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Harvard is throwing a design yard sale. Get ready to empty your wallet

The proceeds benefit The Bail Project and Colloqate, two organizations fighting systemic racism.

Harvard is throwing a design yard sale. Get ready to empty your wallet

Imagine strolling through a yard sale where the hodgepodge of items on offer were made by both emerging and iconic designers, such as Virgil Abloh, Sam Jacob, and Jerome Byron.

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That’s the idea behind the Design Yard Sale for Racial Justice, a monthlong project created by students and alumni of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). On the project’s website, a range of design objects are for sale, including out-of-print books, prints, clothing, and furniture. All the proceeds from the sales will go to organizations fighting systemic anti-Black racism, including The Bail Project and Colloqate, a design-oriented nonprofit. “I wanted to find a way to contribute to the cause through design,” says Yaxuan Liu, who is a current GSD student pursuing a degree in architecture, and who spearheaded the project.

Amphora of Armageddon by Mark Foster Gage. [Photo: courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design]
This yard sale is one of many ways that students are combatting systemic racism. In June, African American students at the GSD wrote a letter to the school’s administration with a list of 13 demands for how to institutionalize anti-racism, which included offering training to understand the racial context of America and hiring more Black faculty. The dean of the GSD, Sarah Whiting, offered an apology and a commitment to improve.

Tumble Vase by Young Ayata. [Photo: courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design]
Liu got the idea for the yard sale after protests erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police. He and his classmates realized they could raise money by auctioning off objects they had made during their time at the GSD (many end-of-year projects involve sculptures or models that are beautiful but often get thrown out). Then Liu sent an email to the entire school, along with alumni networks, and was surprised by how much people wanted to help. “Alumni who have gone on to become architects, designers, and founders of design firms, all wanted to contribute,” he says.

Someplace New by Polly Nor. [Photo: courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design]
Liu and his friends quickly created the Design Yard Sale website, which launched on Juneteenth and will run till the end of July. People can buy the items, which start at $20. There is also a weekly auction, featuring the work of more established artists and designers like Abloh, Daisy Ames, and Jeffrey Halstead. New lots are listed every week. So far, the project has raised $50,000 and the team expects to continue raising money through the end of the month.

Here are some of the most intriguing objects on display.

The Miranda Bag as Art Object by Welcome Companions. [Photo: courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design]
The Miranda: Bag as Art Object
This bag was designed by the brand Welcome Companions and named for the writer and director Miranda July. Only 100 were made, and it retails for $1,500. It comes equipped with everything a modern woman needs to survive in the world, including a piece of July’s security blanket and an almond.

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Stack Lamp by Christina Moushoul. [Photo: courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design]
Stack Lamp
This futuristic acrylic lamp was designed by Christina Moushoul, an architecture and urban design student. Each lamp, which costs $200, is made to order.

Concrete Stool, by Jerome Byron. [Photo: courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design]
This blush-pink stool is made from pigment-infused, glass-fiber reinforced concrete, a hard material that looks soft to the eye. It was designed by Los Angeles-based architect-designer Jerome Byron, whose work often explores contemporary construction methods.
Markerad Chair, Virgil Abloh x Ikea. [Photo: courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design]
This chair was part of Virgil Abloh’s much-hyped collection for Ikea. This white chair is personalized and signed by the designer. Unfortunately, it already sold.
Yellow Peril Supports Black Panther print by Justin Ng. [Photo: courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design]
This $30 print by artist and GSD student Justin Ng plays with the racial concepts of the “yellow peril” and the “black panther.”
Who Made My Stuff? Miles Learns About Design by Aisha Densmore-Bey. [Photo: courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design]
This book, which is autographed by author Aisha Densmore-Bey, helps children learn about manufacturing and design, prompting them to ponder the origins of the objects around them.
Gravitational Cutting Mat, Benjamin Edgar Gott. [Photo: courtesy Harvard Graduate School of Design]
Cutting mats are frequently used by designers and design students, but this one winks at the idea of how gravity affects the space-time continuum, making straight lines useless. It is autographed by artist Benjamin Edgar Gott.
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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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