Maria Smith Bohannon Assistant Professor Oakland University
Graphic design as a profession often perpetuates rampant consumerism through the art of persuasion, which is directly at odds with working toward sustainable and ecological discourse. To explore the possibilities of sustainable capitalism and foundational sustainable and environmental design themes, I developed a special topics course to understand and investigate the designer’s role as a climate design activist and sustainable designer. The emphasis of this course will focus on sustainable design thinking, praxis, and ideation with the investigation of green or recycled materials as part of the prototyping process—both print and digital—all in the pursuit of reimagined design futures.
This course study will look at foundational systems thinking from environmental design pioneers, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and how designers can successfully implement sustainable methodologies and utilize environmentally friendly materials to craft sustainable solutions today. By identifying and framing complex problems plaguing the world, we can examine the possibilities and challenges in addressing these issues broadly or within local communities.
As sustainability and eco-friendly solutions are imperative for future generations’ ability to prosper, sustainable pedagogy must become foundational in graphic design education. By adopting sustainable design pedagogies, educators provide future designers with the tools—and understanding of sustainable design history, process, methodologies, and materials—to question capitalist tendencies and develop sustainable solutions.
Exploring the creative networks between graphic designers and their collaborators — human and non-human.
Christopher Swift Assistant Professor Binghamton University
“The Limits of Control” is a body of work exploring the creative networks between graphic designers and their collaborators — human and non-human. Inspired by the work and writing of James Bridle, John Cage and Bruno Latour the project examines how the interplay of control and trust in a designer’s relationship with their network of tools (creative, cultural, technological) can be attended to, challenged, and reimagined allows us to break free of the traditional modes and methodologies and begin to explore new possibilities and new ways of seeing and being as graphic designers.
The black boxes which envelop our tools obscure the complexity and scale of the collaborative space we work in. This work makes the invisible visible and removes the designer from their imagined directive podium to be one among many in a creative and collaborative network of active participants full of agency and potential.
Showcasing case studies that demonstrate the tools of a creative network foregrounds their active participation in co-creation. Through coding in various languages new digital tools are created in which the agency of the tool itself is highlighted. These new tools undertake an intentionally nonhierarchical mode of making, decentering the designer’s role. Each study pushes the designer further away from a mode of control with the intent of asking—if there is collaborative care, respect, and trust in the creative design process then what new solutions, what new insights, what new ways of thinking and being may we discover when we look around from our new perspective.
Visual authority can be used to validate any endeavor.
Claire Bula Adjunct Professor Boston University
The visual design of all legal and political documents, such as deeds, permits, identification & maps, employ a specific visual language enhancing their power. Design choices relating to layout, typefaces, symbols, embellishments, impressions, white space, signatures/certifications, and materials amalgamate to display power purely through visual appearance.
Because the visual design of a document can confer authority regardless of authenticity, It is important to analyze how visual appearance alone can be interpreted. A visual language of power exists and can instill feelings of hesitation, dominance, or fear leading individuals into subservience or subordination. Visual authority can be employed by true legal sources of power or used as a device to deceive or invalidly show power. Visual authority can be used to validate any endeavor, whether its intent is beneficial and egalitarian or manipulative and oppressive. Designers should be aware of how the use of visually authoritative means have been used throughout history to control, intimidate, and outright steal basic human rights and dignities.
Through multidisciplinary research across history, philosophy, political science, and sociology, I studied the means by which power and authority have been constructed in the United States. In addition, reading design texts and conducting visual surveys of documents employing elements of visual authority led to the creation of a diagram of design elements that create the library for visual language of authority.
In response, I authored a visual essay, designed a poster illustrating visual authority’s form language via personal documents, and printed risograph signage subverting authoritative signage through type and color. This body of work serves to document my research and surfaces questions about how visual authority was developed and how it is employed today.
Made during research visits at university libraries in Texas and California, hubs of the Chicano movement.
