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.

Adaptation in Design Research: Combatting Social Isolation in Older Adults

Our need to socially connect is the strongest evidence of our shared humanity.

Christine Lhowe
Assistant Professor
Seton Hall University

At the core of human-centered design are people. Grounded in empathy and driven by human needs, HCD has the power to improve quality of life for individuals and society. As our communities, environments, and global structures change, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, design must adapt to serve people within new contexts.

Our need to socially connect is the strongest evidence of our shared humanity. We are so highly interdependent on each other that isolation not only affects mental well-being but contributes to physical decline. In older adults, a population largely affected by loneliness, social isolation is associated with a 50% increased rate for dementia and other serious medical conditions.1

As a design practitioner and educator, my research focuses on cultivating meaningful connections through experiential design. With Me, an intergenerational toolkit was created to integrate older adults deeper into the fabric of society. As an analog kit, the fundamental purpose is to encourage people to spend time with one another.

In February 2020, With Me was in the last stages of production before implementation at a non-profit serving older adults across New York City. Social distancing requirements in mid-March put it indefinitely on hold. Caregivers were no longer able to do home visits. Family members were strongly recommended against visiting their loved ones. Loneliness in one of the most vulnerable populations to COVID-19 was magnified. When connection was needed most, With Me had to transition to a virtual solution.

This presentation is a case study on adaptation in an ongoing research project. It asks if we can replicate the benefits of physical time together while in a virtual world. It experiments with technology in a population that is often hesitant with using it. It explores how experiences may be designed for meaningful interactions across varying communication channels.

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html

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.


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?


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.


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.

Edgelands: Using Creative Technology to Predict the Future

A call to action for technology users, producers, and regulators

Jonathan Hanahan
Assistant Professor
Washington University in St. Louis

Edgelands explores the increasing tension between the natural world and the infiltration of electronic waste. Electronic Waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing waste stream on the planet. While 70% of new technology is recyclable, only 30% of it actually gets recycled. As devices increasingly get smaller and more advanced, their ability to be recycled drastically decreases due largely to custom fabrication techniques and no industry recycling or extraction standard. This dilemma is leading to an enormous amount of material blanketing the surface of the earth and worse, a culture of hazardous extraction practices in illegal e-waste dumpsites. Rare earth minerals—which are expensive and intensive to extract—end up serving far shorter lives as useful materials than they should. This puts the planet on the edge of a situation where finding solutions to extract materials from existing products will soon outvalue and outperform the process of digging into the earth to extract new materials.

This body of work is a call to action for technology users, producers, and regulators regarding the ramifications of our capitalism driven desire for the newest and best alongside the global epidemic these discarding behaviors lead to. Edgelands is a research project in technology using technology. The project speculatively explores this situation through machine learning–‘breeding’ images of midwestern landscapes with images of illegal e-waste dumpsites in Africa, Asia, and India. The resulting trained neural network hypothesizes a world where the quantity of discarded electronics creeps into the periphery of everyday life and occupies the spaces abandoned by previous industries. The resulting output speculates on what this future might look like should we continue on the current trajectory. The images are simultaneously familiar and foreign, present and future, and aspire to encourage viewers to rethink their relationships to technology, devices, and the lifespan of said products.

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

Honeybee Colonies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Studio Classroom

Students experience the natural world in the urban setting of New York City

Mark Randall
Assistant Professor
The New School, Parsons School of Design

As reflected in the fossil record, honeybees extend back at least 30 million years and were well established as Homo Sapiens emerged. One of the earliest known images of human/bee interaction is from an 8,000, year-old Mesolithic cave painting of honey hunters in eastern Spain.

Bees have not only provided honey and beeswax, they have impacted human society throughout history; creatively, culturally and spiritually. Bees are a powerful metaphor for life; a lens through which we can explore art, design, science and culture.

Building a single-subject course from such rich material, allows for a dynamic and vibrant multi-disciplinary classroom that engages a diverse cohort of design, science and liberal arts students.

Based on student interest at Parsons School of Design, Honeybee Colonies: Art, Design, Science, and Culture was developed to explore the world of the honeybee in all of its complexity. Through science labs in bee biology, a bee-hunting field trip to Central Park, and a visit to a rooftop urban farm in Brooklyn, the course allowed students to experience the natural world in the urban setting of New York City. Guest lectures from designers, artists, an architect, and a filmmaker, demonstrated how bees have profoundly influenced their work.

