Meet Futuress, a new home built for people and perspectives previously ignored
Demonstrating the “untapped power of transnational solidarity in design research”, Futuress’ first project unearths incredible details from archived feminist periodicals.
- Lucy Bourton
- 14 September 2020
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, many questions posed to the design industry centred around the limitations social distancing may have on the possibilities of collaboration. It was a notion Nina Paim and Corin Gisel, of design research practice common-interest, were specifically considering when invited to host a remote workshop for le Signe, the National Center for Graphics in Chaumont, France.
Simultaneously the pair, alongside journalist Madeleine Morley, were digging into the archives of feminist periodicals for their own research. Over “a series of wine-Zoom calls,” the trio dreamt up the idea of Futuress, “a hybrid between an online magazine and a community space,” one that would build a “home for the histories, people and perspectives that have been – and often still remain – underrepresented, marginalised, oppressed, suppressed, and ignored.”
Realising its workshop with le Signe could be the perfect opportunity to culminate their mutual interest in digital feminist archives – as well as test the overarching concept of Futuress “to create content during design research workshops that then gets published as accessible storytelling formats” – a hybrid of these ideas was cemented. In turn creating the L.i.P. collective, short for Liberation in Print, the result is a zine and exhibition created by 26 womxn and non-binary people on the histories of feminist publishing.
The collective's first release is Feminist Findings, a publication and exhibition which fizzes with design details to dive into. Across articles and essays on the “labour, loves, networks, hierarchies, friendships, fall-outs, struggles, victories, economics, designs and daily lives of womxn in the past working out what it might mean to organise a feminist praxis;” it’s one of the most in-depth and eye opening publications on the subject we’ve seen.
Looking through the zine itself, as a reading experience, Feminist Findings feels like turning over a rock in graphic design to find a host of fascinating and often never-before-heard-of ventures. Meeting digitally every Wednesday the group of authors, led by Nina, Corin and Madeleine, each wrote and designed their contribution themselves, “representing the plurality of perspectives of the L.i.P research community,” the group tell us. Each contribution has additionally been set in a differing typefaces, either designed by womxn or BIPOC type designers, extenuated by Risograph printing each addition in a varied colour wheel, “further emphasising the different voices contained in the pages – and how with difference comes strength.”
Discussing this incredibly in-depth project with Madeleine, Corin and Nina now, the trio describe the making of Feminist Findings as a series of “memorable moments of discovery”. Despite the fact they met digitally, real life moments of coincidence (and of course some deep research graft) revealed themselves throughout the project.
For instance, the Futuress team tell us about when one author Noemi Parisi, a graphic designer based in Basel, discovered that the designer behind a 1970s feminist magazine she was researching was actually her next door neighbour. In another instance, type designer Naima Ben Ayed worked tirelessly to find digital copies of 1930s Tunisian feminist journal, Leïla, eventually getting her hands on some scans. In other parts of the zine readers will find varying global discoveries too, whether it’s a comparative essay by Yanchi Huang “looking at the approaches of a 1970s periodicals for Asian-American activists, Gidra magazine, and the 2018 film Crazy Rich Asians,” through to Zenobia Ahmed’s interview with Urvashi Butalia, the co-founder of India’s first feminist publishing house.
Purposefully vast and individualistic in its approaches, entry points and design: “As you see, each person had a special, singular way of looking at their object of study, and writing about it too,” adds the Futuress team. “With a design that’s filled with so much multiplicity, we hope the little object can energise and provide a sense of agency: History is not an exclusive impenetrable field, but it’s something for people to take, and make their own.”
The stars continued to align as Feminist Findings turned into an exhibition in Berlin. Described by the Futuress team as “a wunderkammer of the entangled research process,” viewers will find a show curated “to feel as if the zine exploded onto the walls of the gallery.” The overall experience of founding and running L.i.P under lockdown has also led to future plans, with the Futuress team explaining how the experience “made us really understand the untapped power of transnational solidarity in design research.”
In turn, Futuress is currently building its website (to be launched in November) to house its own online magazine and future projects. In the meantime, a second workshop is already in the works. Again remote – and importantly still accepting applications! – titled Troublemakers Class of 2020, it will be a four month long workshop and “a para-academic space to support design researchers currently asking difficult questions, and challenging power and privilege,” the team explain. “Instead of centring around a common interest, like feminist publishing, this next workshop is centred around common struggle – the struggle of pursuing politicised research inside institutions and contexts which are, in themselves, oppressive.”
For now, if you’re lucky enough to be in Berlin, Feminist Findings the exhibition is on show until 24 September at A—Z, and keep your eyes peeled for Futuress’ own launch in November.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.