Simulating the working relationship between strategists and creatives.
Kathy Mueller Assistant Professor Temple University
Jennifer Freeman Assistant Professor of Instruction Temple University
This presentation will provide case studies for design
educators to imagine collaborative interdisciplinary projects with their
colleagues in media, communication, and business. It will include an overview
of project structure, process, and outcomes. The presentation will also examine
the advantages and drawbacks to the variety of approaches the presenting
professors have taken to this collaboration. It will illuminate the challenge
of fulfilling the needs of two different student groups.
Examples will be pulled from seven years of
collaboration between an Art Direction class and an Advertising Account
Planning class. Projects were structured to simulate the working relationship
between strategists and creatives—cultivating teamwork and mutual respect among
students using experiential learning. Art Direction students learned the value
of market research and strategy insights. Account Planning students gained an
appreciation for the creative process.
The professors have experimented with modifications to
the assignment, to varying degrees of success. In addition to discussing
collaboration techniques, this presentation will examine the learnings from
teaching with a variety of client approaches—theoretical client assignments;
partnerships with student entrepreneur clients through a campus incubator;
partnerships with external clients, such as Urban Outfitters Inc.; and most
recently, in partnership with a design studio specialized in the non-profit
Kelly Murdoch-Kitt, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan Omar Sosa-Tzec, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan
Decipher 2018 Design Educators Research Conference represented a significant effort to create an inclusive, equitable, and intersectional space that brought together students, educators, researchers, and practitioners to discuss and advance design research. Our nomination in the category of Service is for executing this vision of a hands-on, activity-oriented, inclusive design research conference. Decipher successfully brought together 228 people from 12 countries.
The conference was hosted at the University of Michigan’s Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design in September 2018. Decipher united two major and distinct design organizations: AIGA Design Educators Community in partnership and the DARIA Network (Design as Research in the Americas). Decipher 2018 was organized around five crucial themes of defining, doing, disseminating, supporting and teaching research in design disciplines.
To ensure participation from different types of designers with different levels of academic, industry, and/or research experience, we developed an innovative structure for the conference, which comprised the following modalities:
Activity Group: an intensive hands-on session in which all participants collaboratively discuss and ideate on a specific topic to discover emergent themes and issues, develop best practices and guidelines, and gather resources.
Conversation: a relaxed environment to allow participants to discuss the intersection of facilitators’ and participants’ interests through the lens of the conference topics as well as the AIGA 2025 trends (now Design Futures).
Workshop: a more traditional learning session in which one or more facilitators lead participants to engage in a topic within the conference themes. As in a classroom environment, workshop facilitators had specific learning outcomes in mind for participants and were expected to lead the entire session (in contrast to the more collaborative activity group or conversation formats).
Besides these three participation modalities, the Decipher conference included a poster session of research work, a graduate student colloquium, and provided several spaces for networking and discussion.
People interpret the word design in many ways; when research is added to the mix, the ambiguity increases. Although research has become a critical component of most design faculty’s tenure and promotion requirements, the design research issues addressed at Decipher are still rarely discussed and often misunderstood. Due to a dearth of research discussion and pedagogy in most MFA and similar terminal degree programs in the design disciplines, some experts estimate that close to 90% of those currently teaching design in the U.S. have little or no background in research.
By instigating conversations around these issues, Decipher aimed at causing a ripple effect to advance research agendas for the approximately 11,500 (full- and part-time) university-level design educators in the U.S. Thus, Decipher convened design researchers, practitioners, and educators at all stages in their careers to explore the fusions of research and practice through the ways we accomplish, talk about, and teach design research.
*An Inclusive Submission Process*
We offered a number of submission and participation formats to engage people at different stages and degrees of comfort with design research. Each Decipher attendee submitted one of two types of written contributions: the first was for facilitators, those interested in leading an engaging session for conference attendees around a particular design research subject; the second was for participants, those who wanted to be involved in sessions while bringing a particular research interest into discussions among all attendees.
