Critical Tea Towels

Critical Tea Towels

What do couriers experience when collecting and delivering orders? Are people thinking about the gig worker perspective when designing cities, policies, apps and platforms?

Critical Tea Towels, designed by Pick-Art


Inspirational tea towels Credit to Radical Tea Towel, Billy Bragg, and Vanessa’s Gran’s Taranaki tea towel

Inspired by our favourite radical tea towels, union banners, and worker’s rights movements as well as tea towels depicting tourist destinations the Critical Tea Towels explore what cities look like when we emphasise the experiences and views of the worker.

York Minister, emphasised York Minister Map, credit Cityscape Maps

Often maps and tea towels are designed to emphasise a particular perspectives, viewpoints, or actions that a viewer should take. This can often mean that certain levels of detail are missing from a tourist maps, or may be the emphasis of imagery or slogans in the case of union banners and radical tea towels.

In design of interactive systems this often manifests itself with an application ‘nudging’ a user into a particular interaction or series of interactions to produce a desired outcome. The desired outcome from these tea towels is that we rethink the value of this kind of gig work and that we engage with the needs of gig workers across the sites and cities in which they work.

The process

Data and concepts gathered and synthesised by Oliver Bates, Ben Kirman, and Carolynne Lord as part of the Switch-Gig and FlipGig research projects. Our data was gathered through co-design workshops and interviews with gig workers. These research projects both looked to bring out the voices and experiences of workers who are treated as invisible infrastructure in the day-to-day lives of many.

From our research we selected a number of key messages and anecdotes, drawing out a range of courier experiences. We worked closely with an illustrator to iterate the look and feel of the experiences.

Developing the tea towel designs

Translation of themes into visual motifs, illustration and visual design work by Tony Pickering (Pick-Art).