begin the day with an exploration of the notion of design as a social practice.

12 pm | Panel Discussion on Equitable Community Design in Chicago

Otez Gary alongside Paola D. Aguirre will moderate a conversation on equitable community design in Chicago with Maya Bird-Murphy, and Tonika Lewis Johnson.

1 pm | Lunch Break

2:15 pm | Expansive Practice Presentation on Pedagogy

Focusing on pedagogy, designer and educator Ramon Tejada will speak from his hybrid design/teaching practice which centers collaboration, inclusion, unearthing, and the responsible expansion of design, a practice he has named “puncturing.”

3 pm | Expansive Practice Presentation on Dignity

Annika Hansteen-Izora who explores ways we can create kinder, more fluid generative online worlds in Deem’s Issue Four will explore dignity.

4 pm | Conversation

Pulling from his award-winning research and design practice connecting architecture and identity, Germane Barnes will be in conversation with Toni L. Griffin to discuss place and placemaking. One of Deem’s co-founders, Nu Goteh, will moderate and close out the symposium.


About the Presenters

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Amanda Williams is an acclaimed Chicago-based visual artist whose work investigates color, race, and space in the city while blurring the conventional line between art and architecture.


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Toni L. Griffin is founder of the New York-based planning and design management practice urbanAC LLC, a Professor in Practice of Urban Planning at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and founder and director of the Just City Lab.


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Annika Hansteen-Izora is a multi-disciplinary designer and artist exploring the intersections of design, radical Black imagination, art, and technology to create ecosystems rooted in care.


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Maya Bird-Murphy is an architectural designer, educator, and the founder of Mobile Makers, an award-winning nonprofit organization bringing design and skill-building workshops to underrepresented communities.


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Otez Gary is an artist and Community Engagement Manager at the MCA Chicago, where he creates a shared art ecosystem through partnership, collaboration, and using the museum’s platform and resources as an incubator for Chicago’s arts scene.

Germane Barnes is the Director of Studio Barnes and Associate Professor at the University of Miami School of Architecture, where he directs the Community Housing and Identity Lab.



Ramon Tejada is a (New Yorkino/American) designer (as Estudio Ramon) and an Assistant Professor in the Graphic Design Department at The Rhode Island School of Design.


Paola Aguirre Serrano is a native of the Mexico-US region, urban designer, and partner at the Chicago/San Antonio-based design and research practice BORDERLESS.



Tonika Lewis Johnson is a photographer, social justice artist, and life-long resident of Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of Englewood, as well as co-founder of the Englewood Arts Collective and Resident Association of Greater Englewood.


Nu Goteh is co-founder and creative director of Deem Journal, and a multi-disciplinary creative and designer who works in audio, visual, and written mediums.