2–5 February 2021



The workers tarot. A tool for designer-worker solidarity


Presenting Author(s): Lara Penin, Antonia Yunge Soruco
03 February 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a shift in the public’s perception of workers. Essential service workers in particular, have been subject of constant public displays of appreciation, while being paradoxically confined to low wages, precarious conditions or imminent unemployment. Hospital janitors, cleaning personnel, meat pack workers, grocery cashiers, public transit workers, warehouse workers—a largely immigrant, Black, and Latino “essential” work force that does not have the choice of working from home. Meanwhile, user-centric service designers remain dangerously close to been complicit in perpetuating economic systems which are at the root of social inequality and racism.

We invite participants to reckon with the politics of their practices by playing with the Workers Tarot, to share stories of recent projects they have worked on. And from there, consider how designing (for) services is in great part designing service work. We will use the deck to discuss ethical dilemmas for service designers and envision practices based on solidarity with service workers.

The Workers Tarot builds upon the visual/semiotic system of Jodorowsky’s “Tarot de Marseille” and is structured in five card categories: Worker Archetypes (Major Arcana) and the four suits (Minor Arcana): Things (diamonds), Theories (spades), History (hearts), and Trends (cubs). Rather than fictitious personas, the cards portray real workers’ stories collected from different media picturing them with candor, affection and respect. The Workers Tarot wants to trigger intuitive/sensitive/emotional thinking elicited by the Tarot’s mystique of divination and future projections of the self, pushing practitioners to prefigure future practices based on solidarity principles.

Please Note: This workshop is available to those who have registered and received an email confirming their attendance from the workshop facilitators. We apologise that we cannot accommodate additional participants.

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Antonia Yunge Soruco
Antonia Yunge Soruco
The New School, New York

Antonia is a strategic and service designer, recently graduated from the Transdisciplinary Design MFA at The New School. Previously, she studied design, science, and mathematics at the Catholic University of Chile, and was Head of Design at Chile’s largest public emergency hospital. She’s passionate about building dignity through design by improving people's experiences within systems and services.

Lara Penin
Lara Penin
Parsons School of Design

Lara De Sousa Penin is an Associate Professor of Transdisciplinary Design at Parsons School of Design, where she has been director of the Transdisciplinary Design graduate program from 2015 to 2019. A full-time faculty in the School of Design Strategies since joining The New School in 2008, she has taught in the Transdisciplinary Design MFA, the Integrated Design BFA and the Strategic Design and Management BBA programs teaching studios, intensive and elective courses involving service design for public interest, systems thinking and participatory methods as well as advising master degree theses. Lara is also a core faculty member of the new Graduate Minor in Civic Service Design.