Towards a Typographic Pluriverse

The notion of decolonizing type is massive in scope: from its history, to its design, application, technology, and future.

Laura Rossi García
Professional Lecturer
DePaul University

This research examines the history, practice, and pedagogy of typography. Typography is at the core of design—both implicit and explicit in its role in shaping language, culture, and power structures—but it is mired in “racial homogeneity and dominated by white men.”1 The selection, use, and application of typography—from style to legibility—can uphold or disrupt dynamics of power: who can read it, who uses it, who made it, whose voice does it carry—human, machine, the included or the excluded. While there is great movement to decolonize design, less is happening specific to decolonizing typography, or decolonizing type pedagogy. “Letterforms are loaded cultural objects” 2 —a container for language— and an “extension of the spiritual, social, political, and historic mind-set of nations”.3

The very notion of decolonizing type is massive in scope: from its history, to its design, application, technology, and future. How do we broaden and re-frame the structures and systems that exist in order to make room for oppressed and marginalized voices and make inclusive the societies in which we live? This presentation will introduce a series of case studies that serve as examples for how to reconsider the very root of thought around type systems and their effects and influence on our students, the field of design, and ultimately our products, systems, and societies.

1. Munro, Silas. “Typography as a Radical Act in an Industry Ever-dominate by White Men,” AIGA Eye on Design, August 26, 2019. Accessed: December 15, 2020. URL: https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/tre-seals-is-turning-typography-into-a-radical-act/
2. Munro, Silas. Ib, id.
3. Shehab, Bahia and Haytham Nawar. “Early Arabic Printing” in A History of Arab Graphic Design. American University in Cairo Press: 2020. pp. 29-41.

Redefining The Default: Decentering Pedagogical Perspective in the Typography Classroom

Educators need diverse representation in course materials—students must feel seen in order to truly succeed.

Mia Culbertson
Assistant Professor
Kutztown University

Typography is central to design, yet the standard curriculum centers around Western, able-bodied, straight, white, and male figures, frequently misrepresenting or excluding marginalized communities. In educational and professional spaces, this can have harmful effects on BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and disabled designer and student communities. Creating a typography classroom that prioritizes equitable representation will avoid alienating minority student communities and reduce stereotyping through uninformed design decisions.

There has been a recent push in our discipline to decenter and decolonize our curriculum with the publication of resources like Decentering Whiteness in Design History Resources (Pass et al., 2020) and Extra Bold (Lupton et al., 2021); in this presentation I will discuss the importance of doing so specifically within the realm of typography. As the visual preservation of language, typography can be intricate, particularly when positioned within the larger context of world history. As often seen in other fields, minority communities’ contributions are often excluded from the canon despite frequently serving as the foundation on which Western designers expanded on; for example, facets of typography in the Belgian Art Nouveau movement can be linked to traditional Congolese motifs.  

To send emerging designers out into the world who truly understand the cultural nuances of typography and creating with rather than for communities, educators need diverse representation in course materials—students must feel seen in order to truly succeed. Teaching non-Latin communications such as the ancient Vai syllabary and introducing designers from marginalized communities like Angel DeCora empowers students and ensures these significant contributions to the development of typography are not forgotten or “othered”; it also helps ensure students’ broad perspective and historical context as they develop their own typographic practices, avoiding stereotypes and appropriation in design. Decentering pedagogical perspective in the typography classroom has widespread implications for marginalized student communities and our discipline at large.

Social Media as Design-Writing Process Tool

This process relies on steps familiar to designers: problem identification, research, and the cyclical process of iteration, making, and user testing.