Informed by their research and classroom experience, each student produced a final project on the subject of their choice. Diverse outcomes included, a line of honey-based skincare products inspired by ancient Egyptian beauty regiments; an agro-tourism business for the student’s family agricultural ranch in Puerto Rico; a cultural collection of honey recipes; and the design of a children’s community garden in Harlem. The universally positive course evaluations underscored students’ deep desire for interdisciplinary learning. This presentation will share how the studio space was activated through the multiple disciplines; and what specific methods and projects supported this approach.

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

One Year On: Reflections on the Launch of the Chinese Type Archive

An open, collaborative index of Chinese typographic resources consisting of typefaces, bibliographic resources, and conceptual terminology

Caspar Lam
Assistant Professor of Communication Design
Parsons School of Design

YuJune Park
Assistant Professor of Communication Design
Parsons School of Design

Within Chinese typography, the lack of common reference points and conceptual frameworks have made it difficult for students and designers to understand this area of design. To address this gap, the Chinese Type Archive was launched at the start of 2020 as an open, collaborative index of Chinese typographic resources consisting of typefaces, bibliographic resources, and conceptual terminology. Conceived as a purpose-built resource dedicated to bridging and creating cross-cultural connections between Chinese and Latin typography, the Archive provides easier access to hard-to-find typographic material through linked data, lists of previously unnamed historic typefaces, and tracking of evolving conceptual terminology. In its origin, the project reflects a broader wave of renewed interest in Chinese typography from practitioners over the last decade. The first phase of the project began with a seed collection of data, university and design organization funding, and several rounds of technical iteration before its beta launch.

Now, one year later online, we present our continued progress with the project with reflections on community feedback and the project’s iterative methodology. These have led to new insights on barriers-to-entry, the cataloguing process, and the formation of online communities with networked, crowdsourced knowledge. Beyond the immediate impact on the discussion of global typography, the project has raised new questions on how designers should conceive of typography. In addition, the project has tangible ramifications on our idea of collections as a way of creating new sources of design knowledge that can engage designers at any level: student, professional, educator, and researcher. The insights gained from this case study has direct ramifications on design pedagogy and practice, particularly in how the acts of collecting and cataloguing can be powerful methods for learning, contextualization, and critical making.

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

Spencer Thornton Banks in St. Louis

A historical case study in the links between aesthetics and culture

Aggie Toppins
Associate Professor
Washington University in St. Louis

Spencer Thornton Banks (1912–1983), was a Black illustrator and graphic designer who practiced in St. Louis for over 50 years. His life and work were contextualized by significant social changes on a national level—the Great Migration, World War II, and Civil Rights—as well as a local level in a city deemed “The Broken Heart of America,” by historian Walter Johnson. The history of St. Louis is a story of racial segregation, removal, and abandonment. Banks’ aesthetic attests to empowerment and self-representation amidst urban decline. His comic strip “Pokenia,” which ran in the St. Louis Argus in 1939, is a rare example of a narrative about Black professional life, by a Black artist, published in a Black newspaper. Banks was also regularly commissioned to promote events, such as the National Negro Baseball League Championship and the Pine Street Y Circus, which were important to St. Louis’ Black community. This pecha kucha will present Banks’ oeuvre in the context of his time and place while exploring the way his forms expressed autonomy and self-respect.

A rarely discussed Black graphic artist of exceptional formal merit, Spencer Thornton Banks is a historical case study in the links between aesthetics and culture. His work has not been included in traditional design canons, in part because of historiographical bias, yet he coincided with a transitional and tumultuous time in St. Louis and national history. His unique approach to visual communication issued positive images of Black cultural life. This is a relevant topic in communication design in that it aims to expand the scope of historical knowledge through contributions from an underrepresented community while noting the concurrence of Banks’ celebratory representations with dominant narratives that evince mainstream racist ideology.

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

Design Incubation Colloquium 7.2: 109th CAA Annual Conference

Presentations and discussion of Research and Scholarship in Communication Design at the 109th Annual CAA Conference 2021.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021
6:00 PM – 6:30 PM

This is a virtual conference.

