Diverse group of high school students sitting and smiling together outside a school building.

Liberatory Design Cards: Engage Your Students in Equity Center Design

We are all living in challenging times that our past experience and training has not sufficiently prepared us for. Too often, well intentioned equity efforts do not succeed—and even produce unintended consequences. This can lead to frustration, hopelessness and cynicism.

– National Equity Project


Unlike methodologies that have an elaborated set of steps and required tools, Liberatory Design has, at its core, a simple set of resources.

The purpose of this card deck (linked in the resources box) is to create opportunities for the human-centered designer to notice and reflect on the identities, experiences, and biases they bring to a design opportunity. Through the practice of liberatory design, equity-centered designers begin to notice the larger historical context of oppression and opportunity inherent in the design process.

These activities have been created through a collaboration between Stanford d.school’s K12 Lab Network and The National Equity Project.

The attached card deck is your toolkit to practice Liberatory Design, and includes 2 parts:

Liberatory Design Mindsets

To invoke stances and values to ground and focus your design practice.

These Mindsets catalyze creative courage, conversation, reflection, community-building, storytelling, and action.

These Mindsets aim to:

  • Bring self-awareness and intention to our design practice.
  • Help us recognize oppression in how we live and work and realize alternate ways of being and doing.
  • Expand our frame of reference for what is possible.
  • Inspire creative courage and set a foundation for liberatory collaboration.

Liberatory Design Modes

To provide process guidance for your design practice.

These modes help us to pause and interrupt the dominant cultural habits that contribute to inequity.

  • Notice
  • Reflect
  • See The System
  • Empathize
  • Define
  • Inquire
  • Imagine
  • Prototype
  • Try

Liberatory Design How-To’s

The card deck provides example actions you can take now to practice Liberatory Design.

For example:

  • Create opportunities for sense-making before decision-making.
  • Stay connected to the community we are working with through every phase of the project.
  • Pause to reflect on team dynamics. Ask, “How are we working together as a team?” “How are we working with those most impacted?”
  • Be transparent about team agreements, goals, expectations, and co-constructed narratives.

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