Dori Griffin
Assistant Professor
University of Florida

Writing, like design and design education, is an iterative process which benefits from informal peer critique.  Type Specimens: A Visual History of Typesetting & Printing (Bloomsbury Academic, forthcoming December 2021) is a global narrative of typographic history. It considers the problem of typography as a tool of capitalism and colonization and — according to Reviewer Two — “irresponsibly shows beginners too many [global] examples that aren’t canonical.” The Cary Fellowship at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the Design Incubation Fellowship, among others, have supported its development. Throughout, social media played a key role as a process tool in the book’s research-writing-design. This approach echoes how designers and educators deploy informal peer critique in the studio as a community-driven teaching and learning tool. This presentation explores how social media can support meaningful design-writing scholarship. This process relies on steps familiar to designers: problem identification, research, and the cyclical process of iteration, making, and user testing. As design develops a disciplinary literature of its own, designers can bring visual ways of knowing and learning to the process of writing our own diverse and often previously unknown histories. We can leverage tools seemingly alien to the scholarly writing process: sketching, informal peer critique, and social media texts, images, and discussions. I’ve approached Type Specimens as a project framed by code-switching and multilingual text production; the visual is, after all, a set of languages. Social media has been a powerful tool to fuel and document this process. This presentation shows that journey.

Colloquium 8.1: Seton Hall University

Saturday, October 23, 2021
Time: 1:00pm–2:00pm
Online ZOOM event

Hosted by Christine Lhowe, Assistant Professor and Christine Krus, Professor of Art & Design, College of Communication and the Arts, Seton Hall University.

Presentations will be published on the Design Incubation YouTube Channel after October 5, 2021. Virtual Conference will be held online on Saturday, October 23, 2021 at 1pm EST.

Moderators

Camila Afanador Llach
Assistant Professor
Florida Atlantic University

Christine Lhowe
Assistant Professor
Seton Hall University

Christine Krus
Professor
Seton Hall University

Presentations

Towards a Typographic Pluriverse
Laura Rossi García
Professional Lecturer
DePaul University

Social Media as Design-Writing Process Tool
Dori Griffin
Assistant Professor
University of Florida

Utterly Butterly Propaganda: An Analysis of Illustration as a Tool of Persuasion in Amul™ Ads
Kruttika Susarla
Graduate Student
Washington University in St. Louis

Mash Maker: Improvisation for Design Student Studios 
Ryan Slone
Assistant Professor
University of Arkansas

Bree McMahon
Assistant Professor
University of Arkansas

Redefining The Default: Decentering Pedagogical Perspective in the Typography Classroom
Mia Culbertson
Assistant Professor
Kutztown University

Interactive Storytelling for Packaging: Design Using Augmented Technology to Explore Personal and Social Identities
Linh Dao
Assistant Professor
California Polytechnic State University



Designing Your Research Agenda 1.2

Friday, October 29, 2021
4PM EST
Online ZOOM Event

Designing Your Research Agenda is an panel discussion and open forum for design scholars and researchers to discuss various aspects of their research agendas. We aim to open a dialog regarding multiple challenges discovering one’s design research inquiry. Design Incubation will also be discussing some of their ongoing work with the mission and focus of supporting design research. Designing Your Research Agenda is an ongoing design research event series.

Some of the questions we will discuss with panelists

  • How did you determine your research agenda (high level timeline of your career/trajectory)
  • How do you define research and why do you think it matters — for society, the field, yourself?
  • How do your department and institution define and support the work you do?
  • How would you describe/categorize your department and institution?
  • How do you position your research: design theory, design history, design practice, design research (traditional graphic design, speculative design, UX/UI, typography, AR, VR, creative computing, design solutions, etc.), design pedagogy, or something else?
  • What barriers (if any) exist at your institution or in the field for creating and disseminating your research?

Moderators

Jessica Barness and Heather Snyder Quinn

PANELISTS

Tasheka Arceneaux-Sutton
Associate Professor of Graphic Design
North Carolina State University and
Faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts

Tasheka Arceneaux-Sutton is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at North Carolina State University. She has taught graphic design at Southeastern Louisiana University and Typography at Loyola Marymount University. She is also a faculty in the low-residency MFA program in Graphic Design at Vermont College of Fine Arts. In addition, Arceneaux is the principal at Blacvoice Design, a studio specializing in branding, electronic media, identity, illustration, print, and publication design for educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and small businesses. Arceneaux’s research focuses on discovering Black people omitted from the graphic design history canon. Recently, her research is focused on Black women who have made significant contributions to the graphic design profession. She is also interested in the visual representation of Black people in the media and popular culture, primarily through the lens of stereotypes.

