Addressing Opportunity: The Landscape of Inequality

Investigating how space, social consciousness, and populations interact between the relationship of individual-level actions and community-level outcomes

Mia Cinelli
Assistant Professor
The University of Kentucky

Shoshana Shapiro
PhD Candidate
University of Michigan

At the intersections of art, design, and sociology, “Addressing Opportunity: The Landscape of Inequality” is a collaboration between Shoshana Shapiro, PhD candidate in Public Policy and Sociology at the University of Michigan, and Mia Cinelli, Assistant Professor of Art Studio & Digital Design at the University of Kentucky. This series of designed postcards showcases the impact of individual actions on income inequality in the United States. These works explore narrative constriction and dissemination of data through visual sociology, which uses visual communication to convey or explore sociological concepts and relationships.

Addressing Opportunity examines how space, social consciousness, and populations interact by investigating the relationship between individual-level actions and community-level outcomes. Borrowing the visual language of postcards, this series references desired locations, geographic movement, and brevity of communication across distance. Subversively alluding to idealized imagery of mid-century suburbia, each postcard features information on income inequality relative to history, personal choices, and observed national trends. Using accessible exhibitions as a catalyst for discourse, these postcards are displayed as a narrative series, each revealing new information. In addition, these works are accompanied by free postcards for audience members to send, as well as a brochure on individual actions to consider.

This presentation explores the development of this body of work, as well as the opportunities presented by interdisciplinary collaboration between design and the empirical social sciences more generally. We consider our work in conversation with other narrative or data-driven projects such Dear Data and the Opioid Spoon Project, while works such as Postsecret, Zoe Leonard’s You see I am here after all or Robert Graves and Didier Madoc-Jones’s Postcards From the Future project set precedent for postcards as a discursive design medium. By designing artwork about data, we hope to make information accessible that can inform people’s decisions and engender positive change.

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

afFEMation.com

Scholarship: Creative Works Award Runner Up
Jury Commendation for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Scholarship: Creative Works: Expanding the Canon

The afFEMation.com online, interactive, archive addresses the previous invisibility of women in the history of women in Australian graphic design.1 This problem was demonstrated in the low representation of women in the Australian Graphic Design Associations (AGDA) Hall of Fame which had only one-woman inductee prior to the site’s launch. However, since the launch three more women’s biographies have been added, one which cites afFEMation.com.2 The data set demonstrating this was published in the appendix of The View from Here.3

CONTRIBUTION

#afFEMation – demonstrating a framework for gender-equitable histories, is an article outlining a methodological innovation that emerged from an analysis of the site’s build.4 This framework consists of five steps designed to assist researchers, historians and archivists consider gender-equitable histories. The steps include systemized privilege checking and the prioritizing of recent histories.

AIM

Filling the gendered gaps in Australia’s graphic design history and increasing the visibility of women was the aim of afFEMation.com. Right through the UK, US and Australia women are graduating from graphic design qualifications in a high majority.[5] afFEMation.com was designed to make this new knowledge available as accessible and sharable portraits, biographies, galleries of work, videoed interviews and visualised networks.

SIGNIFICANCE

The significant and interactive design of afFEMation.com was reviewed by HOW Magazine as one of the ‘10 Best Design Websites’.6 The site was also launched at the Women in Design symposium and reviewed on-line as “thought-provoking”.7 Design industry blogs also published articles demonstrating the interest in equitable design histories, citing afFEMation.com.8