Video presentations of design research, history, theory, and practice in the field of communication design. A live moderated discussion will occur during the conference. Conference registration is required.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021
6:00 PM – 6:30 PM
Live Q&As Online – Meeting B


Aaris Sherin
St. John’s University

Dan Wong
Associate Professor
New York City College of Technology, CUNY


Liz DeLuna
St. John’s University


Spencer Thornton Banks in St. Louis
Aggie Toppins
Associate Professor
Washington University in St. Louis

One Year On: Reflections on the Launch of the Chinese Type Archive
Caspar Lam
Assistant Professor of Communication Design
Parsons School of Design

YuJune Park
Assistant Professor of Communication Design
Parsons School of Design

Honeybee Colonies: An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Studio Classroom
Mark Randall
Assistant Professor
The New School, Parsons School of Design

Design Thinking X Medical Education: Empowering Empathy for Patient-Centered Care
Hannah Park
Assistant Professor
School of Architecture and Design
University of Kansas

Edgelands: Using Creative Technology to Predict the Future
Jonathan Hanahan
Assistant Professor
Washington University in St. Louis

Adaptation in Design Research: Combatting Social Isolation in Older Adults
Christine Lhowe
Assistant Professor
Seton Hall University

Feminine Archetypes on Women’s Suffrage Postcards as Agents of Propaganda
Andrea Hempstead
Assistant Professor
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi

Teaching Communications Design History Beyond the Canon
Carey Gibbons
Visiting Assistant Professor
Pratt Institute

Basics of Peer Review for Communication Design Scholarship

The evaluation of scholarly work by others in the same field or discipline.

Jessica Barness, Dan Wong, Aaris Sherin, Robin Landa, Alex Girard

This white paper focuses on the basics of peer review for the following types of work: abstracts, books, grant proposals, journal article manuscripts, as well as papers, creative projects, and documentation of teaching submitted for conferences and symposia. Throughout this paper, “author” refers generally to authors, creators, and researchers, while “editor” refers generally to publication editors as well as staff members that facilitate peer review evaluations for organizations or events.

What is peer review and why is it important?

Peer review is the evaluation of scholarly work by others in the same field or discipline. Peer reviewing (or refereeing) is a significant part of an author’s path to publication and other modes of dissemination. Though specifics of the process differ depending on the intended outcome of the author’s work, it is widely used for publishing scholarly journals, books, and conference proceedings, as well as for trade/commercial books. Additionally, peer review is used to select participation for academic conferences, symposia, and colloquia, and grant funding. 

Variations of the peer-review process have been in use for over a thousand years, and it is rooted in the circulation of scientific texts. There is evidence that the first documented instance of peer review was in Syria, and dates to the 9th century CE; it is described in the book Ethics of the Physician by Ishap bin Ali Al Rahwi1. The peer-review process involving an editor began to take shape in the 17th century with scientific journals Journal des Sçavans and Philosophical Transactions2

Why do we do peer review?

Peer review is a means to assure a field of study, in our case communication design, that the research that was conducted and the results are worthy of adding to the body of knowledge. It is a system of checks and balances used to confirm the work being done is original, persuasive, and currently of significance to the field. This is why citation and reference should play a key role in the communication of the research and ideas. Just as professional practice does not exist in a vacuum, research projects and the writing and presentations that result from them should build on the work of other designers, scholars, researchers, and educators. 

The Purpose of Peer Review is to:

  • Support the building of a discipline’s knowledge base.
  • Determine whether or not the work is suited for a given publication or presentation venue.
  • Provide a means to self-monitor the quality of creative work, scholarship, and research for the discipline.
  • Confirm the work is original, persuasive, and significant.
  • Provide a standardized method to evaluate the validity and rigor of research.
  • Offer feedback on errors, highlight problems, or indicate gaps in the research.
  • Engage authors and reviewers in a collaborative effort to provide feedback, to help the author strengthen their work with the aim of advancing the field.
  • Offer an objective and ethical process for considering the presentation or publication of research.

Who Engages in Peer Review?

Peers are researchers and faculty who specialize in a specific area of research, creative practice, or scholarly activity similar to the work being reviewed. Depending on where the author is submitting the work, they may be asked to recommend researchers who are experts in the same field to be peer reviewers. In some cases, the author may request the exclusion of reviewers where there may be potential conflicts-of-interest. More often, the publishers will have a peer committee or invite experts. An academic conference will have a pre-determined group of peer reviewers to evaluate proposals and/or proceedings. These peers will review the work for substance, originality, creativity, context, methodology, verifiability, and whether the results and conclusions seem accurate and believable.