Joshua Duttweiler Assistant Professor Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
Alexandria Victoria Canchola Assistant Professor Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
We demonstrate how the design of Chicano independent publication mastheads from the 1960’s and 1970’s in the United States used the visual language of the Chicano community to engage directly with their audience. In publication design, mastheads serve as the reader’s first indication as to a publication’s purpose and credibility. Our analysis of these independent publications is based on observations made during research visits at university libraries in Texas and California, hubs of the Chicano movement. Based on our research, the mastheads used typography, icons, and organization symbols to attract readers in service to the publication’s goals of raising awareness on local issues such as labor inequality and racial violence. The efforts made by these publications not only mobilized their audience to fight for social justice but utilized visual means as a way of uniting their readers toward a cause.
These Chicano publications, not typically referenced in the traditional white graphic design canon, provide an opportunity to learn from past designers in a parallel time of societal unrest and analyze their successful methods of advocacy and activism. The political climate of the time cultivated diverse printing practitioners; far different than the editorial staffs we see today. Activists, many without formal design training, worked to combine text and images into design that would speak to their audience. By observing the evolution of masthead design throughout the Chicano movement we can observe the progress of the publication designers’ skill as they sought to increase their audience and ability to communicate.
By understanding the role and unity of the visual language of independent Chicano newspapers, we encourage designers, historians, and students to further investigate the design semiotics of community-focused publications both within its historical context and contemporary practice.
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Nathan Matteson Associate Professor DePaul University
This project looks at the changes in the meaning of the word ‘design’ throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. ‘Design’ and its cultural impact have changed significantly between the advent of typographic printing and the 21st century. Understanding these transitions is compelling in its own right, and may allow us to anticipate future developments.
This investigation relies on ‘word embedding’, which has become widespread in the field of natural language processing. Word embeddings convert texts into quantities with each word represented by a multidimensional vector of real numbers. They have seen use in a range of applications including sentiment analysis, language translation, and, happily, investigating semantic change of words over time.
A comparison of the changes among the semantic neighbors of ‘design’—the words that are ‘close’ to design in this multi-dimensional vector space—provides insight into what we mean when we say ‘design’. Early results suggest that two significant shifts have occurred.
During the late 19th century, design’s semantic neighborhood moved away from words like ‘plan’, ‘arrangement’, and ‘interpretation’ towards ‘mechanism’, ‘device’, and ‘apparatus’.
The neighborhood was further displaced during the mid-20th century by the likes of ‘model’, ‘construct’, and ‘prototype’.
What might be behind these supposed changes in meaning? Perhaps it suggests that design reinvents itself in response to disruptive technological changes, if one assumes these time periods correspond, respectively, to the industrial revolution and the nascent digital age. More investigation is required—performing analyses over other words and corpora—before any useful conclusions can be drawn.
The relationship between design and culture in the Chinese and Chinese American community
Mary Y Yang Assistant Professor Boston University
Radical Characters is a study group and curatorial project that explores the relationship between design and culture in the Chinese and Chinese American community. Each project seeks to decentralize the design canon and to co-build history and community by initiating dialogues through educational experiences. Looking beyond Western design pedagogy, Radical Characters studies Hanzi as a point of inquiry to learn, innovate, and study graphic design from a non-linear approach. Radical Characters looks to projects such as Decolonising Design and the People’s Graphic Design Archive that model methods for challenging practice, pedagogy, and contributions to the design field. The first project was “Radical Return,” an exhibition that draws inspiration from the Chinese character 回 hui, which means to return, to turn around, to circle or to reply. An international call for submissions prompted participants to use 回 as a grid—visually and conceptually—to consider a path they seek to retrace as Chinese or Chinese American designers. Thirty-six Chinese and Chinese American artists and graphic designers were selected to exhibit their graphic work simultaneously at Boston University Art Galleries and IS A GALLERY. The designers’ work accompanied with statements and additional commissioned essays were published in a bilingual catalog. The exhibition opened up a collective space for designers to explore the concept of return through language, typography, cultural traditions, identity, and design history. Radical Characters acknowledges that the works by no means form a complete picture of the multifaceted and complex narratives experienced by Chinese and Chinese American designers, but rather shape an in-progress collection site for building knowledge through the exchange of graphic design and culture. The exhibition presents a framework for a design curatorial process that instigates cultural dialogue among the participants and offers alternative ways for exhibition-making and the exhibition design process.
