Navigating Web Accessibility: Lessons Learned from a Community of Practice

The American Disability Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability, its website does not provide legal details on complying with US web accessibility laws, only suggestions.

Dannell MacIlwraith
Assistant Professor
Kutztown University

Our college dove deep into a Community of Practice (CoP) on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in the 2022-2023 academic year. Higher education has embraced CoPs to encourage change and provide opportunities for faculty growth. They build community, enhance cross-discipline collaboration, promote new knowledge, and foster innovation among faculty. Our college asked faculty from different departments and majors to volunteer to meet monthly to discuss improving the DEI in one of their courses or a specific project. In my Interactive Design class, I investigated a website redesign project. My curiosity lay in how much students prioritized accessibility in their designs and their understanding of web accessibility. Our emphasis revolved around acquiring knowledge of practices and tools aiding user accessibility, evaluating internet connection speed, and catering to the needs of the visually impaired. These themes formed the focal points of our group discussions and research.

In the United Kingdom and Canada, web accessibility is required by law. In the United States, the American Disability Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination based on disability. Still, its website does not provide legal details on complying with US web accessibility laws, only suggestions. In the United States, class action suits for ADA violations are on the rise. In 2019, 2285 lawsuits were filed, an increase of 181% from the previous year. Most cases have been settled out of court, with companies agreeing to make the necessary changes to their website. My presentation will demonstrate how my research examined several of these lawsuits (including Netflix and Dominos) and how a better, more inclusive communication design would have avoided these problems.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are recommendations for making online content accessible and more inclusive. The advice is for websites to be:

  • perceivable,
  • operable,
  • understandable,
  • and robust.

In my presentation, I will detail how a Community of Practice (COP) facilitated my examination of our class project while guiding students to assess their designs using WCAG recommendations. For example, for a site to be understandable, users “must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface.” To maximize the understandability of text, designers should avoid using pure black (HEX #000000) for text, as it makes the eyes work harder due to the extreme contrast on a white background. Another example is being mindful of colorblind individuals and how websites would appear to anyone with a visual impairment.

I aim to illustrate to designers how minor design adjustments can significantly enhance a website’s inclusivity.

This design research is presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 10.3: Tenth Anniversary, St. John’s University (Hybrid) on Friday, June 7, 2024.

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:

Agenda

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 
2:45–3:15pmBREAK
3:15pmOn the Consideration of a Black Grid
Keynote Presentation
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 
Old World, New Forms: Extrapolating 19th Century American Wood Type 
Javier Viramontes, Visiting Lecturer, Rochester Institute of Technology

Analyzing Local Graphic Design History: A Pedagogical Approach

Students visit local and online archives, and conduct research online to contextualize their artifacts in local and graphic design history

Christina Singer
Assistant Professor
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Undergraduate Design Research students at UNC Charlotte have been investigating local graphic design history as part of an ongoing project since Fall 2021. What artifacts do students decide to illuminate, and why? This presentation clusters and analyzes 183 local graphic design artifacts and topics that 61 students have chosen to research, write about, and contribute to the People’s Graphic Design Archive. The project teaches students about biases and factors that contribute to who and what has been included in graphic design history. Students visit local and online archives, and conduct research online to contextualize their artifacts in local and graphic design history. Through this process, students research ways of making, social movements, and graphic design history in order to construct and write a story for each artifact. Students review each other’s writing and create a class book, which combines their essays and sources with a collaborative timeline of the local graphic design artifacts they selected to research. The collection of individual choices that students make regarding what they choose to contribute to the PGDA’s effort to democratize design history has become a separate topic of inquiry for both research and pedagogical purposes. This presentation analyzes the students’ choices and the stories they tell.

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

Designing Dialogue: Leveraging Technology for Cultivating Inclusion and Belonging in Classroom Critique

CritMoves would allow faculty to create a set of specific prompts that would be randomly assigned to students via student cell phones

Jenny Kowalski
Assistant Professor
Lehigh University

Abby Guido
Associate Professor
Temple University

Peer critique is a tool for formative and summative assessment in art and design classrooms (Motley, 2016). Although some forms of critiques are dominated by the instructor (Barrett, 2000), a framework encouraging peer discussion establishes a collaborative environment and fosters meta-cognitive skills (Topping, 1998).

