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Status report: 2009 Design Education Research Grant

May 20, 2010 / By admin

In 2009, Meredith Davis, Associate Professor of Graphic Design at NC State University, and research assistant and phD candidate, Deborah Littlejohn, received the second annual offering of the AIGA Design Educators Research Grant. Currently, they are conducting the project they proposed–Pedagogy, Culture and Change in Graphic Design Education. Following is a status report of the project in process.

Pedagogy, Culture and Change
in Graphic Design Education

Meredith Davis and Deborah Littlejohn
March 19, 2010

Four U.S. graduate-level design programs were selected and contacted to take part in the study and have granted permission for Deb Littlejohn to conduct site visits. As stated in the proposal, these programs were selected to represent a diversity of contexts typical of U.S. design schools. What follows is a brief contextual description for each program.

  • graduate program with a 0-5 yr. history, located in a medium sized midwestern metropolitan city; physically linked (i.e., located, administered) to an existing, and older, undergraduate graphic design program; previously, this program began as a private arts college offering BFA and MFA degrees in fine arts and design-focused disciplines; it is now situated in a College of Fine Arts within a large public research university.
  • graduate program with a 10-15 yr. history, located in a large metropolitan city in the western U.S.; not physically linked (i.e., located, administered) to an existing, and older, undergraduate graphic design program; situated in a private art and design college that offers BFA and MFA degrees in fine arts and design-focused disciplines.
  • graduate program with a 15-20 yr. history, located in a small metropolitan city in the southern Atlantic region; physically linked (i.e., located, administered) to an existing, and older, undergraduate graphic or interaction design program; public research university that offers BFA and MFA degrees in architecture and design-focused disciplines, situated in a College of Design within a large public research university with other multi-disciplinary colleges and schools.
  • graduate program with a 15-20 yr. history, located in a medium sized metropolitan city in the northeastern U.S.; physically linked (i.e., located, administered) to an existing, and older, undergraduate graphic design program; program offers BFA and MFA degrees in fine arts, architecture and design-focused disciplines, situated in a College of Fine Arts within small private university with other multi-disciplinary colleges and schools.

Presently, three of four site visits have been conducted thus far, and the observational component of the fourth site visit is 25% completed. Interviews at the fourth site are scheduled from now through the end of April. Site visits entail one or more observational sessions per each class offered during the Spring 2010 semester, including studio and seminar courses. In addition to class visits, one or more live interviews with all faculty teaching or mentoring graduate students are scheduled when convenient. Interviews with faculty range in length from 60-90 minutes, and where the schedule does not allow for face-to-face meetings, the researcher has arranged for phone interviews. At this time, 29 of 33 interviews (approximately 50 hours) have been completed; transcription of interviews is ongoing (75% transcribed).

Interviews cover topics related to faculty opinions regarding: the changing roles of designers and related issues for students entering contemporary design fields; the skills and knowledge students need to be effective in contemporary practice; where understandings and influences about the field come from; understandings of design research, interdisciplinary and collaborative competencies, and how these concepts define these competencies in the context of design practice and your approach/philosophy regarding how you teach them.

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