De Nichols

DE_NICHOLS

CIVIC CREATIVES, ST. LOUIS MO

Through a multidisciplinary design practice, I create works and tools that activate changemakers nationwide to address civic, racial, and gender equity challenges within their communities. As Director & Principal Designer of Civic Creatives, my team and I have helped spark ideas confronting racial inequity, food insecurity, youth development, education, civic involvement, and intracultural conflict. Because of these efforts I travel across the nation as a strategist and coach for other aspiring social designers and entrepreneurs, and I have served as a judge for various opportunities ‒ including the most recent Ideas that Matter Awards by Sappi ‒ to help highlight the promising work of such efforts.

HOW AND WHY DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED WITH SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE AND/OR SUSTAINABLE PROJECTS, CLIENTS AND CAUSES?
I knew early in life that I wanted to use creativity to solve social challenges. I grew up in rural Mississippi, and my family and I experienced firsthand the depths of poverty, racial inequity, division, and educational injustice, so even in my youth, that was a lens I carried. As a young artist, I won countless awards because the content of my work visualized the world around me and the injustices I saw. As I transitioned to study design in college, this desire to visualize injustice expanded into a mandate to address it. Through efforts like Project M Lab, I was introduced to social impact and community-based design work, and after studying social work and community development (specializing in social entrepreneurship) in grad school, I found my niche. And, with being on the ground as a designer and strategist during the uprising in Ferguson that followed soon after, I found my calling. Because of these experiences, I have remained unflinching and relentless in partnering with communities to help actualize ideas that assure greater equity and justice, and because of the current strifes within our global socio-economic and political environment, there is a lot of work I’ve been welcomed to help create.

ARE THERE SPECIAL CHALLENGES OR OPPORTUNITIES IN PURSUING THESE GOALS IN 2017?
We are in a time where paradigms are shifting across many industries and ideologies. Because of this, designers will be constantly challenged to be nimble and take on new roles in actualizing ideas that can iterate and grow over time. We are literally creating the future, and as we embark upon uncharted paths, we have to embody the humility and grace of not knowing how things might fully unfold while harnessing the boldness and vision to ensure the greatest social benefits more equitably. More than ever, designers will be called to work in tandem with communities ‒ to lean in and listen to the native expertise that communities offer. The relationships will shift from client to comrade. The roles will evolve to include synthesizing and problem-solving in ways yet untapped. We will be called to help design policy and new systems as much as we are called to design apps, platforms, and campaigns. These are grand opportunities for designers and the field, and we must ensure that we are equipped with the knowledge, connections, and humility to uphold such roles justly.

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