Design Incubation Directors Jessica Barness, Liz DeLuna, Camila Afanador-Llach, and Dan Wong will moderate a discussion on the mapping of design research and its development trajectory.
Design Incubation recently launched a new initiative to map current activities in Communication Design Research and Scholarship (R&S). We kicked off this project at the international Design Research Society (DRS) Festival of Emergence 2021, and workshopped a second phase with AIGA DEC November 2021. This map is a collaborative, living, visual document that will further establish historical precedents and future trajectories for Communication Design R&S. Join us as we share progress, generate dialogue, and continue to shape this project.
AIGA DEC edition with Design Incubation Chairs Jessica Barness, Liz DeLuna, Heather Snyder Quinn, and Dan Wong. Design Incubation recently launched a new initiative to map current activities in Communication Design Research and Scholarship (R&S). We kicked off this project at the international Design Research Society Festival of Emergence last month, and for this second phase, we are bringing it to the AIGA DEC. This map is a collaborative, living, visual document that will further establish historical precedents and future trajectories for Communication Design R&S. Join us as we share progress, generate dialogue, and continue to shape this project.
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.
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.
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.
Friday, October 29, 2021
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?
Jessica Barness and Heather Snyder Quinn
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.