Types of Peer Review

Different types of peer review may be used by journals, conferences, publishers, colloquia, and so forth. Varying degrees of anonymity is one of the most substantive ways peer review differs from other forms of review. Peer-review works on the assumption that an anonymized process lessens the chance of bias in the evaluation of the work. Blind peer review aims to correct biases such as an author’s reputation, the institution where they work, their geographic location, the previous work they have published or presented, or any professional or personal bias the reviewer may have towards the reviewer. Even with a carefully anonymized peer review process, however, a reviewer may be able to guess an author’s identity based on their writing style, selected citations, or the research itself. In highly specialized research communities, for example, specific research projects may be well known to others. Standardized peer-review processes are used across disciplines to maintain an objective evaluation and help guide authors and researchers toward the goal of producing high-quality publications or presentations.

Double-blind Peer Review

  • Identities of the reviewer and author are concealed from each other.
  • Common review type for publications and conferences in the design, humanities, and social sciences disciplines.3
  • Considered rigorous and the highest quality by tenure and promotion committees at research institutions.

Single-blind Peer Review

  • Identity of the author is known to the reviewer, but not vice versa.
  • Common review type for science and medical disciplines.3
  • Common for textbooks and trade books in the design disciplines.

Open Peer Review

  • Identities of reviewer and author are disclosed to both at some point in the process.
  • Newer model that encourages cooperation, accountability, and civility by peer reviewers.

Types of scholarly work that involve peer review

  • Book proposals and book manuscripts
  • Grant proposals
  • Journal article manuscripts
  • Academic posters
  • Materials submitted for conferences and symposia including papers, creative projects, documentation of teaching

Other Types of Review for Communication Design Scholarship

Academic editorial review

Academic journals and book publishers generally have a mission, focus, and readership. An editor-in-chief’s responsibility is to ensure that the content of a submission is appropriate and within the scope of the publication. The editor decides whether or not to initiate the peer review process. 

Exhibition juried/curatorial review

Exhibition of creative projects through a jury-selection process, or chosen by curator/s, may be viewed as comparable to peer review in the context of tenure and promotion. Unlike the peer review process, the evaluation for exhibiting creative work is often given as a yes/no decision with little or no feedback given to the applicant.

Trade or commercial events

The organizers of trade shows, commercial exhibitions, trade conferences, and editors and publishers of trade magazines, also offer options for disseminating creative and written work produced by faculty in communication design. Though these may have merit and value for a faculty member’s creative career, evaluations for these types of venues are not the same as academic peer review. They may or may not be “counted” as scholarship for tenure and promotion at an institution. Authors should check with their department chairperson, director, and/or dean before pursuing these venues for dissemination. 

Editorial review of consumer media

Trade journals, popular magazines or websites, and industry conferences, for example, do not typically make use of the peer-review process. An editor or staff member reviewing a submission may be a subject expert and provide guidance. However, the decision typically rests on the decision of one person (or a group) and is often based on anticipated sales of books, seats at a conference, and so forth. For tenure and promotion purposes, this type of review is often referred to as “accepted through the editorial process.”

Elements evaluated by peer reviewers

The specific criteria for peer review can vary widely among publishers, journals, conferences, and organizations. Common elements that peer reviewers consider will include some or all of the following:

  • The work is significant to the field/discipline (the contributions relate to practice, theory, methodology, pedagogy, history, etc.)
  • The title is concise, descriptive, and appropriate for the topic and venue.
  • The project/topic fits within the scope of the venue and/or is appropriate for its readers.
  • The topic is clearly defined and presented.
  • The keywords/keyword phrases are concise, descriptive, appropriate for the topic, and venue.
  • The thesis is original or unique, it clearly builds on the work of other researchers, and/or it furthers existing ideas or theories (rather than repeating established concepts).
  • The approach or methodology of the research is valid.
  • Literature/media reviews are provided to give context within the field/discipline.
  • The conclusions are drawn from the results of the research and the assessment of the author’s outcomes is valid.
  • The citations and referencing styles are correct as indicated by each organization/publication for example Chicago or APA.
  • The style of writing is appropriate for the journal or venue
    for dissemination. 
  • An introduction and conclusion are included and evaluated.

