Season 02, Episode 06

S.02 / E.06

Ken Tanabe Founder, Loving Day

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Ken Tanabe is a versatile creative leader with deep design expertise, cultural fluency, and a passion for harmonizing audiences and information. His portfolio spans a broad range of categories including tech, financial, design/motion, health and wellness, cultural institutions, entertainment, and many others. Ken is the Founder of Loving Day, a holiday he created as a design-driven social change project. It commemorates Loving v. Virginia (1967), the U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down laws against interracial marriage. It is now the world’s largest network of multiethnic community celebrations.

The #lovingday hashtag has trended multiple times in the top 5 on Twitter. The observance has been recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives, numerous institutions, and multiple cities including New York, LA, and DC. Ken is an award-winning adjunct professor who taught at Parsons School of Design for 16 years, including classes in creative team dynamics, management, advanced motion graphics, data visualization, thesis, digital, and print. He has been a speaker/critic at Yale, SVA, FIT, and Parsons. Ken has enjoyed public speaking engagements at over 90 venues.

 
At the heart of the Loving Day Project is learning from the past to improve on the present.
Ken Tanabe : Founder / Loving Day

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Transcript

Wilma Lam,

Host:

Welcome to Optimistic Design, a podcast where we take a practical, positive look at the future of design, ethical innovation, and technology. I'm your host Wilma Lam, Strategy Director here at Substantial.

For today's episode, I am pleased to welcome Ken Tanabe. Ken is a versatile creative leader with deep design expertise and a passion for harmonizing audiences and information. Professionally, he is a design leader who has worked for and with Fortune 50 companies and cultural institutions spanning tech, finance, health and wellness, entertainment, and many others.

He was an award-winning adjunct professor of design for 16 years and has done public speaking engagements at over 90 venues. Today, we'll be talking about Loving Day, which is celebrated on June 12, a holiday Ken created as a design-driven social change project that commemorates Loving versus Virginia, the 1967 US Supreme Court decision that struck down laws against interracial marriage.

Yeah. Hi, Ken! Welcome to Optimistic Design.

Ken Tanabe:

Great to be here.

Wilma Lam,

Host:

Thank you so much for joining us. Today's subject is one I'm really keen to talk about. So far on the show, we talk a lot about equity-centered design when it comes to products and when it comes to services. So this was a sort of new topic for us when you think about the design of a movement or a holiday. But maybe as a starting point for this conversation. Can you share what Loving Day is about and the story of Mildred and Richard Loving?

Ken Tanabe:

Absolutely. Loving Day is an anniversary of a court decision, a historic one about interracial marriage. It's called Loving Day because there's a couple at the center of the case. They had a very appropriate last name. It was Loving. Mildred and Richard Loving. They're from Virginia. They fell in love and wanted to get married in 1958, but that was actually illegal for them because they were an interracial couple and because they were in Virginia. It was one of many states that outlawed interracial marriage at that time.

So, they drove to DC to get married and came back but realized that was also illegal. And they found out because the police came to their home and arrested them at night, basically, and took them to prison. When they stood trial, the judge gave them a choice, either serve one year in prison or leave Virginia and don't come back for 25 years. It's basically banishment.

So, they moved to DC, and it's amazing Mildred Loving wrote a letter. She handwrites a letter to Bobby Kennedy, the US Attorney General at the time and says, "Here's what's going on. Can you help?" She refers them to the ACLU, who connects them with lawyers, two lawyers who have appealed their case for free for years. That's how they end up at the Supreme Court, where they win in a unanimous decision. It strikes down centuries of racist laws against interracial marriage and relationships.

That's not just for them. That's for everybody, all the interracial couples in the US. It took nine years. The date of the decision was June 12, 1967. That's why June 12 is Loving Day.

That's not just for them. That's for everybody, all the interracial couples in the US. It took nine years. The date of the decision was June 12, 1967. That's why June 12 is Loving Day.

Wilma Lam,

Host:

Thank you so much for that background. It's obviously a really historic decision. It has impacts definitely felt even until today. But could you talk a little bit about the creation of Loving Day itself and the mission and purpose of it?


Ken Tanabe:

Sure. So first, I want to say that Loving Days is something that's open to anyone, right. But it can also be especially significant for folks who are in interracial relationships, multiracial families, or people who are mixed race or translationally adopted people and those with a similar type of experience.