Instagram: @blacvoice

Liat Berdugo 
Associate Professor of Art and Architecture
University of San Francisco

Liat Berdugo is an artist and writer whose work investigates embodiment, labor, and militarization in relation to capitalism, technological utopianism, and the Middle East. Her work has been exhibited and screened at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), MoMA PS1 (New York), Transmediale (Berlin), V2_Lab for the Unstable Media (Rotterdam), and The Wrong Biennale (online), among others. Her writing appears in Rhizome, Temporary Art Review, Real Life, Places, and The Institute for Network Cultures, among others, and her latest book is The Weaponized Camera in the Middle East (Bloomsbury/I.B.Tauris,  2021). She is one half of the art collective, Anxious to Make, and is the co-founder of the Living Room Light Exchange, a monthly new media art series. Berdugo received an MFA from RISD and a BA from Brown University. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art + Architecture at the University of San Francisco. Berdugo lives and works in Oakland, CA. More at www.liatberdugo.com

Instagram: @whatliat
Twitter: @whatliat

Caspar Lam 
Assistant Professor
Director of the BFA Communication Design Program
Parsons School of Design

Caspar Lam is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the BFA Communication Design Program at Parsons. He is also a partner at Synoptic Office, an award-winning design consultancy working globally with leading cultural, civic, and business organizations. His research and practice explore the systematic relationships among graphic design, data, language, and their influence on visual culture. Caspar holds an MFA from Yale and degrees in biology and design from the University of Texas at Austin. He formerly led design and digital strategy at Artstor, a Mellon-funded non-profit developing digital products related to metadata and publishing for institutions like Harvard and Cornell. Adobe, AIGA, and the ID Annual Design Review have recognized his work. He has been a visiting critic at the Hong Kong Design Institute and served as an Adjunct Associate Research Scholar at Columbia University ́s GSAPP. He sits on the board of directors of AIGA NY.

More at www.synopticoffice.com

Instagram: @synopticoffice

Mapping the Landscape of Research and Scholarly Activities in Communication Design

Design Research Society’s Festival of Emergence.
Friday, Sept 10 at 8am EST

Jessica Barness, Heather Synder Quinn, Dan Wong, Liz DeLuna

Facilitators: Laura Rossi Garcia, Nathan Matteson, Rebecca Tegtmeyer, Matt Wizinsky

https://drsfestivalofemergence.org/

This moment requires a potentially radical pivot towards reconsidering research and scholarship (R&S) in Communication Design. Academic institutions look to the disciplines for their knowledge and theoretical development within the field. They also expect established definitions and norms for research and scholarship, as the ways we bring forth novel work into thinking beyond the status quo. Therefore R&S must be defined by the discipline to ensure consensus among peers and thought leaders and subsequently recognized by institutions based upon their missions. We could be doing this better. The goal of this Moment is to generate a living, visual document to further establish historical precedents and future trajectories for Communication Design R&S. As the landscape broadens with new technological innovations, global crises force us to adopt new ways to share and communicate ideas and establish new methods, projects, and theses. This collaborative map will help to frame subsequent public discussions.

Outline: This Moment is part presentation, part workshop, and part coffee break.

The agenda will be as follows:

  • Brief introduction by the proposers
  • Proposers present a series of prompts
  • Groups are given access to a Miro online whiteboard
  • Full group collaboratively discussing a holistic map of Communication Design R&S

Stories from the Mchafukoge: Kanga as a form of Visual Communication

Kanga cloth, cotton fabric wraps screen printed, typically in three colors, that measure about 39 inches x 59 inches, are bought and sold in Tanzania and Kenya

 Ziddi Msangi
Associate Professor
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Vermont College of Fine Arts

My interest in this project spawns from my own cultural history, one that I revisited when I embarked on a creative writing exercise during a sabbatical in 2011. As I thought of colors and language, images of the Kanga of my childhood emerged. As a designer, I realized in retrospect that this cloth was layered with meaning and needed deeper scholarly exploration on my part. 