Initiation of the peer review process 

The specific steps an author, editor, and peer review evaluators will be asked to go through as part of the peer review process may vary by publisher, journal, conference, or organization. Note: “editor” refers generally to publication editors as well as staff members who facilitate peer-review evaluations for organizations or events. The outline below includes a basic overview of the most common steps:

  1. Author submits work such as a full paper, abstract, or proposal (in the case of a book project, grant, or conference presentation).
  2. Editor reviews the submission and determines whether or not to proceed with peer review (often called a desk or editor review). 
  3. Editor contacts peer reviewers to request their evaluation of the submission.
    • Typically, a submission undergoes evaluation by 2 or 3 peer reviewers (sometimes more). Some journals or publishers may ask the author to provide names of potential peer reviewers who align with their area of research and could provide an unbiased evaluation. Other entities will have editors identify the potential peer reviewers. 
    • Often, one evaluator will have expertise that is closely tied to the topic of the submission, and another reviewer will represent a more general audience.
    • Peer reviewers are often provided with a rubric to guide their evaluation.
  4. Submission is considered to be “under peer review” when peer reviewers agree to review and receive the submission.
    • This step is crucial for tenure and promotion. It can provide evidence that the submission has made it through the first step in the peer-review process.
    • The editor will provide an author with information that their submission is under peer review and will give some indication of how long it may take to receive feedback. 
    • This could take anywhere from two weeks to six months (or beyond), depending on the publisher, journal, or organization and their schedule.
  5. Peer reviewer sends their evaluation back to the editor.
  6. Editor reads through the peer reviews and decides what outcome will be communicated to the author.
    • At times, the peer reviewers will offer similar evaluations of a submission. Or, they could be wildly different. The editor compiles the evaluations and returns the recommendation to the author for next steps.  
    • In some instances, an editor may override the recommendation of the peer reviewers. In rare cases, the submission may be sent to a different group of reviewers. This is done when editors feel the reviewers have bias or did not adequately review the submission.  

Outcomes of the peer review process

The author is given a recommendation after peer reviews are completed. The specific terminology may vary among publishers, journals, and organizations, but the outcomes listed below are commonly used.

Accept as-is with no revisions 

  • This is an uncommon response.

Accept with minor or major revisions

  • This means the evaluations and editor are in favor of publication/presentation of the work, but some minor or major edits must be made before it is officially accepted. There may be multiple rounds of edits and further review.
  • See the “Advice to Authors Navigating Peer Review” document for further information on advice for authors going through the peer-review process.

Revise and resubmit

  • This means the evaluations and editor indicate that there are substantial revisions necessary before they can agree to accept the work under review. The author can choose whether or not to move forward and revise the piece. 
  • Once the author has revised the work, it should be resubmitted to the publisher, journal, or organization according to their submission guidelines.
  • In some instances, the revised work is considered a new submission, and it may be sent back to the same reviewers. In other instances, the editor or staff member will decide whether the author has adequately incorporated feedback.
  • See the Advice to “Authors Navigating Peer Review” document for further information on advice for authors going through the peer-review process.


  • This means the evaluations and editor/staff are not in support of the publication/presentation. 
  • When rejection happens as an outcome of peer review, the author is typically given the reviewers’ comments. This differs from rejection at the time of the initial editor/desk review because peer review feedback is not provided when a submission is rejected at that stage.
  • The work rejected at either initial desk review or after peer review should not be resubmitted to the same venue.
  • If the researcher has submitted a grant proposal, the grantor, trust, or foundation will have guidelines on whether or not feedback will be provided for rejected proposals. 

Advice for Peer Reviewers

At some point, you may be asked to serve as a peer reviewer
for a journal, conference, colloquia, or an organization awarding grant funding. Taking on the role of peer reviewer means you are dedicating time and energy to support another author’s/researcher’s work, and you are committing to helping to strengthen the research within the communication design discipline. Before you agree (or decline) to take on the task, think about the following things.