In that frame, that's where our mission kind of comes to light, right? It's a global day of visibility, education, and community. For visibility, that's about being a platform for visibility as a collective all of us together, but also individual affirmations as people share their lives through stories and photos and things.

Education is another big part. It's an opportunity every year to learn about the Loving decision. I see that as an entry point to understanding interracial relationships and multiracial families in this context of history and culture and social and legal structures. And for the community, I like to say that Loving Day builds a shared tradition that connects a global and diverse community.

"Loving Day builds a shared tradition that connects a global and diverse community."


Wilma Lam,

Host:

Today, Loving Day has been celebrated nationally and internationally. A lot of people have become part of these celebrations, but you had originally started Loving Day in 2004 as a graduate thesis project in design school in New York City. Could you talk a little bit about why you decided to focus on this for your project? What about Loving versus Virginia resonated with you?


Ken Tanabe:

Sure, my dad is from Japan, and my mom is from Belgium, but I was born and raised in the US. I'm coming from an interracial and international family. I have this joke I like to tell, which is that the TV at home doesn't speak English that often. The inside of the refrigerator is kind of an international place too.

On top of that, I was a nerdy kid who studied hard, but somehow, I managed to never learn about the Loving decision. Not from school, not from family, but in my 20s, I just fell on it. I stumbled across it by searching for something else on the internet. And when I did, I asked my family. Did you know about this case? Their name was Loving, right.

They're like, "Yeah, we knew. It was the headline news in the 60s." But when I asked people my age, they thought, what is this thing? They'd never heard of it. So, I thought, I'm a person of mixed race. I paid attention in school. I'm culturally aware. How did I miss this? It's a civil rights milestone, and the name is Loving. So, if you fast forward a few years, I thought, I'm in grad school for design, and I needed a subject for my thesis. This is where I should focus.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

It's definitely true. The first time I really heard about the Loving versus Virginia case was actually when we met, and we're working together, and I heard about it through you leading Loving Day and became a part of the celebrations that way.

So, there's definitely still this need to kind of talk about it more, although definitely people today know a lot more about it than maybe in 2004 when you got started. But thinking back to a time when you were getting started, what was your approach?

I mean, sort of a unique thing for a designer even within a graduate school context, to be like, "Okay, I'm going to design for a holiday." How did you begin that initial design process?


Ken Tanabe:

You say approach. It makes me think, approachable. That was my approach, right? Make it simple and approachable. Because in design circles, people talk about having a beginner's mindset. That's valuable. I definitely had that because I knew next to nothing about the case or the history you were talking about, but I was eager. I wanted to dive into the complexity.

I did that by going to a library with an empty suitcase and filling it with books because it was back in the day. I drag that bag home with me on the subway. There were thick academic books and dissertations or what have you. And as I covered the floor of my small Brooklyn rented room, right? Bookmarks and books, I was like, no one's going to want to do this.

So, I realized that Loving decision is the tip of the iceberg away into the subject. And yeah, you want to keep the path open to letting people dive deeper if they want to and making that simpler as well. But I thought my focus was going to be on this decision and making it the most approachable entry point to the history and the laws and everything else.

"The Loving decision is the tip of the iceberg away into the subject. And yeah, you want to keep the path open to letting people dive deeper if they want to and making that simpler as well."

Just thinking about storytelling as well. When you look at civil rights in the US and the way it's taught, I mean, that's something I learned about in school. It's usually through stories for younger folks, especially. Think about Rosa Parks. So, I thought maybe if you have a Rosa Parks-type story for the Lovings, it would be a way to get into the subject.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

I'm curious. I mean, you talked about reading all of these reference books to try to understand Loving versus Virginia and its place in history. But also, this was a graduate design school project. So, where did you look for inspiration, as you're thinking about what this means from the point of view of a designer? And how did you decide what you would initially create to launch Loving Day?


Ken Tanabe:

On the conceptual side, I had this idea for a holiday really by looking at other holidays. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has a day. That's an opportunity we have to learn every year. We have Black History Month and other heritage months in the US. But the thing that inspired me the most was Juneteenth.

