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Previous Design Faculty Research Grant Abstracts

February 15, 2011 / By admin

The Design Faculty Research Grant of $5000 provides support for design research and is awarded annually by the AIGA Design Educators Community through a competitive, peer-review process. The grant supports research that includes scholarship that generates new knowledge, integrates design knowledge into other disciplines as an influential force, or explores new pedagogies through the teaching of design and evaluation of learning outcomes. Thus far, we have awarded three grants. This year’s grant was awarded to Ruth Lozner, University of Maryland, and Robin Vande Zande, Kent State University, for the project Making the Case: Educating Art Educators in Design for K-12 Curriculum. Below are reports from past grants.

2nd Annual Design Faculty Research Grant (2009): Pedagogy, Culture and Change in Graphic Design Education. Awarded to Professor Meredith Davis and PhD candidate Deborah Littlejohn of North Carolina State University.

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.
1st Annual Design Faculty Research Grant (2008): design for development: A Case Study in Empowerment. Awarded to Associate Professor of Graphic Design Maria Rogal, University of Florida
Historically the field of graphic design does not integrate research, fieldwork, practice, and pedagogy. However, this work is becoming increasingly more important. The design for development initiative explores how graphic designers, in partnership with marginalized communities, use design processes, products, and strategies to develop sustainable solutions for local economic, social, cultural, and environmental problems. In this article, I provide background on this initiative and, using one of these projects as an example, I share the process by which we work with indigenous groups on problems they have identified. Our community partners benefit in the resulting graphic design products, processes, and strategies, and my students and I learn from the new knowledge, methods, and competencies we develop “in the field.”
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