Innovation School MDes Design Innovation & Citizenship

Martyna Sykta (she/her)

I am a multidisciplinary designer and design researcher with a particular interest in social design and citizen-led innovation. So far I have been working within the fields of participatory design, service design, industrial design, experience design and creative production.

My individual practice revolves around the issues related to politics, culture, gender and activism, naturally following my personal values and often exploring the contrast between top-down and bottom-up narratives. Having a background in both product design and anthropology, I enjoy the material, emotional and embodied experience that design-led research can offer as well as its contestatory potential to question the culture we live in. This year at GSA helped me to reposition my practice, moving it away from problem-solving and design thinking and bringing it closer to activism. I believe that my role is to find new and intriguing ways to amplify unheard voices and to advocate for the social innovation that comes from within.


Inter–Bodies. Exploring Gendered (Un)safety Through Design
Protest Cookbook

Inter–Bodies. Exploring Gendered (Un)safety Through Design

My final project is an attempt to redesign the conversation about gendered unsafety. The world in which more than 736 million women have been subjects to male violence calls for meaningful debate about safety that takes place between people of different genders and positionalities. However, the discussions we currently have are often restricted by the constraints of patriarchy and reproduce the image of women as problems for male-dominated society, highlighting their difficult experience of harassment, victimhood, vulnerability and dependence on male surveillance.

This design-led exploration into gender and safety is grounded in a feminist perspective and builds upon the critique of narratives problematising and victimising women. Instead, it seeks to propose new vocabulary and contexts for discussing the subject while problematising human-to-human interactions and the culture that informs them. The project used co-creation methods to collate multiple definitions of (un)safety and capture women’s lived experience in order to create a sample of the new language for speaking about safety. The outcomes of this process are communicated through the terminology coined during the participatory engagements and the collection of provocations that could be used to facilitate the discussion.

Whereas the project doesn’t promise to solve harassment, it signposts a more equitable format for informal education about safety that goes beyond the simplified frameworks of men – women, perpetrator – victim, protector – protected and invites people despite their gender to collectively renegotiate the meaning of safety itself.

Desk research

In order to effectively map the status quo, I have traced the academic discussions about safety that revolve around the gendered power relations within safety systems. I have explored the concepts such as the male gaze, safety work, security apparatus and collective accountability that informed the further development of the project.

Storytelling Workshop

The crucial part of my exploration was working with women who have experienced gendered unsafety and capturing their lived experience during the Storytelling Workshops. The sessions were designed to evoke a cathartic experience and foster a sense of temporary community between the participants representing different approaches to safety and gender.

Workshop artefacts

Collectively created maps of (un)safety.

Redesigning the discussion

Analysing the conversations with experts and participants helped me realise that women's difficult experiences of harassment are commonly used as a tool to initiate and facilitate the discussion about gendered unsafety within wider culture. My project aims to change the paradigm of this discussion through isolating it from women's lived experience, placing it in a more abstract context and replacing female victimhood and trauma with alternative tools for conversation.

Proposing new vocabulary

I synthesised my research findings in the form of a visual glossary containing the vocabulary designed during the engagements. In this way I wanted to propose change also on a linguistic layer and steer the conversation about safety towards sensations, experiences and interactions.


I designed a collection of abstract personas and transformed them into the set of conversation provocations. The characters were built upon the insights from the engagements, representing hypothetical responses to the experiences of gendered unsafety shared by my participants. The provocations render non-existent, imaginary scenarios related to safety and gender that can distance the conversation from the experiences of harassment and remove the sides taking part in the interaction from the typical gender roles culturally ascribed to them. The concept could be further developed and applied as a part of social campaigns, an addition to active bystander education methodologies, a tool used within citizen engagement projects or a communication tool within informal conversations.

Protest Cookbook

Protest Cookbook is a design concept of the community that helps citizens transform their individual acts of resistance into a collective and shared protest. The idea is an outcome of my design-led exploration into the post-pandemic futures of protest. Building upon the analysis of the self-intelligent and organic structures of contemporary social movements, the project seeks to ask: when does disobedience become a protest? What makes a successful protest? How can design allow individuals to become multiple? How can multiplication be achieved without being together in one space and one time?

Protest blueprints

Analysing the phases of growth and the structure of social movements through secondary research and interviews with activists showed the analogy between protest and open source format. As I was mapping the stories of resistance shared by my interviewees, I realised that the main component of protest's success is multiplication. It gives a collective aspect to the acts of resistance transforming them into contagious, organic, leaderless and self-driven movements.

Community structure

Protest Cookbook community consists of citizens who co-create an evergrowing open-source collection of protest recipes and is curated by creative practitioners who sustain the communication platform and facilitate the process of community building.

Protest Cookbook community manifesto

The system of shared values was co-designed during participatory engagements in order to signpost the ethical foundation for establishing the community of protesters.


Working prototype of the main communication platform.