References
  1. afFEMation.com was a collaborative project which profiled Michaela Webb, Annette Harcus, Lynda Warner, Rita Siow, Lisa Grocott, Abra Remphrey, Dianna Wells, Sandy Cull, Sue Allnutt, Fiona Sweet, Gemma O’Brien, Jenny Grigg, Jessie Stanley, Kat Macleod, Simone Elder, Chloe Quigley, Kate Owen, Laura Cornhill, Rosanna Di Risio, Suzy Tuxen, Zoe Pollitt, Natasha Hasemer, Fiona Leeming and Maree Coote. Research, writing, art direction, and design was by Jane Connory, photography, sound, and image recording by Deborah Jane Carruthers and Carmen Holder, assistance from William Aung, and website development by Danni Liu. Jane Connory (2017) “#afFEMation. Making heroes of women in Australian graphic design”, http://affemation.com (website accessed April 9, 2020). See more in Figures 1-12 in Documentation of the work itself. For evidence of the public launch at the Women in Design conference in Design Tasmania, 2017, see Document1_WomenInDesign.pdf in Other Uploaded Documents.
  2. The AGDA Hall of Fame began in 1992 and was published in the AGDA award compendiums before being compiled on their current website. afFEMation.com is cited in Graham Rendoth (2018) “Annette Harcus”, https://www.agda.com.au/hall-of-fame/annette-harcus (accessed April 9, 2020). See more in Figure 13 in Evidence of Publication and Significance.
  3. Jane Connory (2019) The view from here: Exploring the causes of invisibility for women in Australian graphic design and advocating for their equity and autonomy, Thesis, Monash University, pp. 176. https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/237518812?q=Jane+Connory+the+view+from+here&c=book&versionId=265087902 (accessed April 9, 2020).
  4. Jane Connory (2017) “#afFEMation – demonstrating a framework for gender-equitable histories.” Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN), Conference, Prato, Italy, October, pp 41-47. https://www.monash.edu/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/1397018/prato_proceedings_2017_final_edited1July2018.pdf (accessed April 9, 2020). Also see Document2_CIRNConference.pdf in Other Uploaded Documents.
  5. Jane Connory (2017) “Plotting a Historical Pipeline of Women and Design Education.” Design History Australian Research Network (DHARN) http://dharn.org.au/plotting-the-historical-pipeline-of-women-in-graphic-design/ (accessed April 9, 2020). Also see Document3_PlottingThePipeline.pdf in Other Uploaded Documents.
  6. https://www.howdesign.com/web-design-resources-technology/website-and-responsive-design/top-10-sites-for-designers-october-2017-edition/ (attempted accessed April 9, 2020). Unfortunately, this online magazine has since gone into receivership and this link is no longer live.
  7. Penny Craswell (2017) Women in Design at Design Tasmania, The Design Writer, July 3. https://thedesignwriter.com.au/women-design-design-tasmania/ (accessed April 9, 2020). See more in Figure 14.; Anita Pava (2017) Colloquium includes Graphic Design, Stream, July 31. https://www.streamdesign.com.au/graphic-design-tasmania-colloquium-includes-graphic-designer-speaker/ (accessed April 9, 2020). See more in Figure 15.
  8. Mirella Marie (2018) afFEMation.com, Women of Graphic Design https://womenofgraphicdesign.org/post/165087420998/jane-connory-melbourne-australia (accessed April 9, 2020). See more in Figure 16.; Jane Connory (2018) Invisible women in Australian graphic design, Eye Magazine, July 4,

http://www.eyemagazine.com/blog/post/invisible-women-in-australian-graphic-design (accessed April 9, 2020), (Figure 17); Jane Connory (2019) The Invisible Women of Australian Graphic Design, Parlour, October 17, https://archiparlour.org/the-invisible-women-of-australian-graphic-design/ (accessed April 9, 2020) See more in Figure 18.; Jane Connory (2020) Change, Word—Form, https://word-form.com/words/index/view/category/change/article/dr-jane-connory (accessed April 9, 2020). See more in Figure 19.

Dr Jane Connory has a PhD from Monash University, Art, Design, and Architecture, which worked towards a gender-inclusive history of Australian graphic design. She was awarded a Master of Communication Design (Design Management) with Distinction from RMIT and has been a practising designer in the advertising, branding, and publishing sectors, in both London and Melbourne, since 1997. She has also lectured in and convened communication design programs in both the VET and Higher Education sectors since 2005. Alongside her research exploring the visibility of women in design, she is currently a lecturer in Design Futures and Design Strategy at Swinburne University of Technology.

Thank you to all the women profiled on the website including: Michaela Webb, Annette Harcus, Lynda Warner, Rita Siow, Lisa Grocott, Abra Remphrey, Dianna Wells, Sandy Cull, Sue Allnutt, Fiona Sweet, Gemma O’Brien, Jenny Grigg, Jessie Stanley, Kat Macleod, Simone Elder, Chloe Quigley, Kate Owen, Laura Cornhill, Rosanna Di Risio, Suzy Tuxen, Zoe Pollitt, Natasha Hasemer, Fiona Leeming and Maree Coote.

