Designing for Sovereign Tribal Nations

Sadie Red Wing | Assistant Professor, OCAD U

CoAD’s Design x Technology Lecture Series presents:
Sadie Red Wing: Designing for Sovereign Tribal Nations
This lecture is co-presented by AIGA Detroit.

Thursday, October 13, 2022 | 6:00pm – 7:00pm (ET)
Room: Lear Auditorium (T429) at LTU and live-streamed
Free and open to the public. Lite pizza dinner will be served.


Join Lawrence Technological University’s College of Architecture and Design as we present another innovative Fall 2022 lecture with Assistant Professor at OCAD University, Sadie Red Wing.

Native American graphic design presents a strong modality based on graphical representation to express distinctive qualities of sovereignty. The understanding behind sovereign distinction of representational forms requires the indigenous education of traditional symbolism specific to the tribal audience. Any form created by an indigenous designer reflects the identity of the intended audience, for the cultural norm of tribal communication demands identification from the form to the engagers.

When engaging in tribal communication through representational forms, the visual language—of the form—needs correct translation to the fluent receiver. A problem in Native American graphic design remains the designer’s irresponsibility to communicate a sovereign visual language appropriately due to their lack of education in the traditional symbolism. Indigenous designers uneducated in their tribe’s graphical conventions resort to “pan-Indian” imagery when creating visual forms.

The term pan-Indian refers to the grouping of all Native American tribes into a single, denounced category when classifying a genre. Pan-Indian graphic design conveys meaningless and inappropriate messages that continue the stream of Native American stereotypes. Stereotypical imagery substituted for traditional symbolism degrades the visual representation of an (already-sensitive) indigenous culture.

When bringing indigenous perspective into design research or the practice of graphic design, various definitions need to be explored. Terms such as: decolonization, decoloniality, pan-indianism, cultural appreciation, and visual sovereignty will be defined during the session.

About Sadie

Sadie Red Wing is a Lakota graphic designer and advocate from the Spirit Lake Nation of Fort Totten, North Dakota. Red Wing earned her BFA in New Media Arts and Interactive Design at the Institute of American Indian Arts. She received her Master of Graphic Design from North Carolina State University. Her research on cultural revitalization through design tools and strategies created a new demand for tribal competence in graphic design research. Red Wing urges Native American graphic designers to express visual sovereignty in their design work, as well as, encourages academia to include an indigenous perspective in design curriculum. Currently, Red Wing serves as an Assistant Professor at OCAD University (Toronto, ONT).

@ltu_coad | @aigadetroit | @sadieredwing

By aigadetroit
Published October 7, 2022
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