During the conference, Decipher provided a digital draft of the proceedings that included all facilitators’ and participants’ submissions in order to guide session selection and promote conversations and networking during the conference. Likewise, everyone at the conference, including keynotes, facilitators, and participants had their headshots and biographical descriptions included on the conference website. Due to the democratic nature of our submission process, we wanted these final proceedings to be a permanent record of the various voices of Decipher 2018.
The conference regarded all contributions, regardless of length, of equal value. Because publication is a critical component of academic research, we did not want to restrict publication opportunities to session facilitators alone, as is customary with most other academic conferences. Therefore, the final proceedings, to be published by Michigan Publishing, will include the juried written submission from participants and facilitators alike. In the spirit of equanimity. The forthcoming proceedings will be available online as an open-access publication, and in a print-on-demand format.
Decipher also supported equity and inclusion by offering 10 Scholarships for attendees who identified with backgrounds historically underrepresented in academia. After we conceived of these scholarships, we advocated for them, and obtained funding to support them from Stamps School of Art & Design. We hope that these scholarships will establish a new precedent for future design education and research conferences.
*What we accomplished*
Compared to similar conferences (e.g. Cumulus, A2RU, Design Research Society), Decipher broke the mold with its immersive, hands-on teaching and learning experiences rooted in the five conference themes. We asked facilitators to make all sessions accessible to a wide range of expertise, and did not assume that all attendees came with high levels of design research experience. We also asked them to make the sessions engaging in order to motivate and excite people to engage with design research more deeply while teaching them different ways to foster exchange of ideas and knowledge. This requirement made the sessions not passive as it usually occurs in traditional academic conferences.
Our PDF expands on this overview and includes images and links to additional supporting resources, such as an outcomes video documenting the attendee experience.
Kelly Murdoch-Kitt, Assistant Professor, Stamps School of Art and Design, University of Michigan
Prof. Murdoch-Kitt is drawn to design through her keen interest in people, systems, and interpersonal interactions. She strives to create effective, socially responsible, and delightful concepts and solutions. Her work and teaching integrate visual communication, interaction, user experience, and service design with behavior change and social engagement. Her current research, in partnership with Prof. Denielle Emans of VCU School of the Arts Qatar, examines and develops design-based methods and tools to promote effective intercultural collaboration, and how related tangible activities and outcomes increase trust and commitment in digital interactions. Murdoch-Kitt and Emans recently coauthored Intercultural Collaboration by Design: Drawing from differences, distances, and disciplines through visual thinking. This book of design-based methods that support intercultural communication and collaboration will be published by Routledge in Spring 2020.
Omar Sosa-Tzec, Assistant Professor, Stamps School of Art and Design, University of Michigan
Omar Sosa-Tzec holds a Ph.D. in Informatics with a focus on Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Design, a MDes in Information Design, and MSc in Computer Science. Prof. Sosa-Tzec has been involved in design practice, teaching, and research for more than a decade. His research lies at the intersection of HCI, Information Design, Semiotics, Rhetoric, Argumentation, and Happiness Studies. Within this space, Prof. Sosa-Tzec studies how the hedonic and eudaimonic qualities of interactive and informational design products shape people’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. At Stamps, Prof. Sosa-Tzec teaches Studio 2D, Methods of Creative Inquiry, Sign and Symbol, and Information Design. His practice focuses on communication design, information design, and interaction design.
Designers must delve beneath the obvious principles of Bauhaus purity and minimalism to comprehend how human memory and sense perception contribute to our experience
Min K. Pak Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Art & Design University of Southern Indiana
Photography reflects memory, allows us to ponder our past thinking and past experiences in our environments. At the boundaries between graphic design and photography, we can observe patterns in urban environments and associate these patterns with recalled sounds and human emotions.
In 1923, Lucia Moholy (1894-1989) sought to capture a futuristic vision in Bauhaus architecture. Her photographs balance the clarity, simplicity, and asymmetry that represent Bauhaus’s spirit of utopian zest and vitality and openness of spirit. Indeed, Moholy’s extreme verticals, tilted frames, and abstract forms emphasize the simple, clean, beautiful lines characterizing Bauhaus architecture.
