Leticia Cartier Oxley


Leticia Cartier Oxley

Program Associate at Genspace

Leticia Cartier Oxley is the Program Associate at Genspace, and community biology laboratory located in Brooklyn.  She is a recent graduate from the MA Design Studies program at Parsons School of Design with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Literature from Regis University.

Leticia’s work situates itself at the intersection of design theory and praxis. With a focus on Speculative Design, Leticia was part of the Designed Realities Lab at Parsons, which uses design as a catalyst for interdisciplinary discourse and imagining. With an emphasis on prototypes and design fictions, her work suggests that design can be used as a method of inquiry and imagination can be a political force within society.

Plasticity & Social Dreaming: Bioplastics & Biology-inspired Prototyping

Science and Design are inextricably linked: both seek to understand the natural world and create and systematize possible solutions. Designers take science and develop the interfaces with which we interact with knowledge, codes, and discoveries from the life sciences. Traditionally, design has often relied on metaphors and analogies from the natural world to situate itself in the realm of everyday experience. With the amplified urgency of climate change and technological complexity, a shift in design mentality has inspired the intermingling and use of biology and living organisms as mechanisms and materials for design.

In this workshop, participants will learn about biodesign from speculative design case studies and hands-on activities by creating a prototype using lo-fi materials and making their own bioplastic. Because design must address ever-increasing complexity, designers can use the tools of science to design more sustainably, address ethical issues, and apply designer perspective to scientific questions.

Focusing on the designer’s greatest ally—the prototype—the workshop activity looks at strategies in which designers can test possible consequences of outcomes of designs before they are widely adopted. The purpose of prototyping is to operationalize research. The creative tension embodied by the prototype comes from its peculiar position in the design process. At the same time, it refines research problems and questions through multiple iterations, but it also translates abstract and incomplete ideas to material possibilities. Prototypes, however embryonic, are evolutionary precursors to final products, and thus occupy a double ontological status as materialized models of a potential real thing (“This!”), and as a proposition (“This?”). It is this ambiguity and what this allows, that gives prototypes their capacity for communication and their faculty for research.

Unique to our time, designers no longer face the barrier of entry of formal training to engage with biotechnology, nor are digital technologies siloed away from interacting and or seen as not contributing to natural processes. Across disciplines, prototyping has been adopted as a methodological approach and as a way to materialize solutions.

This workshop examines the operational and speculative roles of prototyping to rehearse and contemplate possible futures across disciplines. By bringing together multiple disciplines to prototype multiple scenarios, participants will not only question the ethics of specific design scenarios but the ecology of design practice. Is it possible to move the prototype away from metaphors but to a dialogue that is explicit, collaborative, and capable of propelling real-world change? How do the materials we use engage with and reflect our worldviews?

Key Takeaways

  • An engaged perspective of design as a method of inquiry

  • New hands on experience with biodesign

  • A protocol to explore and play with new materials