A lot of folks know how it's observed on June 19th. It commemorates the emancipation of enslaved black Americans. But since it became a federal holiday in 2021, it's much more familiar. Back when I was starting this out, even though it was already huge. I started this meaningful day observed by many thousands of people, but it had no official recognition. So, I thought there's potential here.

Not only that. I saw from the multiracial community that there were a few one-off celebrations and round number anniversaries were usually the way those were done, but it made me think, let's give this a try. So, I was building on this other work by giving Loving Day a name and framing it as an annual shared tradition that anyone could observe.

That's really been the vehicle to get it into the press and social media. And not only that, getting some support from volunteers, because that's been a huge part of this project. And definitely gratitude to everyone who's supported over the years.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

They've certainly grown since then. I think, in large part is sort of the consideration that's been taken by you and people that are a part of Loving Day to purposely think about designing for social movement and for the community, and this is sort of different than other topics we've explored on the show, which have been about how do you create a good user-centered product or human-centered product, or services or business?

So, from your point of view, from 2004 to now, what do you think is uniquely important to consider when you are designing for a social movement that's made up of people and made up of a community?


Ken Tanabe:

When I think about design as a professional practice, it's generally in the context of commercial stuff, goods and services exchanged for money, and that's good, right? Commerce is good. But when you're designing for social movements and for the community, you're not talking about money. You're talking about, for the most part, being a meaningful part of people's lives.

"I think about design as a professional practice, it's generally in the context of commercial stuff, goods and services exchanged for money, and that's good. Commerce is good. But when you're designing for social movements and for the community, you're not talking about money. You're talking about, for the most part, being a meaningful part of people's lives."

In the case of Loving Day, we're talking about deeply personal things. Love, marriage, family, your identity. On top of that, you have to consider that there are going to be limited resources, right? For social movements and communities, in some cases, you're working with volunteers who might wear many hats and are leveraging whatever skills they have or are willing to pick up.

In my case, I kind of lived into that by using my design training because that's what I had, and I use it to kick it off. I think, in the beginning, I was hoping that design work would add credibility to the project, right? I saw people writing online in the beginning. "Now, have you seen this Loving Day thing? It’s real. It was largely because the designer made it. It had a strong brand presence and refined kind of visual assets.

But I do think that the real credibility comes from reflecting the community in an authentic way. So, for example, there's photography on our website. In the beginning, I was taking all those photos. Always of real couples. And then, later on, real photographers came in and contributed. But recently, most of our photos come from folks who post on social media with a Loving Day hashtag.

We find them, which is really wonderful. It's a lot of joy in those images. It's getting easier since the Loving Day hashtag has trended three times so far. And it's been in the top five, which is something where I have to take screengrabs and try to remind myself that I'm not imagining the whole thing. But really, it's a powerful reflection of the community.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

You just mentioned the hashtag and how that's being used, which is an incredible way to engage, I think, with members of the community. Are there specific approaches that you focus on cultivating with the Loving Day community?


Ken Tanabe:

Yeah, I mean, at the heart of the Loving Day project is learning from the past to improve on the present. So, on one level that's literally learning from the past, using history as a way to frame attitudes and current attitudes about identity and about race. But on another level, it's about learning from what's worked from the project and using that to guide what we do next.

"At the heart of the Loving Day Project is learning from the past to improve on the present."

I love that we're talking to a design audience about this. There's one story that kind of pops to mind, which is around the Loving Day logo. If you go to the website, you can see there's a heart inside of a shield. It's a symbol for Loving Day. We've applied it to plenty of stuff, banners, and T-shirts, but we actually turned it into a rubber stamp that we would use at events to stamp people's hands as they were checking in into the event.

One day, we learned that someone got a tattoo, an actual tattoo of the Loving Day logo on basically where you might get a rubber stamp. I thought, as a designer, that's it. It's all downhill from here. There's been a tattoo. The rest of it doesn't matter.

But one day, a volunteer said, "Why don't we do temporary tattoos?" We got inspired by the real ones to make the temporary ones. And when we did, we made sure that they were made—I don't know what you know about temporary tattoos, but we got deep. And you can have them manufactured in a way that they have a primer-type layer so that the color will pop on any skin tone. We thought that was important.

As we started giving them away at events or selling them in support of the project, we just found out that people love them. Kids love them. You see them running around sometimes literally two or three applied to the face and looking really happy and excited. So, the takeaway is that people are smart, communities are smart, and they often know what good looks like. So, if you listen, and you amplify those things, you end up to tie it back to developing products. I mean, that's how we develop the product.

