Maya Ober, is a designer, researcher, educator, writer, and activist based in Basel, Switzerland. She holds a B.Des. in industrial design from Holon Institute of Technology and MA in Design Research from Berne University of the Arts. Maya is the founder of depatriarchise design. She works as a research associate at the Institute of Industrial Design and as a lecturer at the Institute of Aesthetic Practice and Theory at the Academy of Arts and Design in Basel. There, together with Laura Pregger she has developed an educational programme “Imagining Otherwise” looking at how intersectionality can inform design practice. Maya is also a co-head of “Educating Otherwise” – a continuing education programme for design educators at the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel.
We commenced the conversation with Maya discussing the significance of feminism in design. She talked about how feminism is more of a political stance than a methodology, but that doesn’t mean we can’t practice and apply feminism as a lens or perspective on top of practicing and examining design. The question is how we act on it. From a design academic background, Maya believes that by practicing feminism in design, we need to hack the design/design education system. Since the design/design education system is built on a framework of following design rules, designers are required to constantly “solve problems”. The urgency of implementing feminism in design lies in the recognition that there are no easy or universal solutions. Maya argues that design methodology should not play the role of a commercial methodology or product, but of a way of thinking that encourages designers to break out of traditional systems by empowering them to follow their own paths in order to break through the limits of imagination and creativity. She believes that situationalization is an essential point in breaking the “ universalism” of design thinking. (As a designer, what is your background? Who are you and where are you? What is the circumstance under your design? etc).
In the end, Maya briefly referred to her project “depatriarchise design”(a non-profit design research platform, tackling the issues of design’s entanglement with systemic inequalities and was nominated to Swiss Design Awards in 2019), and illustrated her motivation, among others, that she felt an urgent necessity to create a platform where various pedagogical approaches from the feminist perspective could be shared and easily accessible, whereas until she created her own platform, there was no documentation on this. It is worth mentioning that after our conversation, Maya suggested that she could be our external mentor. However, because we could not get the budget to hire an external mentor, a formal collaboration could not happen. Yet, Maya was surprisingly supportive, and as a result, we are looking for other possible ways to further collaborate with