When New York lighting studio Apparatus held a party with the theme “1970s Tehran”, guests turned up dressed as Middle-Eastern caricatures, donning turbans, robes and bejeweled veils. Some appeared to be camel salesmen or belly dancers – the very stereotypes that have been used to indignify the Middle East for years. In an article for dezeen, Sina Sohrab argues that designers should know better than to resort to such lazy cultural stereotypes.

“It is with honest reluctance that I choose to publicly decipher why this has an effect on me, as both an Iranian, and as a member of the design community”, Sohrab says. “Such is the power of open displays of racially coded ignorance: the experience has stayed in my mind, causing me to doubt my own connection to my Iranian-ness, and my agency in expressing my discomfort.”

He goes on to state: “The need to explain why something is racially insensitive merely highlights a cognitive bias of which, as a minority, I do not have the luxury. But, in replaying the night throughout the last few weeks it became clear that, as a designer, it is a critical responsibility of our profession to push for this discourse.”

Sorah insist that designers engage their mistakes. “It is, after all, one of the most valuable aspects of the design process. In our work, we design with genuine curiosity, deep research and with an attention to specificity.”

Read the full article here.