"The takeaway is that people are smart, communities are smart, and they often know what good looks like. So, if you listen, and you amplify those things, you end up to tie it back to developing products. I mean, that's how we develop the product."

And maybe people like the new one better than the old one in some cases, and it's just a virtuous cycle of serving the community. Or, if you're in the design world, I guess you're serving your customers. But either way, we're trying to be of service.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

That's an incredible story. Embedded within that, what is so interesting is this idea of sort of reflecting on the things that the community is already doing, and then actually helping to amplify good things that communities already started and bringing that to the broader movement is such a smart idea. And also, it does help to show a little bit this distinction of when you have a product or service, things can sometimes not be a little bit more static.

But when you have a living, breathing thing like a community, things continue to evolve, and there's this ability to be able to leverage that. So, maybe thinking more broadly. I would love to hear from you also how do you think about this role, as the role of design to change the culture in organizations based on what you've learned being a part of this?


Ken Tanabe:

That's a great question. in the design community, we talk about design as something that should be built into a product, an integral part, not just a polish or a thing that you add afterward. I believe in that, but lately, I'm thinking about design as a tool that changes and affects the character of what it's applied. So, it's kind of changing the fabric of where it lives.

And if you design something that can become part of that fabric, even if it's a little bit changed as a result. That change has resilience. And then you end up with something that has a scale and perhaps a greater impact. I have a story that comes to mind for that one.

I facilitated a session at a conference. It had a focus on multiracial identity. I introduced myself by saying, "Hey, I'm the founder of Loving Day." One of the participants told me that she knew about Loving Day but didn't realize that there was anyone behind it, basically. She didn't realize it was a volunteer organization, didn't know it had a website, and she had never heard of me.

I was like, "That is great." Because that means that Loving Day is becoming part of the fabric of culture, right? She heard about it from not us, right. Someone else. I don't know where. She doesn't know where. It could have been from the community or the press. I mean, sometimes a community gets in the press. It could have been that, but not knowing makes me so happy, actually. It speaks to scale.

It's more than what any of our volunteers could do directly. It scales into impact because if we think of our mission, about visibility, education, and a greater sense of community, all that matters, right? You end up with this mission. We hope, right? Distributed so broadly in the fabric of society that is resilience.

If we stopped doing what we're doing tomorrow, or as designers, if we stopped doing what we're doing tomorrow, do we think that what we're doing would continue to happen if we stopped? And if we did, maybe that means that it's resilient.

"If we stopped doing what we're doing tomorrow, or as designers, if we stopped doing what we're doing tomorrow, do we think that what we're doing would continue to happen if we stopped? And if we did, maybe that means that it's resilient."


Wilma Lam,

Host:

Yeah, that's incredible. It really speaks to this idea of community being a thing that can live on far beyond having a designer or a group of people behind it to build that eventually. You get to that point where the community sort of self-perpetuating and the idea sort of self-perpetuating.

One of the other things I've also noticed about Loving Day is that it's been fostered not only nationally. I mean, the case is an American case, but also it's led to now international celebrations. It's also grown and spread globally. So how do you think about cultivating that community action, even as you extend maybe beyond some of what you originally imagined?


Ken Tanabe:

Before I answer that, would you mind if I build on what you were saying about self-perpetuating?


Wilma Lam,

Host:

Yeah, definitely.

Ken Tanabe:

Cool! Because when you say self-perpetuating, I think about design practice in a professional setting. More and more companies are making design part of the organization and investing in teams, both in terms of size and maturity.

And for me, as a design leader, in that kind of context, I think about bringing the value of design to cross-functional teams. I think that idea of changing the fabric applies here as well. So, within organizations and changing the way they do business, it's not just about the design team, but getting your cross-functional colleagues to understand the business value of design and advocating design, not just through the design team, but into their practice of shared activities.

In that way, you get the scale and the impact from the same thing, basically. Right? Affecting the fabric. You do end up with something that's more distributed and resilient as well. So, just wanted to make that connective tissue between the work on Loving Day and also kind of the work that we do as designers.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

Yeah, that's an incredible build. The question on, how do you think about cultivating Community Action?