Photography, sound & image recording: Deborah Jane Carruthers & Carmen Holder, assistance from William Aung.

Website development: Danni Liu & ClickTap Digital Media.

Research supervision: Pamela Salen & Gene Bawden.

Research assistants: Rachael Vaughan, Luke Robinson, Kristy Gay & Nick Fox.

Design Incubation Communication Design Awards 2020 recipient

Cradlr: A Design Project for Refugee Children

Scholarship: Creative Works Award Winner

The growing global refugee crisis in the recent decade has reached a staggering height—in nearly 80 million displaced people, 26 million are registered refugees—and over half of the refugees are under the age of 18. The phenomenon of displaced people has existed since the dawn of human civilizations caused by wars, famines, mass migrations, pandemics, climate change, political persecutions, natural disasters, and more. In these calamities, children have been the first victims of conflict and displacement experiences. As of today, no digital platforms have been built for displaced children—the most vulnerable group who doesn’t have cell phones.

The Cradlr project was created in the hope of developing not only a digital tool but a vision for a global network that might help displaced children to overcome many adversities in life and receive more love and brighter futures. After examining historical evidence and current situations, this project goes beyond the realm of digital product design in an attempt to find a humanitarian solution for a complex social challenge. The final product embraces the connection and communication among the displaced children, their families and temporary guardians, education affiliations, international and regional organizations, as well as volunteers and donors. The stories and personal data of displaced children accumulated by adults are stored and protected by the Cradlr Network Database, which becomes a collective digital memory. Cradlr offers a blueprint whose purpose is to serve as a possible testing ground envisioning a digital network system that transcends political boundaries so that various parties can connect to rescue and nurture young lives collectively on a global scale.

* Cradlr is a United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) project at Monmouth University.

Rationale

The seed of this project was sown two years ago when the designer started the Jiang Jian project [www.jiangjianz.com/eng]—a research and design project that sheds light upon the forgotten stories of Jiang Jian and the Mothers’ Movement in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)—a major achievement of the Chinese Women’s Movement in the first half of the 20th century. Supported mainly by donations, the Mothers’ Movement rescued and educated 30,000 displaced children during the war. Based on this research, the designer learned many aspects of wartime refugees—forcibly displaced people—in China and complex stories behind the scenes. She soon started to question how other countries protected and rescued children at that time and acquired historical evidence in European countries during WWII. Through her study, some social patterns gradually unveiled, from which the inception of this project began to sprout.

Furthermore, the growing global refugee crisis has reached a staggering height in the recent decade. Lining up incidences from different regions and eras, the designer recognized ineffable human suffering repeated continuously in devastating and grotesque ways, such as mass killing, abduction, raping, child trafficking, the fact that refugee parents murdered or abandoned their children due to untamable obstacles, and so on.

Although incapable of stopping wars and adversities, the designer hopes to learn from facts and history to help displaced children today. In this digital age, many refugees have access to cell phones, so creating mobile apps to assist humanitarian work is not a novel idea. However, the project presented here goes beyond the realm of digital product design in an attempt to find a humanitarian solution for a complex social challenge by connecting various parties to rescue and nurture refugee children worldwide.

Jing Zhou is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, researcher, and Associate Professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey. She works at the intersection of visual and interaction design, interactive media, animation/video, and fine arts. Her work has been shown and collected internationally including: Triennale Design Museum, Milan; British Computer Society, London; Asian Cultural Center, Manhattan; SIGGRAPH Art Gallery; ISEA; IEEE; CAA; Les Abattoirs Museum, France; Royal Institution of Australia; Danish Poster Museum; Athens Digital Art Festival, Greece; Taksim Republic Art Gallery, Istanbul; FILE, Sao Paulo; Korea Visual Information Design Assn.; Stanford University; Yale University; public collection of the WRO Media Art Center, Poland; Waikato Museum, New Zealand; Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic; and Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. Ms. Zhou has received many awards in the U.S. and Europe.

