Assessing Student Learning Outcomes in an Interdisciplinary, Experiential Course

A conceptual model that empirically examines the impact of interdisciplinary studies, participation in experiential learning, and the role demographics on learning outcomes.

Denise Anderson
Assistant Professor
Kean University

This research project is inspired by co-teaching an interdisciplinary, experiential course with three professors and thirty-three students in Graphic Design, Marketing, and Communication, with a partnership with the New York Jets as a client. Using survey data from students in the course and other college students pursuing their undergraduate degree, we develop a conceptual model and empirically examine the impact of interdisciplinary studies, participating in experiential learning, and the role of student demographics on student learning outcomes.

Interdisciplinary studies refer to studies between two or more fields of study and involve students working in an environment transcending disciplinary boundaries. Experiential learning refers to learning through hands-on experiences, where students apply the theories learned in the classroom to real-life situations using higher-order thinking.

Factors that affect student learning outcomes in higher education have been identified as lacking knowledge in other disciplines (Fruchter and Emery, 1999) and working with an actual client (Coker et al., 2017). Other factors include effective team collaborations (Machemer and Crawford, 2007), student engagement (Kuh et al., 2008; Letterman and Dugan, 2004), motivation (Pintrich and DeGroot, 1990; Deci et al, 1999), study habits and strategies (Dunlosky et al, 2013; Kember and Kwan, 2000), to name a few.

The proposed research will support the important role of interdisciplinary studies and experiential learning in achieving favorable student learning outcomes. In addition, it will provide empirical support for Universities to offer more interdisciplinary courses and experiential learning opportunities to retain students and prepare them for professional practice.

This design research was presented at Design Incubation Colloquium 10.2: Annual CAA Conference 2024 (Hybrid) on Thursday, February 15, 2024.

Utterly Butterly Propaganda: An Analysis of Illustration as a Tool of Persuasion in Amul™ Ads

A pop culture icon and a beacon of upper-caste, liberal politics in India.

Kruttika Susarla
Graduate Student
Washington University in St. Louis

Brands have used mascots as a tool for persuasion and personalization of everyday commodities for ages (Dotz, Husain, 2003). Amul™ is an Indian dairy brand whose mascot is a fair-skinned girl in a white polka-dot dress and a matching bow in her blue hair. She was designed in 1967 and has since been used on product packaging and in political cartoon advertisements on billboards, print advertisements, and social media. The design of the mascot has remained consistent through the years and draws heavily on a rounded shape language. The Amul™ girl has been a pop culture icon and a beacon of upper-caste, liberal politics in India. Over the last six years, these advertisements shifted from liberal messaging to pro-state propaganda with a change in power in Indian politics to Hindu nationalism.

Amul™ uses visual and phonological puns, portmanteaus, and polysemous words in English and Hindi. The mascot transforms into politicians, celebrities, and sports persons depending on context. Her shape language is aggressively cute. Bright primary colors and consistent watercolor treatment with black outlines draw the audience into a nostalgic “good old” past while placing the mascot in an ever-changing political landscape. 

This presentation will visually analyze this evolution by examining the Amul™ illustration style, character design, and slogans. The analysis will use a dialectic method to read into the disarming aesthetics of the illustrations. It will contrast connoted messages with the material reality of the subjects of these ads by placing them in a historical, socio-political context. By doing so, we gain insight into how illustration has been used in these advertisements as a tool to normalize harmful government policies, the military, or pro-surveillance laws (Bhatia, 2020).

Core Values Matter: The Role of the People in Shaping Corporate Responsibility

Case studies examining the role that people have in influencing brands.

Lilian Crum
Assistant Professor
Lawrence Technological University

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and fervent momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, brands have been pressured to address the dramatic social, economic, and behavioral shifts that have been transforming our world. While some brands took action to support the social movement and some brands repositioned their messaging to encourage safe behavior during the pandemic, others communicated seemingly empty messages of solidarity and were criticized for their lack of authenticity. Outward-facing brand messaging has been scrutinized by the public, particularly when there has been discord with the actual internal policies and practices of the respective company. This has resulted in the public boycotting brands, as well companies taking genuine action to drive positive change.

