Design Incubation Colloquium 10.3: Tenth Anniversary, St. John’s University

Friday, June 7, 2024
Time: 1:00pm–5:00pm EST
St. John’s University, Manhattan Campus
101 Astor Place, New York, NY

Hosted by Liz DeLuna, Professor, St. John’s University

Presentations will be published on the Design Incubation YouTube Channel after May 29, 2024. This hybrid conference will be held on Friday, June 7, 2024 at 1pm EST at St. John’s University, Manhattan Campus.

Eventbrite Tickets, in-person and virtual attendance:


1:00pmLiz DeLuna: Welcome
Evolution in Content Creation: 10 years of The Design Writing Fellowship
Aaris Sherin, Professor, St. John’s University
Cultures of Excellence: Lessons Learned from Eight Years of the Communication Design Educators Awards
Steven McCarthy, Professor Emeritus, University of Minnesota
10 Years of Design Incubation’s Colloquium Presentations
Camila Afanador Llach, Peer Review Director, Design Incubation
Associate Professor, Florida Atlantic University
1:45pm– 2:45pmResearch Presentations
Navigating Web Accessibility: Lessons Learned from a Community of Practice 
Dannell  MacIlwraith, Assistant Professor, Kutztown University 
Mining for Ideas: Collaborative Collages as Spaces of Opportunity 
Anna Jordan, Assistant Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology 
Data in Motion: Storytelling with Data and Motion Graphics through a Graphic Design Practice & Pedagogy 
Eugene Park 
Associate Professor 
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities 
3:15pmKeynote: On the Consideration of a Black Grid
Silas Munro, Partner at Polymode, Artist, Design Author, and Design Educator
Practical Tips for Research Success and Remaining Sane
Robin Landa, Distinguished Professor, Michael Graves College, Kean University
3:45pm – 4:45pmResearch Presentations
Federico: Embracing Outside Influences 
Kyla Paolucci, Assistant Professor, St John’s University
Fuzzy Modes, Clear Communication – Radio as a Process, Tool, and Language for Graphic Design 
Matthew Flores, Graphic Design Fellow, School of Design, University of Tennessee-Knoxville 
Revitalizing Symbolic Urbanism: Digitalizing the Vernacular Visual Language of Detroit’s Urban Landscape 
Dho Yee Chung, Assistant Professor, Oakland University 
Copy, Transform, Combine: Extrapolating from 19th Century American Wood Type 
Javier Viramontes, Visiting Lecturer, Rochester Institute of Technology

Making History: Teaching Design History Methods in Studio

Learning outcomes emphasized gathering information, examining sources, interpreting evidence, connecting design to social contexts, and crafting historical narratives in text and image

Aggie Toppins
Associate Professor
Washington University in St. Louis

In Spring 2023, Toppins introduced a new course called “Making History” in which students had the opportunity to learn historical research methods and use them in their studio work. At the time, WashU had only one design history course, an elective survey of graphic design, which one student in my class had taken. An ungraded quiz on the first day of class showed that most students had no sense of what was (or was not) considered canonical. None were familiar with prevailing themes in graphic design history. Unlike a survey course, which tasks students with absorbing a broad scope of historical content, this course focused on making inquiries into the past. Learning outcomes emphasized gathering information, examining sources, interpreting evidence, connecting design to social contexts, and crafting historical narratives in text and image. 

Toppins’ teaching methods were hands-on and high-impact. Having secured a $2500 Sam Fox School teaching grant, she was able to bring in a number of guest speakers and take students on field trips. Students visited local archives, museums, and historical sites. They listened to scholars and designers with diverse backgrounds discuss their research methods and outcomes. They got to physically handle historical objects from cuneiform tablets to mid-century paste-ups. Students also read historical texts, critical essays, and watched documentaries to prepare for in-class discussions and debates. After each of these activities, students responded to prompts in a provided sketchbook. The sketchbook served as the “field notes” component of the course, in which students recorded their ongoing reflections and took notes on research. In most cases, the sketchbook helped students locate the topic for their final, self-guided project. Throughout the semester, leading up to this project, students engaged in four workshops that instilled specific methods. Each workshop resulted in a short outcome, like a zine or broadside, that kept students connecting the dots between making historical inquiries and making graphic design. The final project asked students to pursue a topic of their own interest. Students became primary investigators, forming their own questions and mapping out their own research approaches.