https://www.monmouth.edu/directory/profiles/jing-zhou

Design Incubation Communication Design Awards 2020 recipient

Design, Food and Human Connection

A research project with the intent of understanding the parallels between chefs and designers

Nicholas Rock
Assistant Professor
Boston University

Design is present in visible and invisible ways in contemporary society such that the term “design” has permeated everyday language—resulting in a situation where everyone knows what design is and no one knows what design is. Design is becoming further integrated with business, and socio-economic demands require a constant pursuit of data and technological advances while leaving behind the personal and social side of those same topics. Design is altering our human experience under the illusion of increasing our connectedness.  

We have begun an examination of how design can enable a return to more meaningful connections with people. Since design as a concept is becoming increasingly universal, we are looking at it through the lens of something as culturally ubiquitous as food. How can our relationship with food inform our relationship with design in society? How might we improve our approach to how we both practice and teach design by investigating practitioners of gastronomy and culinary arts? 

Our studio began this research project with the intent of understanding the parallels between chefs and designers—hoping to learn from the creative process of chefs pushing the limits of their profession as a way of advancing our own. Through a series of interviews and collaborative experiences, we have held conversations with designers, architects, chefs, restauranteurs, food historians, and farmers to better understand both a historical and contemporary relationship between food, design, and culture. We encountered a shared philosophy of creating opportunities for human connection. Using this insight, we are forming new design methodologies and altering our approach to design education.  

We need to reinforce our connection to each other as human beings. If we return to this as a core principle in design practice and education, then we can create new opportunities to bring people together instead of driving people apart.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2020.

Is the Future Online Classes?

Teaching methods based on tutorials, cumulative projects, and concept based learning strategies.

Dannell MacIlwraith
Assistant Professor
Kutztown University

More and more colleges and universities are beginning to explore offering traditional studio art and design courses online. At Kutztown University, first year students are required to take an online Digital Foundations course. This course gives a solid grounding in basic computer skills, software knowledge, and visual thinking, a framework for more complex areas of digital media. By giving the flexibility of an online class — students can still have hands-on techniques, experience constructive critique, hand-in physical prints, and have a good mentor/student relationship.

As the curriculum designer, I based my teaching methods on tutorials, cumulative projects, and concept based learning strategies. The short tutorials are designed to maintain attention. I have abandoned the traditional discussion forums of online education, instead utilizing social media for critiquing techniques. Finally, through surveys, quizzes and an ‘artifact’ project the faculty assess Digital Foundations for tweaking and modifying for future sections.

Many colleges and universities are moving classrooms online for financial savings. What are the most effective strategies for teaching art & design online? What about ensuring the same rigor and quality as an in-person course? We’ll explore possible solutions to these problems that are facing the early pioneers of online education in design.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.3: Fordham University on May 16, 2020.

Designing for the Visually Impaired

Affordable accessibility design.

Min Choi
Adjunct Professor
San Diego State University
San Diego City College

Low vision is a part of the natural aging process, and we all have the potential to face it at some point in our lives. Though there are many exceptional high-tech devices to help people with visually impaired and blind, there has not been enough attention given to applying accessible design when creating affordable everyday products to benefit them.  The statistic shows that in the U.S., only around 30%1 of people with a visual disabilities are fully employed, and cannot afford to buy assistive technologies that may be awesome for them, but costs hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

To address this issue, I am researching how people with low vision could experience high-contrast colors and basic shapes with tactility at a reasonable price. In-person, human-centered design approach guided me to build a deep empathy towards my audience and explore design process and solutions that would help celebrate their disabilities.

A home product line incorporates high-color contrasts and tactility using universal symbols for people with visual impairment. It is an experiment to help them to be independent and empower their everyday activities those of us with good vision often take for granted—including eating, getting ready for bed, and getting dressed in style.

At its heart, we must identity what the audiences’ needs are—and the only way to create design solutions is to connect with those who will benefit the most. Design with purpose and function is beneficial for everyone—especially those with disabilities.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.2: CAA 2020 Conference Chicago on February 14, 2020.

Design Delight: A Framework For The Analysis And Generation Of Pleasurable Designs

Engendering experiential qualities: surprise, vitality, cuteness, serendipity, and reassurance.