This paper analyzes the intersectional space between public and private that Kanga cloth occupy and the specific context that Kanga cloth are bought and sold in Tanzania and Kenya. Kanga are cotton fabric wraps screen printed, typically in three colors, that measure about 39 inches x 59 inches (100 cm by 150 cm). The structure of the kanga consists of three parts: a patterned border, a central design and a saying or proverb that is placed in a box, above the bottom border. They are produced in Tanzania and Kenya for the domestic market. Kanga are also produced abroad and imported from India and China. This study situates Kanga in the area of visual communication practice. 

Because Kanga cloth occupies a unique discursive space, a case study approach allows for the retention of individual, personal voices and the specific context that Kanga are used. The corpus of this study is based on life story interviews of four women who sell Kanga in the Mchafukoge market, conducted during the summer of 2018. Because of the historical nature of this textile, the interviews also consisted of viewing the private collection and allowing the women to “read” the fabric and describe their personal history in relation to the storied cloth. 

Kanga are significant because they inhabit an intersectional space between public and private when women wear them. A subtle, but important role of Kanga is its function as resistance (Beck, 2000). Women read the text and memorize it as associates with a certain pattern. So in passing, one may know the message contained on a Kanga without necessarily being able to read the inscription. 

Therefore contextualizing Kanga as a historical visual communication practice and a contemporary political act is significant for two reasons: it fills a gap in the literature and it brings an East African interpretative framework to the objects of study. The significance of Kanga are the weaving of intercultural influences. Symbols, images and language express both the present and past narratives of the peoples that form Swahili identity. (Ressler, 2012). 

Significantly, this project analyzes Kanga, worn on women’s bodies, as forms of intercultural communication and an affirmation of identity, which ultimately participates in acts of subversion and agency. This project considers Kanga as a visual text wrapped in history, social protest and gender politics. 

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 7.3: Florida Atlantic University on Saturday, April 10, 2021.

Design Incubation Colloquium 7.3: Florida Atlantic University

A Virtual Conference Saturday, April 10, 2021, 1PM EST.

Presentations will be published on the Design Incubation YouTube Channel after April 3, 2021. Virtual Conference will be held online on Saturday, April 10, 2021 at 1pm EST.

Colloquium 7.3: Florida Atlantic University (#DI2021apr) will be held online. Registration for this event below.

Virtually hosted by Camila Afanador-Llach, Assistant Professor + Graduate Coordinator, Graphic Design, the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University. This event is open to all interested in Communication Design research.

Please view research presentations before attending the moderated discussion on Saturday, April 10, 2021.

Presentations

Forensic Abstraction in Israel/Palestine: the Graphic Representations of Bodies in Citizen Media
Liat Berdugo
Assistant Professor
University of San Francisco

The Spectacle of Violence: Illustrating Surpanakha’s Mutilation
Shreyas R Krishnan
Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
Washington University in St.Louis

Visual and Verbal Communication on Sustainable Packaging As a Vehicle for Public Education and Awareness
Hyena Nam
Adjunct Professor
Visual Communication Department
Kent State University

Stories from the Mchafukoge: Kanga as a Form of Visual Communication
Ziddi Msangi
Associate Professor
University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
Vermont College of Fine Arts

Addressing Opportunity: The Landscape of Inequality
Mia Cinelli
Assistant Professor
The University of Kentucky

Shoshana Shapiro
PhD Candidate
University of Michigan

Understanding Racial And Gender Bias In Ai And How To Avoid It In Your Designs And Design Education
Sarah Pagliaccio
Adjunct Professor
Lesley University
College of Art and Design
Brandeis University

Designing Products of the Future Through Speculative Design
Mehrdad Sedaghat-Baghbani
Assistant Professor
Florida Atlantic University

Teaching Communications Design History Beyond the Canon

How do we avoid a “value this, discard that” attitude?

