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Recipient of the 2nd Annual Research Grant Announced

May 21, 2010 / By admin

AIGA Design Educators Community Steering Committee is very pleased to announce the award of our second annual design research grant, determined through a competitive, peer-review process. This grant of $5000 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. This year’s grant has been awarded to Deborah Littlejohn and Meredith Davis, North Carolina State University, for the project which they describe below:

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. The proposed study examines the shifts underway in the design field to explore academic culture in graduate design programs. It will focus 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 given rise to a new 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 of the different competencies transforming contemporary design practice, including: the ability of designers to understand people and contexts for design through evidence-based research and other empirical-analytic methods; the ability of designers to interpret and utilize interdisciplinary knowledge; and the ability of designers to collaborate in 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 will be 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 U.S. scholars in higher education who, when they do study design disciplines, focus on architecture or interaction design as it is taught in computer science and 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

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