Omar Sosa-Tzec
Assistant Professor
University of Michigan

This research introduces a framework named design delight, which is intended to analyze and give form to features of design products that provoke delight. In all human experiences, including designed experiences, delight plays a significant role. Particularly in modern societies, whose everyday life can be stressful, encountering moments of high pleasure can remind people that good things and individuals are part of such a life. It is no surprise that delight has been acknowledged as noteworthy element of experiences shaped by design. Design products that are delightful, no matter whether these are objects, graphics, or services, create emotional bonds, stronger memories, higher levels of loyalty, engagement, motivation for repurchase, and product promotion by word of mouth [1]–[6].

Design delight focuses on how design features are capable of engendering five particular experiential qualities: surprise, vitality, cuteness, serendipity, and reassurance. For design delight, these qualities characterize those instants of significant pleasure that a person encounters while she makes use a design product. Design delight is attentive to how design features help one or more of these qualities manifest or become salient in an interval of the user experience. This research argues that moments of pleasure derived from the combination of surprise, vitality, cuteness, serendipity, and reassurance constitute a rhetorical dimension of design products. A designer can make use of these five qualities to influence people’s behavior, attitudes, and beliefs. Design delight pays particular attention to how its constituents persuade, promote identification, invite to understanding, aid in self-discovery and self-knowledge, and shape reality.  

Design delight derives from the semiotic and rhetorical analysis [7]–[9] of numerous design products, including different kinds of user interfaces and interactive media, analog objects, and services. It also derives from secondary research on the notions of pleasure, delight, and aesthetics from the perspective of a variety of disciplines, including marketing, philosophy, and human-computer interaction. As a framework, design delight unifies foundations of semiotics, rhetoric, multimodal argumentation, and design for its theoretical underpinning. Design delight regards design features as multimodal signs which come into existence through a combination of six basic elements, namely, the visual, verbal, aural, olfactory, tactile, and temporal. Seen as signs, design features represent a means by which the designer communicates her intent; particularly, to invoke one or more of the five qualities happen. However, this semiotic perspective also considers that the context of use and how it affects the user’s process of generating meaning have an impact in how she grasps and reacts to such an intent.

Design delight is formulated as a conceptual framework to aid design practitioners and scholars in analyzing and elaborating on how design features engender significant moments instants of pleasure. Design delight is not a universal or quantifiable characterization of delight. Rather, design delight offers design practitioners and scholars a lens to view delight as something that shapes everyday life through design products. As making products that are surprising, lively, cute, serendipitous, and reassuring can contribute to living a good life, they can also lead to undesirable behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes. Professionals and scholars of design simply cannot be oblivious to the impact of delight in modern life and its connection with people’s psychological, physical, and emotional well-being. Whether design delight is used for generative or analytical purposes, this framework urges design practitioners and scholars keep in mind that creating pleasurable products entails an ethical responsibility.

References

[1]             M. W. Alexander, “Customer Delight: A Review,” Academy of Marketing Studies Journal; Arden, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 39–53, 2010.

[2]             M. J. Arnold, K. E. Reynolds, N. Ponder, and J. E. Lueg, “Customer delight in a retail context: investigating delightful and terrible shopping experiences,” Journal of Business Research, vol. 58, no. 8, pp. 1132–1145, Aug. 2005.

[3]             R. Chitturi, R. Raghunathan, and V. Mahajan, “Delight by Design: The Role of Hedonic versus Utilitarian Benefits,” Journal of Marketing, vol. 72, no. 3, pp. 48–63, 2008.

[4]             J. S.-C. Hsu, T.-C. Lin, T.-W. Fu, and Y.-W. Hung, “The effect of unexpected features on app users’ continuance intention,” Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, vol. 14, no. 6, pp. 418–430, Oct. 2015.

[5]             A. Kumar, R. W. Olshavsky, and M. F. King, “Exploring alternative antecedents of customer delight,” Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, vol. 14, pp. 14–26, 2001.

[6]             R. T. Rust and R. L. Oliver, “Should we delight the customer?,” J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci., vol. 28, no. 1, p. 86, 2000.