Ken Tanabe:

Yeah. When I think about community action, it's with an understanding that Loving Day is not a universally known thing, at least not yet. But it has good momentum now. And that's driven by a vibrant community.

At this point, I think about this project is shifting towards stewardship. And an important part of that is empowering the community. You have to listen to them for their ideas but also acknowledge their work. And then, you end up amplifying those ideas and all that inspires others.

"At this point, I think this project is shifting towards stewardship. And an important part of that is empowering the community. You have to listen to them for their ideas but also acknowledge their work. And then, you end up amplifying those ideas and all that inspires others."

I have to say that some of the ideas we hear are pretty bold. I mean, frankly, I would not be brave enough to suggest them. And the one that comes to mind the most is weddings. People started to plan their weddings on Loving Day or around. You have to find a weekend or something, but I couldn't believe that.

I was like, "This is the most important day of your life or one of them." Right? But if it's happening every year, we should honor it. So, we actually added a section to our website for it. It's right there next to the more typical ways of observing, right, like gathering folks for picnics and barbecues. We just started building on that and sharing it back with the community, and it has some momentum now.

We even added another page to our website called Inspiration, which is just literally filled with ways that people observe Loving Day that we want to reamplify. We split that up according to the kind of who's doing it in some cases, like teachers and students or cultural organizations or businesses. The list goes on.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

In our conversation so far, we've talked a little bit about distributed leadership, trying to drive a social movement to be kind of self-perpetuating. One thing that I'm curious about is how you maybe design the Loving Day kind community and help to empower others within the movement to kind of build towards that idea of being distributed.


Ken Tanabe:

Sure. And maybe I'll answer that by talking about events. So, especially early on, Loving Day was about bringing people together around June 12 as a way of building community. So, as I mentioned, part of the beginning of Loving Day had to do with my graduate thesis. So one of the first things I did, in addition to building the website, the concept and the branding, what have you, was to host the first event in New York City.

About a hundred people showed up. The next year, it was more like 300 people, and then it was more like 500, then it got to be a thousand people. It got very large for a while. That was enabled. By the way, if you've ever tried, there's no way you're going to run a thousand-person event by yourself. That takes a lot of volunteers. And as the project grew, even things like the website or just managing any sort of questions that would come in, all that had to be driven by volunteers. So, at Loving Day, we have what's called a core group of volunteers. And that's a group that's active all year long, trying to make those things happen, and also involved in planning the events, and having leadership roles in those events as well.

We would refer to the Loving Day events as the flagship celebration. The reason why is to get folks to see it as an example. We're like, "We're going to make this as big and interesting and welcoming as possible." And hopefully, other folks will do this as well. There was some success there. Because as we grew our event, we saw other people grow their events and repeat the same event year after year. For example, there's an event in the Netherlands. It's been going for many years based on Loving Day. All that's wonderful.

Those are organized events that people plan way in advance, and the general public is generally welcome to them. But what's really powerful to me is, as folks in the communities decide to host the picnics and the barbecues, the smaller events are getting creative about what kinds of events they host. We've seen so many things like arts kind of gatherings. Performances, games, or sports or recreation, people going canoeing for Loving Day.

In addition to community and kind of food-based events, we also see educational events of folks saying we're going to do a panel discussion or have speakers. We're going to visit a museum or screen a film for Loving Day. So many things, I think, come together there where people feel they're empowered to have ownership and to fit Loving Day into their lives in whatever way works best for them.

That's where the real power is where you empower folks to build Loving Day into their own lives and make it work for them, whether they're artists, a teacher, a student, or just someone who wants to invite the neighbors over or say something to their kids every year. That's where the magic is.

"That's where the real power is where you empower folks to build Loving Day into their own lives and make it work for them, whether they're artists, a teacher, a student, or just someone who wants to invite the neighbors over or say something to their kids every year. That's where the magic is."


Wilma Lam,

Host:

There's been so many events and different ways of celebrating that have been done. Did you imagine when you were starting this project that Loving Day would grow into the national and even international celebration that it is today?


Ken Tanabe:

I definitely did not imagine that Loving Day would grow into what it is today. To be honest with you, it felt a little bit ridiculous to try. But I knew that it was meaningful to me. And the people I shared it with seem to think it was meaningful as well. That includes friends and family with a similar lived experience and my classmates in the beginning when it was a school project, and also the community that I was hoping to serve.