A significant portion of consumers believe that companies hold just as much responsibility as governments do when influencing social change. Furthermore, with social media helping to facilitate public scrutiny of brand policies, practices, and organizational structures, bottom-up forces that put pressure on corporate responsibility have been stronger than ever before. People have the power to drive change through their expectations of company values and practices now more than ever.

Rooted in transition design framework, social innovation design, and marketing, this research uses case studies to examine the role that people have in influencing brands’ moves towards social equity and innovation. It considers the relationship between brand messaging with the company’s core values, the direct action that brands may take in social progress, as well as the ways in which people drive change through external pressure on a company.

Considering that Meredith Davis has dedicated a section of AIGA’s Design Futures to related issues (“Trend 4: Core Values Matters”), this topic is particularly significant to examine as it influences both teaching and practice in the future of the discipline.

This research was presented at the Design Incubation Colloquium 7.1: Oakland University, MI on October 17, 2020.

Price of Values

The purpose of this study is to inform advertisers, designers and consumers of our individual values, collective values and ethical standards.

Shruthi Manjula Balakrishna
Graduate student
Vermont College of Fine Arts

When stopped to consider the culture of the 21st century: Each morning, we hear a half dozen ads on the radio before our feet touch the floor. Staggering out of bed, we pass brand logos on our clothing and in our bathrooms. By the end of the day, hundreds – perhaps thousands of marketing messages would have targeted us, and yet so little is understood about how marketing affects our lives, our society, our world and most importantly, our personal values.

This research paper takes a hard look at the dangerous side effects of advertising – especially for women. The paper reviews how us women, who are biologically more vulnerable to alcohol than men, and who often suffer from depression and eating disorders, are more likely to seek connection to alcohol, food, and cigarettes, partly as a response to disconnection in our human relationships. The paper proposes that this disconnection is a sense of emptiness, and people who feel empty make great consumers. The text ponders on how this emptiness makes us turn to products, especially potentially addictive products, to fill us up, to make us feel whole.

Additionally, the paper deliberates the importance of responsible and empathetic design to make real, world changing, culture defining, values shaping difference. It discusses how every one of us designers in the advertising industry have an important role to play, and since the advertising industry played a part in building and setting in motion the wagon of consumerism and capitalism that is now diving us to the edge of the cliff, we should help solve these worldwide problems in a responsible and engaging way.

To demonstrate the observations, research, and opinions discussed in the paper, posters were designed in pop-art style because pop-art is not only drawn form mass media and popular culture, but is also “coolly” ambivalent. Whether that suggests an acceptance of the popular world or a shocked withdrawal is viewer interpretation – all with a sprinkle of parody.

The purpose of this study is to inform advertisers, designers and consumers that our individual values, collective values and ethical standards define us both as individuals and as people.

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

Alex Girard and Bruno Ribeiro Join Design Incubation

November 21, 2017.

Design Incubation is excited to announce important additions to our team.

Alex Girard, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design in the Art Department at Southern Connecticut State University, will be the Director of Peer Reviews.

He has had a distinguished career as an design educator and academic administrator, teaching at the University of Minnesota and Community College of Aurora, and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the Community College of Aurora.

Girard will direct the peer review process and ensure academic integrity and standards within the organization.

Bruno Ribeiro, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design in Department of Art and Design at California Polytechnic State University will be the Director of Community Outreach for West Coast Initiatives. His research specialization is in interaction and motion design. His background is in visual communication and industrial design, having studied at the Escola Superior de Desenho Industrial – ESDI (Rio de Janeiro), an an MBA in marketing from Fundação Getúlio Vargas – FGV (Rio de Janeiro) and an MFA from Ohio State University.

Ribeiro will be expanding our reach on the west coast, as we continue to expand our support of research in communication design.