Cultural Competence for Designers

Colette Gaiter
Professor
University of Delaware

As the US cultural and demographic landscape changes, students of design will need advanced cultural competence skills in visual communication. The Cross Model of Cultural Competence, developed for health practitioners in 1988, describes a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes and policies that enable a professional to function effectively across cultural difference.1 Younger Americans are more culturally diverse than previous generations, whose imprint remains on iconic US visual media. What people see and what is visually described to them has an emotional effect. Reality is changing faster than visual representation because people have to emotionally embrace a challenging idea before changing their own behavior, perceptions, and representations.2

It is commercially advantageous as well as socially responsible to design for inclusion. Design educators can help students develop theoretical frameworks for creating believable and identifiable diverse representations. Students can learn to apply specific theory and practices that incorporate research from related disciplines such as social science and communications.3 Socially engaged visual practices are evolving and expanding, transcending methods like raising awareness, which can become ineffective simply from overuse. Design audiences can be motivated to change perceptions and behavior through an emotional connection to their own lives and experience. Using theory and methods, designers can develop empathy with their audiences’ perspectives to encourage positive emotional responses to diverse representations.

  1. “Definitions of Cultural Competence” https://nccc.georgetown.edu/curricula/culturalcompetence.html
  2. Christiano, Ann; Neimand, Annie. “The Science of What Makes People Care” Stanford Social Innovation Review; Stanford. Vol. 16, Issue 4,  (Fall 2018): 26-33.
  3. For example, Theory of Change (ToC) is a methodology used in the non-profit world to develop and evaluate community and social change initiatives for maximum effectiveness.

Questioning the Canon: Discussing Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom

Sherry Freyermuth
Assistant Professor
Lamar University

Although Meggs’ History of Graphic Design is a well-regarded and extensive textbook on the topic of graphic design history, it has been criticized for its lack of diversity in the designers and artists featured in the textbook. This short form presentation will outline the results of a History of Graphic Design project where students are tasked with analyzing the topic of diversity and inclusion in graphic design. Students must select a designer that is part of an underrepresented group and put together a persuasive presentation about why this designer must be included in the next edition of the textbook. Questions students must research and address include: What is diversity and inclusion? How does diversity and inclusion impact graphic design? How is diversity and inclusion being addressed today? How is the selected designer impacting (or has impacted) graphic design? What other steps do you think are needed to improve diversity and inclusion in graphic design?

The final student presentation outcome builds on the student’s skills in research, persuasive strategy, critical thinking, visual, written and verbal communication, as well as soft skills in empathy and team building as students are put in groups to discuss topics and assess one another’s work. The assignment helps foster discussions about the importance of inclusiveness and how it directly impacts their own professional career and has provided an opening conversation for other ways to explore this topic in the classroom and beyond.

Pitch & Roll: Exploring Low-Risk Entrepreneurship for Student Designers

Jennifer Kowalski
Professor of Instruction
Graphic Arts & Interactive Design
Temple University Tyler School of Art

Today’s college students are under increasing pressure to have a side hustle—a part-time job that is often related to entrepreneurship. Over the course of the next decade, half of millennials intend to start a new business or be self-employed. Students today are six times more likely to start a business while in school than they were in the 1960s and 1970s. Design students can leverage passion projects for income, practical portfolio work, and opportunities for professional networking. How can design academics foster this entrepreneurship and set their students up for success?

This presentation explores potential projects and existing platforms for design entrepreneurship that fit students’ limited budgets and time constraints. The presentation looks at ways existing student work can be repurposed for entrepreneurship and offers example projects that students can complete independently or as part of a curriculum. Pros and cons of sales platforms are reviewed—from self-hosted ecommerce through sites like Squarespace, Wix, and Shopify to print-on-demand services like Society6, Printful, and Spoonflower to design-minded virtual marketplaces like Etsy and CreativeMarket. The emphasis is on finding methods for students to engage in creative risks without taking financial ones. With proper support, students can gain valuable experience facing real-world challenges with real-world results well before graduation.