[7]             C. S. de Souza, C. F. Leitão, R. O. Prates, S. Amélia Bim, and E. J. da Silva, “Can inspection methods generate valid new knowledge in HCI? The case of semiotic inspection,” International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, vol. 68, no. 1–2, pp. 22–40, Jan. 2010.

[8]             O. Sosa-Tzec and M. A. Siegel, “Rhetorical Evaluation of User Interfaces,” in Proceedings of the 8th Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction: Fun, Fast, Foundational, New York, NY, USA, 2014, pp. 175–178.

[9]             J. Bardzell, “Interaction criticism: An introduction to the practice,” Interacting with Computers, vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 604–621, 2011.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 6.2: CAA 2020 Conference Chicago on February 14, 2020.

Obstruction by Graphical Construction: How Graphical Sculptures Can Counteract Symbols of Hate

At the intersection of art and law is the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) 1990, which forbids the destruction or manipulation of copyrightable works of art.

Brian McSherry
Adjunct Professor
Borough of Manhattan Community College

By using art, design, and law how can one legally affect politics and social equity in the United States, specifically when it comes to symbols of hate? This proposal looks towards a specific intersection of art, design, physical property, and legal loopholes to answer the aforementioned question as it relates to proposed border policies in the United States. At the intersection of art and law in the United States is the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) of 1990, which forbids the destruction or manipulation of copyrightable works of art.[1]

Recently, the destruction of 5pointz, a derelict graffiti haven in Long Island City, exemplified the power that VARA has as it relates to real estate production (Feuer, 2018).[2] Jerry Wolkoff, the owner and developer of 5pointz, was forced to pay 45 graffiti artists a total of $6.7million in restitution for the destruction of the artists’ work.

However, can VARA be used as an estoppel to the destruction of art, or is it merely a remedy for damages? According to the case of David Phillips, VARA allows for a temporary restraining order to protect works that are likely to be altered (Lipez, 2006).[3]

This proposal looks at these cases, the history of VARA, temporary restraining orders as a guide to create site-specific graphical work to stop border wall production. In order to halt the production of a border wall, one must purchase a parcel of land and create a site-specific graphical structure.

Here, one will not only have real estate protection, but also protection in the intellectual property of the work and the protection granted under VARA. Thus, an artist can use law as art and art as law to create a visual and physical safe haven in an area brimming with symbols of hate and exclusion.


[1] Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, Pub. L. No. 101-650, 104 Stat. 5128 (codified in scattered sections of 17 U.S.C.).

[2] Feuer, Alan, “Graffiti Artists Awarded $6.7 Million for Destroyed 5Pointz Murals”, New York Times, 2018.

[3] Phillips v. Pembroke Ral Estate, Inc., 459 F.3d 128 (1st Cir. 2006).

Using Icons to Encourage Visual Literacy on Campus

The role of design in instructional materials to engage a broad spectrum of student abilities.

Lance Hidy 
Accessible Media Specialist 
Northern Essex Community College

The academic administrators at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Massachusetts, are considering adopting Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as a new methodology for improving student success and retention.

Having had disappointing results from other applied strategies, they are taking a fresh look at the role of design—especially for making instructional materials more accessible and engaging for a broad spectrum of student abilities. One important facet of UDL that the college is currently investigating is expanding the use of image content in text documents

To illustrate this idea, the Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs asked me to develop a system of icons to represent every degree and certificate offered by the college, along with icons for the six academic divisions, and the nine athletic programs—87 in all. Many of the faculty who were invited to participate in the process of icon development for their disciplines said that it was an eye-opening experience, being the first time they had engaged in a visual thinking exercise.

As the collection of icons was finalized and distributed, employees were invited to use them to promote their disciplines. Additionally, a colorful poster of all 87 icons is circulating on campus and off, providing not only a useful recruiting tool, but also a new way for employees and students to understand what the college is

It is too early to assess how persuasive this icon project will be in shifting the college culture toward UDL and improved visual literacy. But it is providing a popular, concrete example of UDL that is already being used by everyone, and is being cited as campus committees begin debating the role of UDL in the next strategic plan.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 5.3: Merrimack College on March 30, 2019.