Becoming Woke:
I Would Like to Have a Conversation About Race

Becoming Woke was a design research project that explored issues of implicit bias and structural racism. In early 2016, the research took place by inviting patrons in bars throughout New York City to have a conversation with me about race. The design for these conversations came from:

  • diversity and inclusive education experts
  • human relations training
  • implicit bias research
  • structural racism research

The 'outcome' of this research was a guidebook to encourage and empower discussion and awareness about race, bias and privilege. However, the real outcomes were the conversations generated by the embodied practice of the research itself—the actual interaction, facilitation and iterative strategy that activated thoughtful exchange between two people. This project was my MFA thesis and presented at Nordes 2017: Design + Power.

What I Loved
Design research relies on human connection, empathy building and narrative tools to gather data through storytelling, experiences and facilitated insights from users. This encapsulates what I love about design and being a design researcher. Becoming Woke allowed me to indulge in this practice and apply it to a critical social issue that needs attention. On a small scale, it helped people explore their awareness of race and privilege. It  provides some, hopefully, helpful suggestions to encourage more engagement around these issues. The work changed the way I understand my relationship to race, power and privilege and allowed me to acutely recognise my position as a white, educated, cisgendered, American woman.  

Elliott Montgomery and Clive Dilnot