Napier, Crain & Wada and Carlson Awarded 2015–16 Design Faculty Research Grants by the AIGA Design Educators Community

A trio of design educators from the Visual Communication Design Department at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, Indiana are the recipients of this year’s $7,500 award. Pamela Napier, J. Brian Crain and Terri Wada received notification on April 13 that their proposal, titled “Designing a Theoretical Foundation for People-Centered Design Research,” will be awarded this funding from the national steering committee of the AIGA DEC.”

Additionally, Clinton Carlson, an Assistant Professor in the Communication Design program at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, earned this year’s $2,500 award for his proposal, titled “Open-Source Design for the Public Interest: A Student-Centered Approach to Student Loans.”

Professors Napier, Crain and Wada will utilize their funding to facilitate the advanced testing of a curriculum and a set of teaching tools they have developed to more effectively implement and sustain people-centered approaches to teaching design in diverse types of programs. They define people-centered design as being distinct from user-centered design in that it “not only places the user at the center of the design process, but [also] calls for and places value upon the active inclusion or participation of users and stakeholders in the framing of problems… and the development and implementation of solutions.”

Professor Carlson’s funding will allow him to develop an online case study based on the critical examination of a group of online, interactive prototypes designed by students that seek to reduce delinquency rates on student loans in the U.S. The first phase of this project will entail the further development of these prototypes based on feedback gathered through an online survey, a Kano Study and, finally, a Critical Artifact Workshop (see description below). The second phase will entail the launch of an open-source repository for case studies and curricular offerings that address public interest issues.

This year’s array of AIGA DEC Design Faculty Research Grant proposals required seeking and coordinating evaluations from 36 reviewers who are members of graphic, visual communication or interaction design faculties at 33 institutions of higher learning in the U.S. and Canada. This process was followed by the AIGA DEC’s national steering committee’s facilitation of a comprehensive examination and assessment of the reviewers’ commentary and a comparative analysis of the entire array of proposals received.

The national steering committee of the AIGA DEC issues a call for proposals for its Design Faculty Research grants in early October each year. The deadline for receipt of these proposals is 11:59 pm CST on December 31. The AIGA DEC awards one grant in the amount of $7,500 during the following April/May, and one grant in the amount of $2,500 at the same time. Full- and part-time graphic design, visual communication design and interaction design faculty from North America are eligible to apply for these grants. Only proposals that seek to fund inquiry-based research endeavors are eligible to receive funding.

A critical artifact workshop introduces designers, researchers and/or project stakeholders and collaborators to “an absurd solution” to a given problematic situation involving the appearance or functionality of a specific artifact. (The artifact can exist in the form of a tool, a map, an interface design, a piece of furniture, etc.) The “absurdity” inherent in using or perceiving the artifact in question, or some aspect(s) of it, is critically discussed by a group comprised on individuals from each of the afore-mentioned constituencies. The goal of this discussion is to use absurdist platforms to bolster reasoning in ways that help all discussion participants engage in open and honest critical dialogue that is scaffolded and broadly informed.

By Michael R. Gibson
Published April 20, 2016
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