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Welcoming Out Labs: Our Spring ’21 Designers in Residence

We are excited to welcome our Spring 2021 Designers in Residence: Out Labs. Out Labs is a new small design agency built by 2020 Alums Ryana Bryan, Grace Kang, and Monica Tarriba, who we are so happy to have back in the DSI environment. 

The trio kindly took the time to answer some questions about their vision for this project, and provided a look into how they plan to work with our students to co-design a space to interrogate cultural competencies around race, gender, and the intersectionalities of their privilege and power.

  1. How did you get to where you are as designers, what are your backgrounds in?

Before joining DSI as students in 2018, we each had careers in a variety of fields including marketing and communications, design strategy and research, user experience design, and human resources. With this range of experience, we approach our design work holistically — considering how each problem we’re trying to solve might impact other communities, work groups, and individuals.

As second-year students, we knew we wanted to work together in some capacity after school. We knew our shared values, varied work styles and experience, and our curiosity and sense of adventure would allow us to build something impactful. We’re working to respond to the urgency of our time by coming together to translate the insights we’ve gathered in our academic and professional experiences to address systemic challenges. We designed Out Labs to explore how the social design process can create sustainable organizational practices rooted in equity.

  1. What do you have planned for the coming semester with students?

Our Designers in Residence program will focus on co-designing a space for students to interrogate and explore their cultural competencies around race, gender, and the intersectionalities of their privilege and power.

One of the biggest takeaways we all felt deeply from our time as students at DSI is the importance of intentional community building that is rooted in shared values, supported vulnerability, and practices of learning that make way for sustainable inter-cultural connections.

Our time at DSI as students helped to both reinforce and reframe some of our beliefs about the role of design in tackling systemic, “wicked” problems. We look forward to working with students to develop shared language, feedback processes, and norms that will contribute to making the DSI space more open and inclusive — and equip students with the tools to incorporate equity and inclusion practices into their design work outside of DSI.

We’re looking forward to combining our diverse expertise with our shared experience as DSI alumni to develop a program that will be deeply impactful, community-centered, and hopefully also a lot of fun 🙂

  1. What do you hope to personally get out of being the Designer in Residence?

We are excited to be back! Graduating during a pandemic meant that the end of our time as students felt very abrupt and disconnected. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to reconnect with the community and give back with some of what we learned as students, and in our personal and professional lives since leaving DSI.

  1. What would you say is your personal approach to design thinking in your daily life?

Our approach to design thinking is based on an optimistic skepticism of the systems of which we are all apart. We recognize that by calling communities into the design process, and dismantling the structures that assume expertise is more important than lived experience, we can begin to facilitate the design of solutions that are sustainable, equitable, and inclusive.

  1. Any projects coming up you’re particularly excited for?

We are working on building a directory of social designers, where folks from across the social impact design space can highlight their work. Our field is still relatively new and dispersed, so we’re excited to build a community where folks can connect and learn about the work that’s being done in this space.

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