Student work from this class was strong in terms of formal design and critical positioning. Students could articulate their goals, match appropriate research methods to their questions, and translate their findings into criteria for design projects. They also became familiar with graphic design history’s prevailing themes by thinking critically about historiography and methodology.  Another important outcome of this course is that it gave Toppins the chance to test exercises and content for her forthcoming book, Thinking Through Graphic Design History. Some student work from this class will be published in the book, which will reach market in 2025.

This project was the 2023 Design Incubation Educators Awards winner recipient in the category of Teaching.

Aggie Toppins is an Associate Professor of Communication Design and Chair of Design at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. She combines studio practice and critical writing to explore the social life of graphics. Aggie’s creative work has been internationally exhibited and garnered national design awards including the Type Director’s Club ‘Certificate of Typographic Excellence,’ and the SECAC Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design award. Her recent writing has been published by Design and Culture, Design Issues, Diseña, Slanted, Eye, and AIGA Eye on Design. She has written essays for Briar Levit’s book Baseline Shift: Untold Stories of Women in Graphic Design History and Ali Place’s recent volume, Feminist Designer. Her first book Thinking Through Graphic Design History will be published by Bloomsbury in 2025.

A Plural Pedagogy for Graphic Design History

Revised documentation integrates more women, people of color, and underrepresented stories into the curriculum

Kristen Coogan
Associate Professor
Boston University

Today’s pressing social and political landscape prompts reflection. As people, designers, and educators, how can we actively contribute to the cultivation of more inclusive and balanced cultures? Amidst these circumstances, established historical narratives face renewed scrutiny, challenging their authority and the traditional confines of academic discourse. Nikole Hannah-Jones’ groundbreaking “The 1619 Project” confronts the whiteness of American History. Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” envisions educational spaces where a reimagined teacher-student dynamic invites diverse contributions. This research also recognizes the inherent bias found in any historical discourse built on collective knowledge yet often within a singular perspective. As the demand for a decentralized history grows, the question arises: how do we build a more inclusive design history? At Boston University, Graphic Design History students foster inclusivity through a plural design history pedagogy. Revised slide presentations integrate more women, people of color, and underrepresented stories into the curriculum — enabling students to find more of themselves throughout the narrative. Through interactive lab sessions, students contribute distinct viewpoints informed by supplementary readings, written responses, and collaborative discussions. Culminating in extended essays, students disrupt the Western design canon, spotlighting lesser-known designers and movements. These responses culminate in the “Design History Reader,” where specific texts reveal narratives beyond the established versus marginalized dichotomy. Chapters unveil conceptual ecosystems, emphasizing visual and contextual symmetries bridging dominant and minority narratives. The “Reader” serves as a dynamic starting point, open to interpretation. While not fully representative, it’s an expanding, living archive shaped by collective research.

This design research is presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 10.2: Annual CAA Conference 2024 (Hybrid) on Thursday, February 15, 2024.

Design Incubation Colloquium 10.2: Annual CAA Conference 2024 (Hybrid)

Presentations and discussion in Research and Scholarship in Communication Design at the 112th Annual CAA Conference 2024

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.

The colloquium session is open to all conference attendees.

Design Incubation Colloquium 10.2: Annual CAA Conference 2024
Thursday, February 15, 2024
12:00 PM – 1:30 PM
Hilton Chicago – 8th Floor – Lake Michigan (Hybrid)


Camila Afanador-Llach
Florida Atlantic University

Heather Snyder Quinn
DePaul University


Jessica Barness
Kent State University

Liz DeLuna
St John’s University

Dan Wong
New York City College of Technology, CUNY


A Plural Pedagogy for Graphic Design History
Kristen Coogan
Associate Professor
Boston University

Design Is Not Neutral
Grace Hamilton
Assistant Professor
Baruch College
City University New York

From Bricks to Pixels: The Evolution of Banna’i Kufic
Sajad Amini
Assistant Professor
DePaul University

Convergence of Science and Art to Support Climate Resilience in Central American Smallholder Communities
Qiuwen Li
Assistant Professor
Santa Clara University

Sara Wheeler
Undergraduate Student
Santa Clara University

Designing Dialogue: Leveraging Technology for Cultivating Inclusion and Belonging in Classroom Critique
Jenny Kowalski
Assistant Professor
Lehigh University

Abby Guido
Associate Professor
Temple University

Assessing Student Learning Outcomes in an Interdisciplinary, Experiential Course
Denise Anderson
Assistant Professor
Kean University

Analyzing Local Graphic Design History: A Pedagogical Approach
Christina Singer
Assistant Professor
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Uncanny Ways of Seeing: Engaging AI in Design Practice and Pedagogy
Drew Sisk
Assistant Professor
Clemson University

Designing Your Research Agenda (DYRA) 3.1

Design scholars and researchers discuss various aspects of their research agendas

Friday, November 17, 2023
12pm Eastern / 11am Central
Virtual Event

Designing Your Research Agenda is a 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 of discovering one’s design research inquiry. Designing Your Research Agenda is an ongoing design research event series.

