Designing Empowering Education: An Interview with Lesley-Ann Noel

Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel from the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University, delivered an inspiring talk about designing empowering education as part of a series organized by Elon’s Center for Design Thinking. She explained her fascination with the Pluriverse by referencing her background: “The experience of having lived in different places has made me so interested in different perspectives and backgrounds in education”. You can access a recording of her talk at the Elon By Design Archive.

What fascinated me about Lesley-Ann’s work is the acknowledgement that design thinking is not per se a benign, do-good, inclusive process. We do not leave our implicit bias and power imbalances at the doorstep when we enter a workshop space – virtual or physical.

In the video interview for AACE Review we talk about the potential of design thinking for reducing bias, how to use the Designer’s Critical Alphabet, and the power of the pluriverse.

Further Information:

  • The Hello from the Pluriverse Podcast aims to open up and create a space to have conservations about the pluriversality in design.
  • The Designer’s Critical Alphabet is available as a card deck and mobile app. It introduces vocabulary and concepts to address diversity, equity and inclusion in the design process.


Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel has a BA in Industrial Design from the Universidade Federal do Paraná, in Curitiba, Brazil. She has a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. She earned her PhD in Design from North Carolina State University in 2018. Lesley-Ann practices design through emancipatory, critical and anti-hegemonic lenses,  focusing on equity, social justice and the experiences of people who are often excluded from design research. Her research also highlights the work of designers outside of Europe and North America as an act of decolonizing design. She also attempts to promote greater critical awareness among designers and design students by introducing critical theory concepts and vocabulary into the design studio e.g. through The Designer’s Critical Alphabet. Lesley-Ann’s research interests are emancipatory research centered around the perspectives of those who would traditionally be excluded from research, community-led research, design-based learning and design thinking. She practices primarily in the area of social innovation, education and public health. She is co-Chair of the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group of the Design Research Society.

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