  • Be familiar with the publisher, journal, or organization requesting peer review. Predatory journals and organizations exist; if the request is coming from an unfamiliar source, it’s wise to investigate. If you are unsure, ask trusted colleagues; if that is not possible, check to see if your institution has a faculty professional development office and if they can support you. 
  • For journals, conferences, and colloquia: Once you have received the submission, consider whether the work relates to your area of communication design expertise or knowledge. If yes, great! If not, it’s okay to decline the invitation or ask for clarification from the editor or staff person assigned to the submission. Perhaps you know a colleague who is the perfect fit; consider recommending them as a peer reviewer or as a general reader (for a book).
  • Take note of the deadline and consider if you will have the necessary time and energy to review the work and provide substantive feedback by the deadline. Peer reviewers should want to review the work, and not simply take it on as an obligation. If the deadline poses a barrier, be open with the editor and consider asking if an extension is possible.
  • Evaluate the work according to the journal or organization’s peer review rubric.
    • Peer review rubrics vary widely. Sometimes they are surveys with a combination of yes/no, numeric ranking, space to provide comments, a spreadsheet, or guidelines that require several paragraphs of feedback.  
    • If the journal or organization does not provide a rubric or guidelines, ask the editor or staff member for guidance.
  • One of the most helpful things a peer reviewer can do, if they recommend rejecting the submission, is to suggest other venues for the author to submit the work.  
  • Be kind and generous. It is appropriate to provide negative comments, but your feedback should be constructive and actionable.  Spend time thinking about how the author could improve the work. Give specific and detailed suggestions and remember to note what works in the piece/submission. The goal is to provide feedback to help make the work better!


  1. Ray Spier, “The history of the peer-review process”, Trends in Biotechnology, Volume 20, Issue 8, 2002, Pages 357-358.
  2. “350 Years of Scientific Publication: from the Journal des Sçavans and Philosophical Transactions to SciELOhttps://blog.scielo.org/en/2015/03/05/350-years-of-scientific-publication-from-the-journal-des-scavans-and-philosophical-transactions-to-scielo/#.X80Bt8tKiAl
  3. “Understanding Peer Review: A Guide for Authors” https://authorservices.taylorandfrancis.com/publishing-your-research/peer-review/


A Beginner’s Guide to the Peer Review System

Case No. 16-08: Author requests for certain experts not to be included in the editorial process

CAA Statement on Exhibition Venues

COPE Peer Review Process (website subsection)

Editorial and Peer Review Process

How To Be a Good Peer Reviewer

Kill Peer Review or Reform It?

Our Processes & Policies. Royal Society of Chemistry.

Peer Review in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Peer Review in the Humanities and Social Sciences: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It?

“350 Years of Scientific Publication: from the Journal des Sçavans and Philosophical Transactions to SciELO”

Scholarly Journals vs. Trade Journals vs. Popular Magazine

“The History of the Peer-Review Process” Spier, Ray. Trends in Biotechnology, Volume 20, Issue 8, 357 – 358

Types of Peer Review

Understanding Peer Review: A Guide for Authors

What is Peer Review?

What To Do After the Reviews Arrive

Grant Review Process

Peer Review

Advice to Authors Navigating Peer Review

Planning for a successful submission can help you identify where to publish and how to set yourself up for success.

Aaris Sherin, Jessica Barness, Robin Landa

Whether you’ve just received your first peer-review evaluation, or this is one of many, you should begin by reading through the editor’s decision letter and peer review comments. 

Then, (depending, of course, on the peer review outcome and suggestions) give yourself a high-five or cry into a pillow. Go for a walk. Remember, having something accepted with no revisions or minor revisions is rare. Order pizza. Then, no matter how you are feeling about the peer reviews, take a step back and wait a day or two before proceeding.

Major or Minor Revisions

If your work has been accepted with major or minor revisions, or you’ve been asked to resubmit, you have some decisions to make. Grants and juried exhibitions often provide a yes/no outcome, so the following may not apply. Keep in mind that the peer reviewer’s evaluation of your project is based solely on what you’ve written/created. Take a deep breath and get back to work:

