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.

Faculty Census 2018: Data on Design Professionals in Academia

Census data from a survey on the professional experiences of design faculty in U.S. colleges and universities.

The Design Incubation Faculty Census

Aaris Sherin, Dan Wong, Josh Korenblat, Aaron Ganci

The Faculty Census gathers information about trends affecting design faculty. Participants included full and part-time faculty at U.S. colleges and universities. All data contributions are anonymous and used exclusively for research purposes.

The following graphics and charts are based on data gathered in the first faculty census. They were developed to help visualize and evaluate different types and patterns of activities engaged in by faculty and administrators and to investigate conditions of their employment. We aim to reveal factors associated with academia which might be used for individual or institutional decision-making. This includes but is not limited to college and university budget planning, legislative agendas, anticipating shifts in student body makeup, etc. Our ultimate goal is to help faculty to understand the landscape of higher education within their discipline and to use data to proactively plan for and/or to react to shifts in thinking about the role of a design educator within the academy.

The Carnegie Classification®

Many of the graphics developed for the 2018 Faculty Census use the Carnegie Classification® as a system for comparison. The Carnegie Classification® has been the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education for the past four and a half decades. The framework is widely used in the study of higher education, both as a way to represent and control for institutional differences, and also in the design of research studies to ensure adequate representation of sampled institutions, students, or faculty. Looking up your own institution can help you understand which classification applies to you personally and may help inform your understanding of the visualizations from the Faculty Census.

Collaboration

We invite faculty, researchers and interested parties to engage with the data collected as part of the Faculty Census 2018 and to use the information gathered here to support their own work and their engagement with institutions in higher education. We encourage and welcome collaboration and are happy to discuss publishing findings and or additional visualizations using this data. If you have questions or would like more information please contact info@designincubation.com

Thank you to all who gave us meaningful feedback during the development of this survey including Michael Gibson, Amy Fidler, Kelly Murdock-Kitt, Carma Gorman, Alex Girard, AIGA DEC, UCDA.

Thank you to all who generously shared their professional experiences in academia.

Note: Please view on tablet or desktop for optimal visualizations. Tabbed navigation across the top reveals more census results.