Since each building employs its own architectural language, I identify the words for these urban shapes, for their forms and structures—freeing these buildings from their specific spatial contexts so that we observe them individually, seeing beauty even in marginal details of everyday city life.
Beyond merely documenting discoveries in Moholy’s photographs, I explicate her new ways of seeing this geometric, abstract architecture as a response to reading the world’s simplicity and organic autonomy. I contend that we designers must delve beneath the obvious principles of Bauhaus purity and minimalism to comprehend how human memory and sense perception contribute to our experience with both photography and Bauhaus.
In the fall of 2015, as the new faculty member at Merrimack College, I was thrust into this position. A cold dose of reality hit—my senior students’ work was, sadly, a mess. It was clear the design program needed to be rebuilt and renamed. Acting fast became necessary, because moving slowly would continue the problem. Both scalpel and sledgehammer were required (along with lots of coffee) delivering a newly redesigned BA Graphic Design program for approval and implementation by fall 2016. The program bridged both design thinking and making with the skill set of a Liberal Arts education.
The analysis started with the NASAD/AIGA analytical and consultative briefing papers. They were a good starting point, but they did not answer the question of how to build an expanded BA model responsibly? How elastic is the BA model? What beneficial Liberal Arts skills could be integrated into a graphic design student’s education? How could avenues be created for various types of students to be successful? And, where and how should professional engagement enter into the program?
This story begins by sharing methods for responsibly creating a “hybrid” BA model, keeping students’ best interests in mind, and honoring the industry’s professional standards. Topics to be shared include evaluating existing majors and minors; partnering with other majors and departments; which courses to keep vs. which should be thrown out; setting sizable goals for a 4-year BA graphic design program; ideas on future learning spaces and technology; and, understanding what is valuable in a 21st century graphic design education as the industry continues to evolve.
Joel Mason Professor Emeritus Department of Communication Design New York City College of Technology, CUNY
In 1979, as a full-time member of the Communication Design department at NYC College of Technology, I was assigned Lettering and Typography, a first semester course teaching students to draw three basic alphabets: Caslon, Bodoni and Helvetica using the “built-up” method with broad sketching pencils. Reviewing the course outline and required textbook, David Gates’ Lettering for Reproduction I realized there were gaps in my education.
When I was a student, classes in graphic design history/theory didn’t exist. Gates briefly covered design history and theory but also explained the role of geometry, visual perception, printing technology, history and
aesthetics in the design and evolution of letterforms. Now, I understood that while demonstrating lettering techniques, I would also need to relate them to these other disciplines. As a result, my thinking about teaching typography changed, seeing its potential as a multidisciplinary subject with links to the liberal arts and sciences.
Lectures included the role of geometry in shaping the proportional systems underlying Old Style and Modern Style typefaces, along with discussions and demonstrations of the role of visual perception and illusion in adjusting shapes to create harmonious optical relationships among letterforms. Examples of how Caslon and Bodoni appeared when first printed in the 18th century and how paper, ink and presswork affected their appearance were integrated into the narrative. History could also be introduced in surprising ways, by explaining for example, that the first copies of the American Declaration of Independence were printed using Caslon, which was imported from England prior to the Revolution. Drawing and constructing letterforms also demonstrated how fundamental design principles (also being taught in other first year design classes) such as contrast, balance, proportion and rhythm contributed to an aesthetically pleasing result. The class was also showed thow organic forms in nature served as a source of inspiration.
Taken together, students not only learned to draw letterforms, but saw how the broad web of connections with other disciplines could enrich their learning experience. I taught the course for five years, but by the early 90’s digital technology replaced hand-lettering. Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in calligraphy and hand-lettering. Regardless of the technology used, teaching typography, particularly at the introductory level, can be transformed by the multidisciplinary approach.
Efecem Kutuk Program Coordinator Industrial Design, University Lecturer Robert Busch School of Design Michael Graves College Kean University
In recent years collaboration has become a fundamental of the design industry. In the start-up business environment, the corporate structure has been replaced by a passionate, skilled and capable 24/7 work force of risk-taking design entrepreneurs.