Form, Focus and Impact: Pedagogy of a 21st-Century Design Portfolio

Peter Lusch
Professor of Practice
Lehigh University, Bethlehem PA

Befitting careers of the industrial era—in which graphic design was focused on the creation of static artifacts and one-direction communication streams—the traditional format used to demonstrate professional credentials of designers and students has been a physical or electronic portfolio, generally showcasing five to twenty discrete artifacts with short descriptions.

Technologically, the tools and outputs designers now use have altered how design is distributed and consumed, which in turn has created new forms of practice. Moreover, the proliferation of social design and social innovation practices—work without familiar ends of products and services—have further altered the discipline. These changes suggest the traditional approach to teaching design portfolios is outdated.

If the portfolio continues to hold important relevance for employers, what form, format, and focus should it take? How might we best prepare our students to showcase their skills and start their design careers in this shifting design and media landscape?

In this presentation, we will introduce our research studying the pedagogy of the undergraduate design portfolio. We will share qualitative findings from our initial data-set, collected from interviews with design educators and practitioners. Gathered from the perspectives of different types of design programs set in different regions across the country, we share viewpoints between pedagogy and practice to fill gaps in the literature about the preparation of students for professional practice.

This research is vital as a new generation of design educators takes the lead in teaching future designers how to navigate the complexity of the design landscape.

Art, Interaction and Narrative in Virtual Reality

Slavica Ceperkovic
Professor
Seneca College

This artist presentation will present a case study on how different user models of interaction shape narrative experiences in virtual reality landscape environments. The three models that will be explored are guided experiences, embodied task interaction, and companion based virtual reality interactions.

10 Case Studies in Eco-Activist Design

Kelly Salchow MacArthur
Associate Professor
Michigan State University

Activism through design is especially timely, as the effects of climate change are becoming alarmingly obvious. Victor Papanek wrote in The Green Imperative, “Design must be the bridge between human needs, culture and ecology.”1 Armed with the powerful tools of visual communication, great responsibility rests on the shoulders of designers when conceptualizing and producing work—and presents an exciting opportunity to share one’s beliefs, and incite change within a broad community.

As a design educator and practitioner, I pursue creative research that aspires to catalyze empathy and positive action towards addressing climate change. Case studies will demonstrate various communication design strategies—humanistic appeals to reconnect with nature, statistics meant to instigate response, calls to action, aesthetic presentation of biophilia, concrete poetry, and community mapping for an ecological organization.


While such work has proven to be personally, conscientiously, and professionally enriching, the main ambition has been to relate to society in unexpected ways and affect change. As Eric Benson and Yvette Perullo write in Design to Renourish, “Designers as citizens have an obligation to be respectful to all fellow human beings and to the planet we share.”2 Through this body of work, I hope to contribute to (and sway) the ongoing dialog of environmental urgency that is often met with inaction.


  1. Papanek, Victor. The Green Imperative. New York, New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995. pg. 29.
  2. Benson, E. & Perullo, Y. Design to Renourish. Boca Raton, Florida: Taylor & Francis Group, 2017. pg. 115.

Exploring Narrative Inquiry as a Design Research Method

Anne Berry
Assistant Professor
Cleveland State University

Whether working as industry professionals or engaged in academic research, designers are trained to embrace complex, unframed problems and prioritize the needs of end-users. Processes derived from design practice, such as design thinking and human-centered design (HCD), can subsequently be useful in providing frameworks and strategies to address broad, undefined challenges. There are limits to the depth and breadth of information that can be gathered about the complexities of human nature when filtered through these approaches, however. Designing products for people versus designing to affect change within complex political, social, and cultural systems—or what scholars Cinnamon Janzer and Lauren Weinstein refer to as “object-centered” and “situation-centered” practices—run counter to one another. Questions subsequently remain as to how designers should bridge gaps between the design problems identified and the research techniques employed when working towards solutions.

In contrast to “object-centered” approaches inherent in design thinking and HCD, narrative inquiry is a qualitative method particularly suited to human complexity. Everyday lived experiences, their impact, and the social and cultural contexts in which the experiences take place are examined through storytelling. With an emphasis on building knowledge, versus setting out to achieve specific outcomes, narrative inquiry has the potential to help designers develop deeper understanding of the people and systems they design for. This talk, consequently, will address how narrative inquiry can be utilized as a research method for design research.

