A Look Back on 2021; Looking Ahead in 2022

One of the most important moments in the process of designing (yet so often overlooked) is the act of reflection. As co-chairs of the AIGA Design Educators Community, we are taking this moment to reflect on this past year as we look onward at the year ahead. For us, 2021 was a year of asking “how are you doing?” and listening for the answer. It was a year of questioning patterns, reconsidering old ways, developing new methods, and ardently working to lift up new ideas and bolster foundational change for us on the DEC.

While our community may have been more prepared for the difficulties in teaching as 2021 began, the burnout persisted. Even still, we witnessed the community thrive and discover ways to persevere and strengthen. In 2021 the DEC welcomed five new members to the Steering Committee, each of whom bring exciting energy and unique strength to our board. Additionally, in March of 2021 the Design Educators Community officially changed its bylaws expanding from traditional design educators in 4-year universities to design educators across the spectrum of K-12 and non-traditional institutions. We are excited by the multifaceted and diverse conversations and programming that will continue to come from this community following these more inclusive bylaws.

Our Virtual Events Team continued to exceed expectations with programming for research and development, events delving into managing multiple roles in design education and administration, even an event specifically for new design educators hosted by a member of our community—an idea born out of our August event, SHIFT{ed}. With Liese Zahabi and Alberto Rigau at the helm, our SHIFT Virtual Summit pressed on in its second year with the SHIFT{ed} Summer Summit to the overwhelming response to our calls for participation. We strived to bring together as many different voices and perspectives as possible, and from the robust and rich conversations on Slack to the panels and presentations to the proceedings, it’s clear that SHIFT was a need fulfilled for and by our community. Thanks to all our volunteers, our speakers, our moderators, and everyone who attended—we could not have done it without you. All of these events and more can be found on our YouTube, which is constantly updated with content that we hope our community finds rich and engaging. 

We had many exciting opportunities for rich collaborations this year. The SHIFT{ed} panel discussion featuring Climate Designers Katie Patrick and Lisa Zimmermann with Eric Benson airs as a special episode of the Climate Designers Climify podcast and tackles tough questions about how and why all designers must address climate change in their work teaching in the classroom and creating in the workplace. We continued collaborations with the incredible team at Design Incubation on design writing resources and through virtual events on becoming a design writer and the collective mapping of communication design research and scholarship. The AIGA DEC team worked together with the AIGA National team on several successful events: We kicked the year off with the Member Series Panel Discussion on Mentorship featuring Needa Verma, Kaleena Sales, and Meena Khalili hosted by Meaghan Dee; We teamed up for the AIGA Design + Business Conference to discuss all the ways design education impacts business (check out the Design + Business conference happening again this May 2022); DEC Steering Committee members Gaby Hernandez and Liese Zahabi were each featured on the national series One Designer One Work; and as with previous years, the DEC carried on its support of the AIGA Portfolio Festival. 

The DEC and our Communications Team continue efforts toward uplifting and expanding voices in the design education community as we highlight those in our community through the Design Educator Profile Series and remain committed in our efforts toward accessibility, justice, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in design education. We encourage you to read the article by Rebecca Tegtmeyer and Gaby Hernandez titled Equity, Inclusion, Access, Anti-Racism, and Design Education: Lessons Learned During the Covid-19 Pandemic on our website, which takes a deep dive into a roundtable discussion focused on the challenges with diversity + inclusion that online design education presented us in 2020 and 2021. The resources made available on our site continued to expand especially in light of the deluge of anti-Asian violence in 2021. Enduring is the impact of Beyond the Bauhaus, an online series by Kaleena Sales, who also with Kelly Walters developed Perspectives + Reflections, as both remain staple content for our community and beyond. The articles from Beyond the Bauhaus help to broaden the scope of what we teach and discuss in the classroom and Perspectives and Reflections serves as a place for thoughts on Identity, Race, and Design Education. Submissions for both are encouraged from readers (email Kaleena at ktucker2@tnstate.edu). Additionally, in 2021 we welcomed a new series, Computational Design Practices (CDP) developed by Kuyha Shim. CDP is to be a living document that explores the areas, concepts, skills, and perspectives of computational design, through conversations with design practitioners and educators. It aims to define and demystify code-driven and data-driven approaches in design, and discuss new opportunities and challenges to using computation as a creative medium in the context of design practice and education. Submissions and general inquiries on the project are encouraged (email Kyuha Shim at qshim@cmu.edu).

This DEC Steering Committee strives to continue living up to its mission while expanding to meet the needs of its community. We are steadfast in providing resources and opportunities for teaching, research, and professional development. This month the DEC Publications Team implements the new DEC Design Writing Fellowship, which will focus on an often overlooked communication artifact, the Visual Essay. Proceedings for SHIFT are being published in our Dialogue series as we’ve just wrapped up the most recent call for SHIFT{ed} proceedings. The current issue of Dialectic, our scholarly journal of thought leadership, education, and practice in the discipline of visual communication design, is finalizing publication with a new call for the 6th issue released this past October with two more calls for Dialectic expected this year. In addition to all of this, The Design Teaching Resource remains a pillar resource for design education and is more robust than ever. The DTR persists in exploring diverse content with more projects geared toward inclusion, leadership, and engagement. 

Finally, we want to congratulate all of you in our community who have had successes this year and we want to recognize and thank all of you who have stepped forward to give back to design education. As we are a volunteer-run organization we assure you, your time and contributions are seen and felt by the AIGA Design Educators Community. From presenting, organizing, moderating, to writing and editing, contributing projects, and generally helping, devoting, promoting, and engaging with your own classrooms and communities. Thank you for all you do. 

There is much to come in 2022 that we cannot wait to experience with you. Happy New Year, all!

Meena Khalili & Alberto Rigau
AIGA DEC Co-Chairs

By Meena Khalili
Published January 5, 2022
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