A feminist base motivates us to engage questions around power relations, knowledge production, and systems of violence
Becky Nasadowski Assistant Professor University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
In recent years, many universities have embraced “diversity” with oblique statements of support. Related, design educators have rightfully sought strategies for inclusive pedagogy, increasing representation and working toward ensuring the classroom is comfortable. But inclusive is not synonymous with anti-racist, which requires antagonism and a reckoning with the pervasive inequities baked into our different fields and methods, the university, and our social relationships and histories.
In this presentation, I will provide an overview of my studio-seminar course Politics and Ethics of Design, where a feminist base motivates us to engage questions around power relations, knowledge production, and systems of violence. A substantial reading list frames sustained conversations on the politics of race, class, and gender as it relates to the field of design, creating a critical foundation for design practice. Select topics include data feminism and counter cartography, the designer’s role in constructing notions of citizenship, the limits of empathy in design thinking, and the neoliberal entanglement of work and passion.
By providing an anchor through reading and conversation, I ask design students to consider in their studio practice urgent questions: How do we respond to historical omissions? How do we interface with social movements? How do we act with an awareness of history that complicates liberal concepts of empathy as paramount? If we want students to engage power and sincerely explore what an anti-racist practice and education look like, then we need to fully engage in how design has traditionally played—and continues to play—a role in bolstering social inequity.
The experiential pedagogy of engaging physically with objects through observation and reflection.
Claire Elestwani Assistant Professor Lamar University
Virginia Patterson Assistant Professor California State University Fresno
As design educators work to create equitable learning environments, it is imperative we implement pedagogy which centers lived experience and community knowledge production over privileged experience. Traditional pedagogies of design focus on learning through activity such as projects and critique through dialogic exchange. These methods are celebrated for their inclusive nature, yet socioeconomic stratification often shapes inequities in the design learning environment. These strategies can privilege students who already feel comfortable in academic environments or have had access to extracurricular activities such as internships or design conferences, and reinforce a culture of exclusion within our discipline. In these implicitly elitist systems, students who are new to the studio environment tend to remain unengaged within the community of inquirers that is the classroom.
In this presentation, we will explore Object-Based Learning (OBL) as a pedagogy which decenters privileged experiences and recenters student knowledge and lived experience. Object-Based Learning, the experiential pedagogy of engaging physically with objects through observation and reflection, is prevalent in the disciplines of art history, museum education, and archeology. We will focus on OBL phases of concrete experience, questioning, and communal reflection as methods of design research rooted in learner-constructed meaning and student agency. We will also focus on OBL as an activity that can take place in ordinary built environments with objects encountered in everyday life. Rooted in verbal observation and reflection, OBL can offer an equitable landscape for intellectual risk-taking and surprise, both valuable to the learning and design process.
During our presentation, we will share examples of OBL in the design studio, frameworks for implementing OBL in various studio classes, and the benefits of OBL as a design research method. We will also share qualitative reflections from an OBL activity in a Packaging Design course, and its ability to foster voice and agency.
Presentations and discussion in Research and Scholarship in Communication Design at the 110th Annual CAA Conference 2022
Recent research in Communication Design. Presentations of unique, significant creative work, design education, practice of design, case studies, contemporary practice, new technologies, methods, and design research. A moderated discussion will follow the series of presentations.
Identifying strategies, filling gaps in organizational offerings, andcollaboratively expand reach of local organizations.
Friday, February 14, 2020 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Hilton Chicago – Lower Level – Salon C-1
Design Incubation will host the College Art Association (CAA) conference business meeting for “Supporting the Chicago Design Community | Design Incubation Affiliated” at the Hilton Chicago on Friday, February 14th from 12:30–1:30 pm. There is no cost to attend this meeting.
Leaders from midwest design organizations including The Society of Typographic Arts, IxDA, AIGA, The New Media Caucus, Chicago Speculative Futures, The Society of Typographic Aficionados, Hexagon, The Chicago Design Archive, SEGD, and others will discuss industry, academic, and educational needs in the region. We hope this conversation will identify strategies for filling gaps in our organizational offerings, find opportunities for Design Incubation to support these long-standing groups, and collaboratively expand all of our reach.
Design Incubation is a volunteer academic organization whose focus and mission is the facilitation of research and scholarship in communication design. Our aim is to foster discussion and collaboration among academics and industry professionals. We are a resource for those working and studying within the field.