Over the years, I feel a few things happened that made me feel I can't believe this is happening. For example, our first international press came from journalists who literally grabbed their passports and got on a plane to attend one of our events in New York. And there's been a lot more international press since that. Or, as I was mentioning, the idea of people gathering folks in other cities and other countries around the world. Some of whom I've met are from Italy, Japan, and from other places, but this is just an acknowledgment of the community. Right? We just want to showcase what they're doing.

One thing that we showcase is cities will officially recognize Loving Day in some cases. It's happened enough times that we actually built out a section of our website to showcase them. That's been wonderful because sometimes even more cities or places will want to officially recognize Loving Day and will say, "Oh, if you're looking for examples, here's a list basically that you can pull from." It's been wonderful to see that and also Loving Day included in calendars of observation from cultural institutions and schools and other places as well.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

I mean, over the last 18 years, I mean Loving Day has grown and expanded, but also your own career has kind of evolved with design roles in the industry. You've taught design. You've been an active design speaker and critic both about the industry at large but also about Loving Day. I'm curious, basically just from the last 18 years, how do you think that the experience of the kind of creating Loving Day and seeing it through has shaped you as a designer?


Ken Tanabe:

Working on Loving Day has shown me that design is capable of a lot as a practice. In some cases, design can be a successful tool, maybe where other tools have been tried before. I've seen it drive positive change. It can actually create an impact on the scale of culture and society.

On a personal level, I'd say that Loving Day gives me the opportunity to do things that I never thought I would do. For example, speaking to the press. It's not something I imagined I would have to learn how to do. But I felt so deeply that I needed to serve the community as well as I could. So, I learned the hard way through trial and error doing that. The same story for doing public speaking.

As designers, we often imagine ourselves doing a design crit or a client presentation, but not necessarily behind a podium if you're at a university or a conference. And actually, once I was moderating a panel at a university, which included the community of that university, but also the community around the university, and at one point, the Q&A gets heated, and people standing up in their seats and talking over each other. It's a conversation about race, right? So, emotions are running high. And as a moderator, it's up to me, right? I have to make sure the conversation continues, but with space, for everyone to be heard.

I'm thinking, when I have those moments, I'm thinking, I went from pushing a mouse to managing design projects. And now, how did I get here, right. But once you get used to that a little bit, and you're facilitating conversations about identity and race, it helps you to build this capacity to find common ground even when it's challenging to do that. I really think that that translates into design practice since designers we're often advocating for a solution that might not be familiar to who we're talking to.

Also, useful capacity for managing people and for teams. People can do this, right? I believe in a designer's ability to do that. And maybe that's my teaching experience and my managing team's experience, but I do really want to help designers who I crossed paths with to feel empowered to do these things or at least give it a try.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

Speaking of thinking about the role of design, how could it expand? So, today, the context and conversation around racial justice, equity, and social movements have changed. It certainly had changed since 2004 when you started Loving Day. For today's context, how do you think that the design field could or should better address designing for equity in particular?


Ken Tanabe:

That's an important question. I hear the design community talking about the shift from designing for communities to designing with communities. I believe in that idea, not just because it's been working for Loving Day since I started working on it in 2003.

I don't think that the Loving Day project would really exist in the way that it does today without community. But when we're speaking about racial justice and equity, I believe that what you say, and even the things you design should be grounded in who you are and what you do.

So, for example, in 2020, you heard a lot of companies putting out statements about race that were criticized for not coming from an authentic place. But when Loving Day put a statement out in support of Black Lives and racial justice, it was very specific, I think, to being a diverse community that includes Black people, among a lot of other people. So we're really specific about our roots, in that sense, but also about our roots in a Supreme Court decision that overturns centuries of racist laws.

This is not the kind of statement you can grab from somewhere and cut and paste. I also don't think that it's something that is simple to generate or really effective to generate well without input from the community. That's something we asked for, and we're grateful when it comes back to us.

To tie it to design, this is a little bit nerdy, maybe, but I thought about classic examples of industrial design, where they say if you take something, it's a bottle, it's a piece of electronics. You smash it apart. And if you could tell that the little piece that you have left came from a certain spot, then it's something that really belongs to the materiality of the thing. You can tell where it came from, and it's unique to that place.

