Design Educators Community

What’s the effect of the economy on you as a design educator?

October 4, 2010 / By admin

The recent merger of the graphic and industrial design areas at North Carolina State University exemplifies how design departments in Universities and Colleges are responding to the economic downturn. Other institutions have cancelled entire degree programs, reduced the number of courses, or furloughed faculty and staff. The DEC Steering Committee wants to hear from directly from you–how is the economic downturn affecting your design institution and you?
The DEC Steering Committee seeks to gather your stories and images about how the economic downturn is affecting you as a design educator. What are your anxieties? How is your institution implementing budget cuts? How are you responding to them? What are the emerging opportunities in the chaos?
The DEC Steering Committee intention in gathering these stories is to (1) write an editorial on how the design education community is being affected by the economic downturn and (2) prepare a set of recommendations for what we at AIGA can do to help better support design educators in their situations.
Contribute early and often! Discussion from the first 30 days will be used to inform both the story and the set of recommendations.

AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.
  • MC

    Graphic design areas are historically or by chance often in fine art departments at universities. Budget cuts are an old story. Until design programs and the AIGA, SEGD, etc. collectively lobby to be have design be considered separate from and function separately from fine art departments, the “Art department” will always be the first to have budget cuts and the last to get any budget increases or return to original budgets. Design is associated by administrators with art (or ‘decorative’) and is therefore, dispensable. Art departments are also one of the departments that gets virtually no outside grant funding. The sciences get billions from DOD, NSF, private foundations, etc. which, while not directly tied to a department budget, provide space, equipment, and salaries for faculty and staff releasing regular funds to run the department and courses. A $100,000 grant is very small stuff for science. Counts for nothing and usually, it is money to begin tests to get a multi million dollar grant. There are no $100,000 graphic design grants that I know of! Most science grants start in the millions for even a basic research project.
    Since fine art faculty, in almost all cases, outnumber design faculty, design areas are often treated very poorly by committees and chairs in normal times let alone during big budget cuts.
    During s casual conversation about a committee activity, I once had a fine art colleague insult the profession of design directly to my face. This was not new though, so normally I would not think much of it. But this time, my colleague did so clearly not realizing they were doing it. At that moment, I was seeing design “bigotry” overtly and with no emotional cover I thought Oh, this is what it was like to be black in the South in 1959 My colleagues literally have no idea and openly encourage students to not study design because it has no value. Very disheartening for the design faculty and confusing for the students.
    With this anti design bigotry as a kind of backdrop at most university departments, graphic design areas are always just getting by under very adverse working conditions.
    There are exceptions for sure. If graphic design is with industrial design and/or architectural programs or possibly new media and technology areas usually, the balance is good and design is in good shape. Architecture colleagues can point at and discuss a graphic design curriculum and see how it works, the need for space, how tenure process differs in design from fine arts, etc. Maybe a dean or two are former architecture faculty. People are on board.
    There are also art departments with chairs who understand design and educate the faculty about the profession. But these people are very rare.
    BTW: the CAA does nothing to help the situation and despite design faculty and graduate students being a significant number of members, they ignore it.
    With the pressure to add in faculty to teach non print technologies, budget cuts, unsupportive and bigoted fine art colleagues – makes this discussion something that AIGA needs to have in a significant way.
    The economic downturn is revealing this long standing problem.

    Posted by: MC on August 24, 2009 re-posted by admin to new site 10/2010