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2010 AIGA Design Faculty Research Grant Report Complete

February 3, 2011 / By admin

AIGA Design Educators Community is pleased to announce that Professor Meredith Davis and PhD candidate Deborah Littlejohn of North Carolina State University recently completed their report of the study conducted in 2010 with the support of the second annual AIGA Design Educators Research grant. The premise of the study is described below, and the pivotal document that describes the key themes of the investigation can be found here. The study also complements the Designing Flexible Curriculum workshop that Davis held this past September at the AIGA Design Educators conference, New Context/New Practices, as well as the discussions that took place at the event, which are advancing the understanding of design education today and in the future. The final report will be completed in May. In addition, as grant recipients, Littlejohn and Davis will present the final results at an upcoming AIGA Design Educators Conference. We congratulate them on their work, which is sure to inform future design research endeavors, and thank them for their important contribution.

Pedagogy, Culture and Change in Graphic Design Education
Design is a profoundly changing field of practice and discipline of study. One of the most important issues for design education today is how to develop instructional strategies that are reflective of the opportunities and sensitive to the challenges of an expanding role for design. This study examined the shifts underway in the design field to explore academic culture in graduate design programs. It focused on curricular and pedagogic practices to build a theoretical understanding of the relationships between academic design culture, curricular innovation and the particular circumstances of the teaching environment in which instruction takes place. Transformative shifts related to social, economic and technological trends have placed importance on a different set of competencies for designers that bring much to bear on the field’s traditional knowledge and skills. Three themes were identified in a previous investigation, including: the ability to understand people and contexts for design through evidence-based research and other empirical-analytic methods; the ability to interpret and utilize interdisciplinary knowledge and working processes; and the ability to collaborate in large, multidisciplinary teams. This study seeks to understand how design programs anticipate, define and meet the demands of preparing students for changing conditions of practice.

Several U.S. design programs that represent a broad range of institutional diversity were selected to take part in this study. Drawing on data from the AIGA Survey of Design Education Programs Results (2008) these programs represent:

• different structural contexts (private and public colleges and universities)

• diverse geographic locales

• years of establishment (newer programs and well established programs)

• different orientations to practice as defined in the AIGA survey

The outcome of this study will go beyond documentation to provide in-depth analytic descriptions of pedagogic strategies emerging in graphic and interactive media design. Although there is a tradition of writing about design education, what is lacking is evidence-based investigations for enhancing the curriculum through empirical research. With few exceptions, mainly outside of the U.S., graphic design remains a generally neglected topic of investigation by higher education scholars who, when they do study design disciplines, focus on architecture or interaction design as it is taught in computer science or engineering programs. The proposed study seeks to fill this gap by contributing original knowledge that describes frameworks for curricular innovation at a particularly crucial moment for graphic design practice and pedagogy–one where pressure to change is coming from outside the discipline as much as from within it. Data yielded from this project will contribute new knowledge in pedagogic theory in design and connect the graphic design field to valuable literatures pertaining to curricular innovation.

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