Two graphic design professors are proposing a tool called CritMoves to enhance participation in classroom critiques. Based on the concept of conversational moves (Nichols, 2019), CritMoves would allow faculty to create a set of specific prompts that would be randomly assigned to students via student cell phones. Students could “execute” prompts during the critique, gamifying the critique experience and encouraging peer communication.

Prompts such as “agree with what was just said and add additional feedback” or “disagree with what was just said and share an opposing view” encourage students to engage in a full discussion. Other prompts such as “discuss the color contrast in this piece” direct students to focus on specific details that can be connected to pedagogical goals. Our intention is that the structure of the curated prompts will lead to more positive feelings towards peer critique and a greater sense of belonging in the classroom.

This presentation will discuss the early stages of this research and the development of a prototype through an interdisciplinary collaboration of students in Computer Science and Graphic and Interactive Design programs. We are interested in engaging in a conversation about how best to utilize technology to foster human interaction and connection in art and design classrooms.

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

Design Is Not Neutral

A podcast featuring design educators discussing gaps in design education

Grace Hamilton
Assistant Professor
Baruch College
 City University New York

This project confronts design and design education’s historical exclusion of marginalized voices due to Eurocentric, capitalist, and patriarchal biases. It champions a feminist, practice-driven approach for an anti-patriarchal and post-capitalist design pedagogy, challenging the notion that design is confined to formal structures.

The “Design is Not Neutral” podcast is central to this initiative, featuring design educators discussing gaps in design education. It reveals the entanglement of design education with corporate capitalism, especially in the United States, while dismantling the division between craft, design, and art. This scrutiny exposes oppressive structures sidelining craft-based design, aiming to broaden design education’s horizons.

In the following phase, a knitting workshop was introduced to confront power dynamics and reintegrate “low design” or craft into the classroom. This hands-on workshop encourages everyday creativity, collaborative learning, and questions gender-based hierarchies in design curricula, empowering what’s traditionally labeled “craft.”

Aligned with scholars like bell hooks, Louise Schouwenberg, Paulo Freire, and Cheryl Buckley, this feminist intervention emphasizes “design in the margins” in education. The project’s podcast serves as a centralized resource, ensuring accessibility for educators looking to integrate feminist curricula.

This initiative reimagines design education through a feminist lens, challenging craft-based design stereotypes and engaging with design education’s historical ties to capitalism. Its aim is to create a more inclusive, equitable design pedagogy, centering marginalized perspectives and subaltern forms of making, contributing to a diverse, accessible, and just society.

This design research was 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)

CHAIRS

Camila Afanador-Llach
Florida Atlantic University

Heather Snyder Quinn
DePaul University

Discussants

Jessica Barness
Kent State University

Liz DeLuna
St John’s University

Dan Wong
New York City College of Technology, CUNY

PRESENTATIONS

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

CFP: 2023 Design Incubation Communication Design Awards

Call for Nominations and Entries for the 2023 Design Incubation Educators Awards Competition.

Design Incubation announces a call for nominations and entries for the 2023 awards for communication design educators and graduate students in the areas of scholarship, teaching, service. The aim of the awards program is to discover and recognize new scholarship (creative work and publications), teaching, and service in our broad and varied discipline. We hope to expand the design record, promote excellence and share knowledge within the field. 

Nominations and Entries

We ask colleagues and mentors to identify outstanding creative work, publications, teaching, and service being created by design educators in the field communication design and to nominate these individuals for an award. Nominations will be accepted until January 15, 2024 

ENTRY GUIDELINES

Entries will be accepted until January 15, 2024. Nominations are not required to enter in this scholarly competition. Complete the online entry form (https://designincubation.com/design-incubation-awards-competition-entry-form/) with the following:

  • Title: Description of project and outcomes (not to exceed 500 words)
  • Supporting Materials: (limited to 5-page medium resolution pdf of artwork; web links to websites, videos, other online resources; published documents or visual documents)
  • Biography of applicant/s (150 words per applicant)
  • Curriculum vitae of applicant/s
  • $20 entry fee donation

2023 JURY

Steven McCarthy (Chair), University of Minnesota

Helen Armstrong
Professor
North Carolina State University

Anne H. Berry
Associate Professor
Cleveland State University

Warren Lehrer
Founding Faculty
School of Visual Arts, MFA Design

Ana Raposo
Lecturer
ESAD – Escola Superior de Arte e Design
Porto, Portugal

Neeta Verma
Associate Professor
University of Notre Dame

BIOGRAPHIES

Helen Armstrong

Helen Armstrong is Professor of Graphic & Experience Design at North Carolina State University. She has an MFA in Graphic Design from The Maryland Institute College of Art. Armstrong has authored several books including her latest: Big Data, Big Design: Why Designers Should Care About Artificial Intelligence. Armstrong is a past member of the AIGA National Board of Directors and she served on the editorial board of the journal Design and Culture.