Everyday we witness independent design collaborations that capture recognition by launching their products through powerful tools such as social media and crowd funding, the innovate nature of which are several steps ahead of their market majority corporate competitors. What if we can simulate these collaborations at an earlier stage, during undergraduate education? What if we can mimic the experience of a start-up in the classroom?
I have been teaching “Collaborative Design Studio” the past three years, utilizing team-building and problem solving techniques to produce imaginary start-ups, which incorporate the full spectrum of the start-up model- user experience, branding and packaging by Graphic Designers, design development, prototyping by Industrial Designers, and exhibition of the product by Interior Designers. At certain points in the process, the team divides and conquers by their specialization within the design field. At other points, they work as a team to make common decisions. They follow a road that intermittently splits and merges throughout the journey. The course offered a window on how start-ups run, and gave students the ability to practice before graduating, rather than figuring out design entrepreneurism on the job.
My presentation will include examples of student work, from initial ideations to a finalized solution, by focusing on team members’ key decisions throughout the project. I will also substantiate my argument by highlighting the success of collaborative creative teams by other researchers findings. Finally, the importance of having a collaborative course in the design curricula, especially for institutions that have various design programs, will be open to discussion.
John Delacruz Professor of Advertising School of Journalism and Mass Communications San Jose State University
The creative industries rely on interdisciplinary practices. They require team working skills and the ability to learn, support and help others in an increasingly inter-disciplinary environment.
Students at San Jose State University who aim to enter the creative industries have been working on a project with Santa Clara County Parks creating interactive and interpretive story tree installations on the Coyote Creek Parkway Trail at Hellyer County Park. This is the Coyote Creek Fables, part of a bigger project of artworks to be sited in Hellyer Park.
Our presentation will explore how the student team has evolved and produced a body of work that will exist in a real space, enhancing the trail and the Ranger-led talk, and online, supplementing the Coyote Creek fables with information and interactive elements shaping the user experience. How did the design process unfold? How did the experiential and improvisational pedagogical approaches help shape the outcomes? What are the Coyote Creek fables?
The concept, inspired by the Ohlone tribes of California and their associations with totem poles, is intended to enhance existing interpretive programs, while encouraging trail users to take a closer look at the wildlife found along the multi-use Coyote Creek Parkway Trail.
Our design team is a diverse mix group of undergraduate and graduate students with backgrounds in graphic design, journalism, photography, advertising, and mass communications. The project has enabled them to engage in collaborative, experiential practices where different skill sets have allowed peer mentoring to drive them to their final products.
The student team has engaged in peer to peer collaboration, and found ways to work remotely at times. They have developed awareness of natural history and environmental stewardship as they flex their creative muscles. The overall learning experience has provided them with a skill set that will help them navigate their future careers in the creative industries successfully.
Amy Papaelias Assistant Professor of Graphic Design Art Department SUNY New Paltz
Interdisciplinarity is the ability to combine, cross or think through multiple disciplines in order to create new bodies of knowledge. Environments that foster interdisciplinary scholarship and critical making explore innovative pedagogical and research approaches in the liberal arts, sciences, and humanities. Although these interdisciplinary scholarship labs (and related environments including makerspaces and digital humanities centers) exist at many institutions, few have explicitly brought design thinking and visual design strategies into their practices and research. By definition, design includes the collaborative creation of experiences, processes, systems, services, through the study of human behavior, social research methods, and critical thinking. Across a variety of disciplines, these design activities can benefit and enhance research and scholarship as integral to the dissemination and communication of new knowledge.
What is design’s role in these spaces? How are design methods and practices being implemented, engaged with, and applied to the liberal arts and sciences? In what ways can design help communicate complex visual messages, ideate physical artifacts, and build digital tools within these contexts? What are some of the challenges of integrating design methods or practitioners in cross-disciplinary projects and how might we encourage more collaboration between design and other disciplines within our institutions?
This presentation will discuss the role designers and design methods can play in interdisciplinary scholarship labs, centers, and spaces. I will share some of my current research that seeks to understand how design is integrated into these environments at colleges and universities. By examining design’s role in research and pedagogy outside of our own field, we can expand the possibilities for future emergent scholarly practices within design and beyond.