  • Thank the editor. Do this even if you received a rejection—don’t burn bridges!
    • If you were given a timeline for completing revisions, let them know you will meet that deadline. 
    • If you were not given a timeline, let them know when you plan to submit revisions.
  • Remember that getting feedback from peer reviewers is valuable. Also, peer review is one of the only ways to get detailed free, unbiased feedback. Allow the process to help strengthen your work.
  • Read through the peer review feedback again. If you have difficulty understanding the comments, ask a trusted colleague to help you navigate the feedback; if that is not possible, check to see if your institution has a faculty professional development office or research officer and if they can support you. If feedback continues to be confusing you may address specific points with the editor/ staff person assigned to your submission. 
  • Authors are often asked to address all concerns noted by peer reviewers. Sometimes it’s helpful to create a spreadsheet to sort through these.
    • You might agree with the peer review comments, and you might also disagree with some of them. 
    • If you disagree with the feedback given by the reviewers, it is acceptable to submit a rebuttal to the editor and explain why. The editor will then weigh whether or not specific revisions need to be made and will advise accordingly. For example, you may realize that a suggested revision is outside the scope of the paper. If that is the case, it may be worth looking at how you are communicating your research and make sure the scope is clearly described.
  • If you receive a rejection or a substantial amount of negative feedback, it’s possible your submission may not be the best fit for your selected venue. Consider a different, more appropriate place to publish or present your research. 
    • It is considered ethical to ask for feedback and find out why the work was not accepted. Sometimes an editor may suggest an author look at other venues and at other times they may provide additional feedback. 
    • If the work is rejected during the peer review process the author is usually given feedback from the peer reviewers. 
  • When revising, be aware of word count and stay within the criteria of the publication/venue you are working with.
  • Make a writing schedule so that you meet your deadlines, and respond to peer reviewer feedback accordingly.

What happens after a submission is accepted?

  • Most of the time, this is the end of the peer-review process. At this stage, the author’s work is accepted for publication or presentation. 
  • Grants and abstract submissions often end here, and the author is awarded funds. For some grants, a report is due at the midterm and/or completion of the grant-funded research.
  • For longer forms of writing such as books, significant work may still need to be done even after a work is accepted for publication. For example, authors of books may have a proposal accepted through the peer review process but still need to write the full manuscript, or write/rewrite sample chapters. 
  • Journal article manuscripts typically go through another round of editor and peer review. Authors of journal articles and books may need to secure permissions for images and quotes beyond fair use and work with a copy editor on small text and citation changes. 

Rejections Happen

Why might a submission be rejected? There are several reasons a submission might be rejected and they include but are not limited to the following: it may not fit the scope of what the journal/venue publishes, the methodology may be flawed, there may be too few references or it may be unclear how the work contributes to current topics considered to be particularly relevant in the field, citations may be lacking, or the structure and syntax of the writing may not meet stated criteria. Regardless of why a submission is rejected, the peer review process should provide feedback. The feedback you receive can be used to help you revise your work and get it ready to submit to another venue. It can provide information that can help you decide whether you should realign your research to fit the scope of publications/venues that are more likely to want to disseminate your work.

Submitting the same work to multiple venues 

  • It is typically considered unacceptable to submit a paper to multiple journals at one time. Start with the venue that seems most fitting and appropriate; if the reviews are not helpful, or the work just doesn’t fit that venue, consider submitting elsewhere. 
  • Books proposals are an exception and may be submitted to multiple publishers at one time. State that your submission is simultaneous, if it is.
  • Typically, it is considered unacceptable and unethical to submit the same paper or presentation to multiple conferences. However, this continues to be common practice in the design disciplines as standards evolve. A best practice would be to vary the presentation each time to make each work unique from the other. Check the criteria for each conference or venue you submit to ensure you are maintaining and supporting academic standards. Note: Trade publications and conferences are primarily concerned with generating revenue and may welcome or even solicit duplicate submissions. (This would be a good time to read the fine print and understand who retains the copyright for a given text. You may inadvertently hand over the rights to your own words and ideas.) 

Self-plagiarism and self-citation

  • Self-plagiarism is unethical and occurs when an author presents/publishes their previously presented/published work as something new. 
  • You may need to secure permission from your publisher if you’re quoting yourself elsewhere beyond fair use.
  • If you must reference your previously published scholarly work (creative project, written research, etc.) self-citation is appropriate. Style guides such as Chicago, APA, and MLA provide further guidance on how to approach self-citation.

Before you submit to a publication or venue:

Unsure where to start?  Planning for a successful submission can help you identify where to publish and how to set yourself up for success. 

  • Ask colleagues/mentors about where they have published.
  • Look for venues that have published work similar to yours. 
  • Understand the publisher and type of publications they produce.
  • Understand the mission or focus of the publication, venue, or conference.
  • Learn each venue’s process for submission and review.
  • Research the biographies of the editors, and if possible, look at the criteria they use to choose who will review submissions.
  • Adjust the focus of the work you have done and adapt it to the audience you are seeking.