Design Activism & Impact: How Can Principles of Social Impact Assessment Improve Outcomes of Socially Conscious Design Efforts in Graphic Design Curriculum?

Cat Normoyle   
Assistant Professor   
East Carolina University

Visual communication is a powerful tool to affect change, and projects that advocate for change through activist messaging offer opportunities for designers to have impact in their communities. By building awareness around a particular issue, designers are able to engage with community, providing a voice for those that may be under-represented, and foster shifts in behaviors and attitudes. These goals are often assumed successful, but are they actually working to increase awareness and affect change in behavior and attitude?


This paper reviews the social impact assessment (SIA) guidelines within public policy and urban planning to understand social impact evaluation standards in other disciplines. After review, key factors are integrated into a graphic design model and applied in classroom teaching. The model includes creating a strong stakeholder committee for engagement, identifying and defining the goals, defining evaluation items for measurable impact, collecting data, compiling and analyzing results, and drawing conclusion with mitigation recommendations. Exemplified in case studies, projects are shared that introduce students to design and activism as a tool for social change, while also maximizing impact by incorporating assessment strategies throughout the process.

Although it is easy to advocate for social design practices in graphic design curriculum, it is much more challenging to assess these practices within the context of community impact. This paper shares and exemplifies a graphic design process that may be used by design researchers, practitioners, educators, and students to appropriately assess social impact as a major outcome of their work.

Colloquium 5.2: CAA 2019 Conference New York

Presentations and discussion in Research and Scholarship in Communication Design at the 107th Annual CAA Conference 2019 in NYC.

Hosted by CAA Affiliated Society, Design Incubation.

Research in Communication Design. Presentation 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.

Design Incubation Colloquium 5.2: CAA 2019 New York City
Thursday, February 14, 2019 

10:30am–12:00pm
New York Hilton Midtown, Second Floor Regent

Abstract submission deadline: August 6, 2018.
Submit abstracts online at Colloquium Abstract Submissions.

The colloquium session is open to all conference attendees.

Co-Moderators

Liz DeLuna
Associate Professor 
Graphic Design
St John’s University

Robin Landa
Distinguished Professor
Michael Graves College 
Kean University

Presentations

10 Case Studies in Eco-Activist Design
Kelly Salchow MacArthur
Associate Professor
Michigan State University

Art, Interaction and Narrative in Virtual Reality
Slavica Ceperkovic
Professor
Seneca College

Form, Focus and Impact: Pedagogy of a 21St-Century Design Portfolio
Peter Lusch
Professor of Practice
Lehigh University, Bethlehem PA

Pitch & Roll: Exploring Low-Risk Entrepreneurship for Student Designers
Jennifer Kowalski
Professor of Instruction
Graphic Arts & Interactive Design
Temple University Tyler School of Art

Questioning the Canon: Discussing Diversity and Inclusion in the Classroom
Sherry Freyermuth
Assistant Professor
Lamar University

Design Activism & Impact: How Can Principles of Social Impact Assessment Improve Outcomes of Socially Conscious Design Efforts in Graphic Design Curriculum?
Cat Normoyle
Assistant Professor
East Carolina University

Cultural Competence for Designers
Colette Gaiter
Professor
University of Delaware

Exploring Narrative Inquiry as a Design Research Method
Anne Berry
Assistant Professor
Cleveland State University

State of Flux
Natacha Poggio
Assistant Professor
University of Houston Downtown

Colloquium 5.2: CAA Conference 2019 Call for Submissions

Deadline for abstract submissions: August 6, 2018.

Session Chairs:

Liz DeLuna
Associate Professor
St John’s University
Robin Landa
Distinguished Professor
Michael Graves College
Kean University

Hosted by CAA Affiliated Society, Design Incubation.

We invite designers—practitioners and educators—to submit abstracts of design research.  Presentations are limited to 6 minutes, preferably Pecha Kucha style. A moderated discussion of the research will follow.

Design Incubation Colloquium 5.2: CAA 2019 New York City
February 13–16, 2019
Hilton Hotel, Midtown Manhattan

Date, time, and location to be determined.

We are accepting abstracts for presentations now until August 6, 2018.
For details visit the Colloquium Overview description, and online Colloquium Abstract Submission form.

Questions can be directed to info@designincubation.com.