Anne H. Berry

Anne H. Berry is Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Design at Cleveland State University. She has an MFA in graphic design from Kent State University. Her research focuses on race and representation in design, and ethnic and racial disparities within the field of graphic design. Berry was managing editor of the book The Black Experience in Design: Identity, Expression, and Reflection, which was included in Fast Company’s “Best Design Books of 2022.”

Warren Lehrer

Warren Lehrer is a founding faculty member of SVA’s Designer as Author/Entrepreneur MFA program and Professor Emeritus at Purchase College, SUNY. Lehrer has an MFA from Yale University, is a writer and designer known internationally as a pioneer in the fields of visual literature and design authorship. His artists’ books and multimedia projects have been widely exhibited and are in many collections including MoMA, The Met, Pompidou Centre, and Tate Gallery. Among many honors, he is a 2019 Ladislav Sutnar Laureate, and 2016 Center for Book Arts Honoree.

Steven McCarthy (Chair)

Steven McCarthy is Professor Emeritus of graphic design at the University of Minnesota. He has an MFA from Stanford University. He authored the book The Designer As… Author, Producer, Activist, Entrepreneur, Curator and Collaborator: New Models for Communicating. McCarthy’s creative work has been in over 135 juried and invitational exhibitions and has been honored by the AIGA, STA 100 and Graphis Poster. He has published in the journals Design Issues, Message, Visible Language, Design and Culture, She Ji, and AIGA Dialectic, and occasionally writes for Eye magazine.

Ana Raposo

Ana Raposo is Lecturer at art and design academy ESAD (Escola Superior de Arte e Design) located in Porto, Portugal. She is a graphic designer, educator and design researcher who has a PhD from Central Saint Martins / University of the Arts, London. Raposo has published a number of journal articles about punk rock music graphics, facism and politics and has presented at the Design History Society conference and the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association national conference.

Neeta Verma

Neeta Verma is an Associate Professor of Visual Communication Design at the University of Notre Dame. She has an MFA from Yale University. Verma’s areas of research and teaching explore the critical use of design as a tool for social equity and justice. She has been the recipient of numerous awards. Her professional design work includes clients such as the American Red Cross, Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, Liberty Science Center, The New York Botanical Garden, The New York Public Library, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Wildlife Conservation Society.

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?

Moderators

Jessica Barness
Kent State University

Heather Snyder Quinn
DePaul University

Biographies

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.

https://tu-dresden.de/gsw/slk/germanistik/digitalcultures/forschung/research-projects/the-world-as-a-design-problem

Colloquium 10.2: CAA Conference 2024 Call for Submissions

112th CAA Annual Conference, Virtual Format.
Deadline for abstract submissions: August 31, 2023

We invite abstract submissions on presentation topics relevant to Communication Design research. Submissions should fall into one or more of the following areas: scholarly research, case studies, creative practice, or design pedagogy. We welcome proposals on a variety of topics across the field of communication design.

Submit an abstract of 300 words using the Design Incubation abstract submission form found here (indicating preference for virtual or in-person session):
https://designincubation.com/call-for-submissions/

Submissions are double-blind peer-reviewed. Reviewers’ feedback will be returned. Accepted presentation abstracts will be published on the Design Incubation website.

For the virtual session, accepted researchers will be required to produce a 6-minute videotaped presentation that will be published on the Design Incubation channel. The CAA conference session will consist of a moderated discussion of those presentations.

In-person sessions would involve 6-minute presentations from each accepted submission researcher, followed by a moderated group discussion.

112th CAA Annual Conference
Virtual and Chicago, IL
February 14-17, 2024

Recorded Presentations and
Live Moderated Discussion Online

Final format of conference event will be determined at a later date. Presenters will follow the basic membership and fee requirements of CAA.

We are accepting abstracts for presentations now until August 31, 2023.

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.