  • Ayako Maruyama (RISD)
  • Nate Matteson  (DePaul University)
  • Johanna Mehl (TU Dresden)

Some of the questions we will discuss with panelists include:

  • 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, and yourself?
  • How do your department and institution define and support the work you do?
  • How would you describe/categorize your department and institution?
  • If you were going to position your work within a category, would you say your research 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, or something else?
  • What barriers (if any) exist at your institution or in the field for creating and disseminating your research?


Jessica Barness
Kent State University

Heather Snyder Quinn
DePaul University


Ayako Maruyama
Rhode Island School of Design

Ayako Maruyama (she/her) is a Filipina-Japanese designer, educator, and illustrator whose practice revolves around intentional collaboration, reflection, collective recovery, maintenance, and repair within the design domain. Working with organizers, artists, designers, students, and planners, Ayako’s involvement with the Design Studio for Social Intervention commenced in 2012. Notably, she recently co-authored and co-illustrated the published book, “Ideas Arrangements Effects: Systems Design and Social Justice.”

Ayako and her team at the Design Studio for Social Intervention focus on creating public engagement strategies that prioritize community development without displacement, along with reimagining public spaces at the Design Gym. With a rich background, Ayako has conducted numerous zine workshops, contributed as a faculty member at Boston University’s City Planning and Urban Affairs program since 2013, and initiated the annual Experience of Public Engagement studio at RISD in 2017.

Having served as an Urbanist in Residence and currently being part of the Collective Recovery Team at the University of Orange, Ayako holds a position as a Board Member at the institution. Additionally, she serves as an Assistant Professor in the Industrial Design department at the Rhode Island School of Design, where she imparts knowledge through teaching graduate thesis studio, foundational, and advanced design studios.

Nate Matteson 
DePaul University

Nathan Matteson is an Associate professor at DePaul University’s School of Design; a co-director of DePaul’s ‘Scandinavia: design, landscape, and society’ study abroad program; a researcher with the Center for robust decision-making in climate and energy policy at the University of Chicago; and a principal and designer at Obstructures. He is a ruthlessly collaborative designer whose work merrily ignores the perceived boundaries among disciplines, and is currently engaged with dead Swedish architects, guitars, the US energy sector, obstacles, and objects in the distance. His practice situates itself at an intersection amongst intersections, dead ends, superhighways, and goat paths, wringing its metaphorical hands over the relationships among computation, intention, materiality, and immateriality.

Johanna Mehl
TU Dresden

Johanna Mehl (she/her) is a designer, scholar, and educator interested in the politics and relations that take shape through and around design practices. She holds a B.A. in Communication Design and an M.A. in Art and Design Studies. Besides her artistic and curatorial practice, she has taught in the fields of digital media, culture studies, and design theory at different design schools across Europe. She is an editorial board member of the Design+Posthumanism Network and part of the research group Against Catastrophe. She holds research fellowship at TU Dresden where she is a  PhD candidate at the Chair for Digital Cultures. Her dissertation is about design responses to the climate crisis and stems from critiques of design that acknowledge its entanglements not only with the material realities, but also the geopolitical, psychological, and social conditions of climate change.

Sustainable Design Pedagogy: A Fifteen-Week Case Study of Sustainable and Climate Design Methodology and Outcomes

A look at foundational systems thinking.

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.

This design research was presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 9.2: Annual CAA Conference 2023 (Virtual) on Saturday, February 18, 2023.

The Limits of Control: Nonhierarchical Modes of Making, Decentering the Designer

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.

This design research was presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 9.2: Annual CAA Conference 2023 (Virtual) on Saturday, February 18, 2023.

Graphic Design and Authority: How the Design of Documents and Signage Creates, Endorses, and Authenticates Power Structures

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.

This design research was presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 9.2: Annual CAA Conference 2023 (Virtual) on Saturday, February 18, 2023.

Chicano Independent Publication Masthead Design

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.

This design research was presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 9.2: Annual CAA Conference 2023 (Virtual) on Saturday, February 18, 2023.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Design: A Diachronic Investigation Into the Word ‘Design’

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.

This design research was presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 9.2: Annual CAA Conference 2023 (Virtual) on Saturday, February 18, 2023.