I wanted any statement that we made to kind of be like that. To be unique to us. And you could tell that it came from us talking about our history of the Loving decision or coming from a place of love, things that are really part of our fabric, right? Later, when we rebuilt our website totally from scratch, one thing that remained untouched was that statement.

"The conversation on race has changed, and designers need to meet the moment. And for a lot of us, that requires education. Ongoing education is something I'm leaning into even more in these past few years and something that I bring to my design practice.

So, as you said, the conversation on race has changed, and designers need to meet the moment. And for a lot of us, that requires education. It's just ongoing, right? Ongoing education is something I'm leaning into even more in these past few years and something that I bring to my design practice.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

So, the context has changed. But also, we're thinking now towards the future of how can Loving Day movements continue to evolve? As you think about, how this context has changed, what is top of mind now as you think about the future of design, the future of the kind of social movements? What are you optimistic about?


Ken Tanabe:

I love thinking about the future in general, I have to say. The future of design, design the future in particular. I'm optimistic about designers as a conduit for bringing the future of these parts of the future elements of it into the present. That can have a positive impact on the fabric of culture.

It's that ability that designers have become more broadly recognized. You see more investment in design, their departments, but also the tools that support design practices and education, especially around the design and equity kind of intersection.

To focus on that one for a minute. There are more specialized resources now for learning about that than I've ever seen since I started working on Loving Day webinars, classes, books, and even specialists, specialized design practitioners that you can work with.

For Loving Day itself, I'm optimistic because I see signs that maybe it is becoming part of the social fabric. In the design community, we talk about this idea of invisible design. Good design disappears. That's usually said in the context of a user experience that is frictionless, that kind of thing, but I hope that Loving Day could be an example of invisible design as well, where it started out as a design project. But maybe it just blends into the fabric in a way that is just as part of society, and it's meaningful, and it's resilient and just continues in that way.

"I'm optimistic because I see signs that maybe Loving Day is becoming part of the social fabric. In the design community, we talk about this idea of invisible design. Good design disappears. I hope that Loving Day could be an example of invisible design as well, where it started out as a design project. But maybe it just blends into the fabric in a way that is just as part of society, and it's meaningful, and it's resilient and just continues in that way."


Wilma Lam,

Host:

That's a really meaningful way to think about the future of design. This idea of embedding into the social fabric is not a way of framing that we've heard a lot of within the designer's industry, but it is really valuable. Maybe as we close out our conversation today, for people that are interested in celebrating Loving Day on June 12, so coming up, what are ways that they can get involved?


Ken Tanabe:

I always like to say that Loving Day should fit into your life and just become a part of what you have going on already. There are so many ways to do that. That's a big part of why LovingDay.org, our website exists, is to collect those ways and inspire people to answer that exact question.

In addition to sharing with the hashtag Loving Day or gathering people around June 12, safely, of course, some people actually see the day as an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the community that represents their own identity, or maybe their partner's identity, or maybe they just want to support that community.

I just like to encourage folks to visit LovingDay.org for those kinds of ideas. But speaking for a minute to designers who are out there, I'll just say this. If you come up with a great idea of a way to share Loving Day through your design work, I hope you'll share it back because we'll probably end up amplifying it and rebroadcasting it to other designers. We needed a designer section of LovingDay.org to tie it into really and have the big, big tie-in.

On the inspiration page, there's actually a section already for content creators where we say, "You should share Loving Day through whatever platform you have, including podcasts. I feel we're doing it right now as we speak. So, I'm very grateful for that. Thank you for doing that. It's connecting directly to what we hoped would happen with Loving Day.


Wilma Lam,

Host:

Yeah, and thank you so much, Ken, for joining me. It's been an incredible conversation to get to dive into this topic to talk more about Loving Day.



Thanks for having me.



And so, for everyone that's listening to learn more about Loving Day Convention, you can visit LovingDay.org. We'll also be posting up show notes from today's episode along with links to things that we've discussed during the course of this conversation.

Thank you to everyone out there for listening. To follow along and hear the most recent releases, head to Substantial.com/OptimisticDesign.

If you enjoyed today's episode, please subscribe to Optimistic Design, and leave a comment. Join us next time as we continue to take a future-focused look at design, ethical innovation, and technology.

I'm Wilma Lam, and I look forward to talking to you again soon.


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