Politicizing the Pictogram: Participatory Design Approaches within Indigenous Community Communication
Nathaly Carolina Pinto, Andrea Botero, Guy Julier


Pictograms figure strongly in the culture and history of dominant modern design, yet they have long supported heterogeneous traditions and histories of collective counterpower. These devices can help to transition between images and words in intercultural scenarios: they construct dialogue and function to strengthen collective situated knowledge underpinning broader, counter-hegemonic communication. Accordingly, the article builds on an empirical study of a participatory design project contributing to an indigenous popular education initiative in the Ecuadorian Amazon, a project aimed at designing, collaboratively and interculturally within the framework of indigenous community communication, a pictogram system to support representation and reactualization of knowledge and practices with and by indigenous youth and their communities. The findings demonstrate how the pictogram, a seemingly passive graphic symbol, can function as a device in collaborative, politicized ways within the context of these indigenous societies. Accordingly, the alternative design-research and production framework introduced in the paper supports and learns from the histories of indigenous struggles, contributing to design with marginalized communities in diverse social realities.

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