Carey Gibbons
Visiting Assistant Professor
Pratt Institute

The publication of Martha Scotford’s “Is There a Canon of Graphic Design History?” (1991), and the broader questioning of the idea of the canon across design history, art history, and other disciplines in recent years, has resulted in a closer examination of the study of communications design history. The need to move beyond the canon of communications design, which tends to emphasize the accomplishments of white male designers and dismisses the potential importance of anonymous works, feels particularly urgent following the Black Lives Matter protests and in light of the increasing attention being given to racial injustice. This presentation discusses the challenges and opportunities associated with designing a communications design history course. How do we avoid a “value this, discard that” attitude while still acknowledging figures whose philosophies or works had a seminal or pivotal impact upon the evolution of the field? How do we cover both mainstream and marginal forms of communications design? Additionally, are we going beyond artistic or formal qualities, and examining communications design as a history of ideas, as advocated by Tibor Kalman, J. Abbott Miller, and Karrie Jacobs in their influential 1991 Print magazine article, “Good History/Bad History”? After examining these questions, I will discuss my recent experience teaching communications design history at the Pratt Institute, where I have increasingly attempted to show that individuals from a variety of races, ethnicities, gender expressions, geographic backgrounds, cultures, and socioeconomic groups have contributed to the field of communications design. I will focus on my students’ experience participating in a class Instagram account (@beyondthecommdesigncanon), which aims to unearth and examine the people and stories of communications design that have been traditionally overlooked and not part of the commonly-taught “canon” of design history.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 7.2: 109th CAA Annual Conference on Wednesday, February 10, 2021.

Connecting Scholars, Building Community, Design Research Network(ing) | Design Incubation Affiliated Society Meeting

This open forum will have design scholars and researchers discuss various research topics, offer their ideas, discuss opportunities for contributors/participants/collaborators, and open dialog regarding multiple challenges within the design research field.

Friday, February 12, 2021
12:30 PM Eastern Time (the US and Canada)
Online ZOOM Event

This is the Affiliated Society meeting of the 109th CAA Annual Conference. The meeting is open to non-conference attendees as well. Please register in advance for this event.

Overview:

Please join us at The College Art Association (CAA) Design Incubation Affiliated Society meeting | Connecting Scholars, Building Community, Design Research Network(ing) virtually on Friday, February 12, from 12:30-1:30 pm (EST).

Design Incubation is a volunteer academic organization whose focus and mission are facilitating research and scholarship in design. We aim to foster discussion and collaboration among academics and industry professionals. We are a resource for those working and studying within the field.

This open forum will have design scholars and researchers discuss various research topics, offer their ideas, discuss opportunities for contributors/participants/collaborators, and open dialog regarding multiple challenges within the design research field. Design Incubation will also be discussing some of their ongoing work with the mission/focus of supporting design research.

Some of the questions we will discuss with panelists include:

  • How did you determine your research agenda?
  • How do your dept and institution define and support the work you do?
  • How would you describe/categorize your dept and institution?
  • If you were going to position your research within a category, would you say your work addresses: design theory,
    design history, design practice, design research (traditional graphic design, speculative design, UXUI, typography, AR, VR, creative computing, design solutions, etc.), design pedagogy, something else?

MODERATOR:

Dan Wong
Associate Professor, New York City College of Technology, CUNY
Co-founder/Executive Director, Design Incubation

Dan’s research considers the forms and methodologies of communication design research and innovates through the practice of communication design.

PANELISTS:

Heather­­­ Snyder Quinn
Assistant Professor, DePaul University’s School of Design
Director of Design Futures, Design Incubation

Heather’s research uses design fiction and speculative design to question the ethics of emerging technologies, challenge technocratic power, and imagine possible futures.

Jessica Barness
Associate Professor, School of Visual Communication Design, Kent State University
Director of Research Initiatives, Design Incubation

Jessica’s research focuses on social media, publication practices, and the design of scholarship, and how these relate to issues of power and representation.

Ayako Takase
Assistant Professor of Industrial Design, Rhode Island School of Design
Director of Master Program
Co-Founder, Observatory Design

Ayako’s design research focuses on evolving relationships between people, objects, and technology in the context of work.

Penina Acayo Laker
Assistant Professor, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University St. Louis
Co-Principal Investigator, Mobility for All by All

Penina’s research centers around topics that utilize a human-centered approach to solving social problems.


Registration required. Please use your institutional email to register.