We envisioned the Designing Motherhood Open-Source Curriculum as a set of resources that educators and/or students could use to bring topics related to the arc of human reproduction into their design studio and design history classrooms.

We tested this content in two “intensives” at the University of Pennsylvania in fall 2020 and fall 2021 thanks to the generous support of The Sachs Program for Arts Innovation, and the collaboration of Prof. Orkan Telhan and two cohorts of brilliant students in the School of Design at UPenn.

We recommend that the instructor has a copy of the Designing Motherhood book as a reference. 

Sample Syllabus
We created a syllabus for a design studio class at UPenn (the template we’re sharing here comes from the second time we ran the course in fall 2021). It was a seven week “intensive” that met twice a week for three hours within a longer course, but could be adapted for shorter or longer class sessions.  

The syllabus includes suggested readings and resources, as well as an additional bibliography section, all of which could be easily adapted. Equally, the premise of the course could be adapted for a design history course, and the final deliverable could be a collaboratively-envisioned exhibition or new object-focused design history papers that mirror the approach of individual chapters from the DM book. 

Download a copy of the syllabus and make it your own! Here are two PPTs we used in our classes in Week 2 (link) and Week 3 (link) -- take them and make them your own if they are useful. 

(Not included here: The syllabus for the second half of the semester looked at issues of design and care more broadly, including inter-species relationships, and included hands-on biodesign materials workshops.)

Core Readings
All of the weekly readings listed in the syllabus can be found in PDF form here.

We’ve also included a few bonus chapters from the book that relate to the objects we foreground in the “Designing Motherhood Project Overview -- Objects” video below.

Designing Motherhood Project Overview
These two videos offer an introduction to the Designing Motherhood project.

The first video explains how the project came to be, including some of the difficulties we faced in bringing these topics to audiences because the museums and publishers to whom we originally reached out rejected the idea. 

The second video offers a brief overview of the content of the Designing Motherhood project with a focus on some of the designs featured in the book and the exhibition.

There are also multiple podcast interviews with the DM Team that offer an overview of the project, some of which can be found on DM’s “Research and Happenings” page. These can easily supplement or entirely replace the videos above. 

Invited Guest Speakers
We invited a range of guest speakers into our classroom because we wanted to share multiple perspectives with the students, and because a core part of our approach to the design studio revolved around listening and oral histories. Inviting in speakers therefore augmented content, but also modeled active listening for all of us, students and instructors alike. 

We asked the students to work in smaller groups to conduct an interview with designers that we had pre-identified as engaged with sensitive stakeholder communities (eg. families with children in the NICU, or users of intimate reproductive health devices). We asked them to do this so that they could understand how long it takes (far longer than a semester assignment!) to gain insight into many of the issues that define design for the arc of (human) reproduction, and so that they gained the professional skill of devising interview questions themselves, arranging the interview, and reporting out on it to the rest of the class. 

Student Project Examples
We asked the students to present their research-in-progress live as part of the annual Design Philly event. They created three minute presentations. We were really proud of the way the students brought their A-games to sharing a range of responses to the brief outlined in the syllabus. (Here’s how we prepped them.)

We then asked them to flesh out these presentations into final projects. Here’s our final class with all of the individual presentations that show the range of work the students created. 

Storybanking Resources
The future of motherhood is communal and is strengthened by sharing and listening to each other's stories. The Storybanking partnership between Designing Motherhood and Maternity Care Coalition embraces an equity centered and community design approach to advocate for a future where caregivers can birth with dignity, parent with autonomy, and raise babies who are healthy, growing, and thriving.

Directed by DM curators Zoë Greggs and Gabriella Nelson, the three episodes honor Maternity Care Coalition direct service staff who talk about why they do their work. The project takes inspiration from legendary specultive Afrofuturist, Octavia E. Butler, particularly The Parable of the Sower (1983), and the images in the episodes come, in the main, from MCC’s archives stretching back to the early 1980s. 

Episode 1: Julia, Karen, and Gabriella

Episode 2: Tekara and Adrianne

Episode 3: 

Coming in early 2022

Extra Materials
We made all of the wall labels for both DM exhibitions available online. Find the object labels for the Mütter Museum here and the object labels for the Center for Architecture here

There are also plenty of background and supplemental resources to be found on DM’s “Research and Happenings” page.

Finally, on November 13, 2021, we held an online public program, “Saturday Night Live with Team DM.” During the program we spoke with a number of contributors to the project.

The Designers Behind the DM Book
A chat with DM book designer Natasha Chandani of Clanada with DM curator Dr. Juliana Rowen Barton

Remaking Reproductive Design with Christine Dodson of Mamava and Aubrey Howard of Nyssa

Stories of Reproductive Joy and Freedom
Thomas Beatie, activist and author, speaks about his expeirence as a male birthing perso and Dr. Dharushana Muthulingam, infectious disease specilaist and writer, speaks about inter-species mothering, and her experience as a parent and physician

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For press inquiries: sarah@sarahbrownmcleod.com
For all other inquires: michellemillarfisher@gmail.com & amber.winick@gmail.com

© Designing Motherhood 2021