Professor Elizabeth Tunstall was born in Columbia, South Carolina. She is a design anthropologist with a PhD and MA in Anthropology from Stanford University in California. She is a researcher, writer, educationalist, consultant and academic leader. Her professional career has led her to work with major commercial organisations, in education establishments in the United States, Australia and currently as Dean of the Faculty of Design at OCAD University, Canada’s largest and oldest educational institute for Art and Design. In 2008 she organised the US National Design Policy Summit and Initiative focused on creating an actionable agenda of US Design Policy for: ‘economic competitiveness and democratic governance’.
Professor Tunstall’s core teaching values centre on ‘respectful design, diversity, inclusion and decolonisation’. She encourages her students to ‘be’ in the world rather than ‘act solely as they see the world’. In her many addresses to diverse audiences (she has given over 30 keynote addresses on five continents on Respectful Design) she has emphasised: ‘Many design institutions are interested in diversity and inclusion, yet seem unwilling or unable to do the work of ‘decolonizing’ design through a critical engagement with design and culture’. She advocates that this work consists of two simultaneous actions: ‘the recognition of the intrinsic worth of different cultural ways of ‘design being’ and the systematic dismantling of current structural hierarchies. Her book on the subject, Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook is due to be published in 2023 by MIT Press.
Professor Tunstall uses her position to embed Respectful Design education across wider public and private organisations and government policy. Amongst many, on which she serves are the Board of SheEO, Canadian Art Foundation, the City of Toronto’s Economic Development and Culture Covid Recovery Group and the UK Design Council’s Design Economy Ambassador Group.
Professor Tunstall has commented:
“It moves my soul to have my commitment to a diverse inclusive and decolonial design education recognised by my global peers. To be the first Black woman to be awarded the Sir Misha Black Medal contributes to my mission to open possibilities for future Black women and femmes in design, while also expanding them for others"