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Women and Girls: Awards aplenty for women-led design studio

Design de Plume is an Indigenous-owned and women-led design firm in Sudbury
Design de Plume’s team recently won an DNA Paris Award for their work on the IPCA Knowledge Basket website. Seen here in the photo from the awards ceremony in Paris, France, is, from left to right, Jennica Robinson, design lead, Meggan Van Harten, partner and strategic leader, Jennifer Taback, partner and ‘thought leader’. 

When it comes to design, to creativity, the artist behind the work is the voice that comes through. If they are white, western and male, there is one voice; another for women, another for people of colour.

At Design de Plume in Sudbury, the voices of Indigenous women came together, and over the years the firm has taken that specific voice and offered it as their platform. 

Indigenous ways of knowing, as well as a women-led firm, can lead to partnerships like the one between Design de Plume and the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership, creating the award-winning website that recently brought the design team to Paris, France for the DNA Paris Awards. 

The website was created to showcase the Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCA), which are lands and waters where Indigenous governments have the primary role in protecting and conserving ecosystems. The IPCA Knowledge Basket website that Design de Plume designed aimed to have users interact with the stories and resources and create “Knowledge Baskets” or accounts where they could save their findings and collect related materials while respecting the digital space and messages provided. 

Jennica Robinson, design lead, is from Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation on the north shore of Manitoulin Island. For this project, the client wanted a site that would be centered on “Indigenous ways of knowing.”

That meant a focus on oral storytelling, but also, a balance for those who are disabled. 

“They (the client) wanted to have audio on the website and try to move away from the written word, just because it's more of a colonial standard,” she said. “But to meet those accessibility challenges, we also need to include written words so that viewers that aren't able to hear the audio or interact with audio are able to read transcripts of the audio.” 

She said the audio and oral storytelling was central, but below it, are transcripted words. 

For her, it’s also about accessibility for all people.

“People can go to this website and learn more about Indigenous protected areas, and contribute resources, read reports, academic articles, view artwork, videos, stories, that Indigenous conservationists have added an upload to this website,” said Robinson. “So anybody can go to this website, and anybody can contribute to this website.” 

It’s also about sharing, another central tenet of Indigenous ways of knowing. 

“The biggest part of this knowledge basket is reciprocity,” said Robinson. “So what they really would like is people to interact with this website, taking this information and sharing it with others, and respecting and approaching the website in a good way.” 

Robinson has worked at the firm since she began her design education, and said it was the leadership there, women who respected her voice, and showed her that she was a valuable addition. 

“The projects have every part of me and every part of our clients and their audiences,” she said. She noted that most education offered to designers comes from a western and European origin and she reveled in the opportunity to work with Indigenous designers at a women-owned and led firm. 

“At Design de Plume, we apply those different lenses from our clients into our projects and it makes the project so much more successful,” she said. “Winning this award really shows that there are other lenses that we can look at projects through and give voice to communities or minorities, it just makes the project just that much more successful.” 

Design de Plume also recently won the RGD Branding Award for their Office of the Commissioner of Indigenous Languages (OCIL) project recently completed.

The RGD Branding Awards recognize and celebrate the best in branding and identity design from around the world.

It appears it’s that commitment to identity, to women’s voices and to Indigenous ways that make Design de Plume an award-winning firm. 

You can find more information about Design de Plume on their website, 

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter at Women & Girls is made possible by our Community Leaders Program.

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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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