Design Research

Building a Culture of Design Research

Meredith Davis
Graphic and Industrial Design College of Design, NC State University

ABSTRACT
Research education in design is a timely topic given the current trajectory of design as a profession. Arising from trades, the field has developed over the last half century, now showing most of the behaviors that are common to well-established professions: documented history; code of ethics; interest in methodology; growing body of literature; and developing criticism. The work yet to be done, however, is to build a mature culture of design research, as all professions have individuals whose primary work is to generate new knowledge that becomes the basis of practice. And this is an effort that can be accomplished only through a partnership between professionals and educators.

KNOWHERE: Finding Ways to Teach Wayfinding

Samantha Perkins
Miami University (Ohio)

ABSTRACT
Breadcrumbs. Wayfinding, an amazing tool, deals with providing navigational “breadcrumbs” to travelers, helping them find their way between locations. Speaking the language of space, information, shape, and form, wayfinding addresses the communication of information within the realms of graphic design, architecture and interior design. But sometimes problems in clear communication arise, especially when the behavioral aspects of human navigation are overlooked. Luckily, we can address these issues early... Assuming we rethink the current wayfinding education model, and teach beyond the book.

By considering issues of navigation behavior, we can establish a wayfinding education model that seeks to help explain the how and the why behind navigation, regardless of the ultimate where. But how do we teach behavior and context in the static environment of a standard classroom? KNOWHERE, an immersive education model designed to teach wayfinding in a more hands-on manner, uses graphic design to establish educational events that communicate ideas of design elements in an immersive context and environment. Through the use of exhibit design and mobile studio equipment, the KNOWHERE model pulls students out of their chairs and immerses them in the world of wayfinding in ways that encourage exploration and creative analysis.

Bridging Social Networking and Professional Practice: A Catalyst for Professional Development and Integrated Design Practice

Leigh Lally
Virginia Tech

ABSTRACT
Social networking has quickly become synonymous with professional development. The architecture and design industry has the opportunity to harness this movement in new and creative ways in its drive toward integrated design practices. Integrated design1* practice by definition must serve the individual design discipline while engaging in a community of practice toward a common project goal. This research initiative is spurred by leaders in the field who indicate that a swift transformation to integrated design practice is required in the discipline in order for architecture and design practice to remain relevant in today’s global economy. Bridging architectural and design research and environmental graphic design provide the opportunity for both a broad and a distinct view of integrated design practice. Current research can inform the environmental graphic design discipline of best practices that promote excellence in design and professional practice as well as multi-disciplinary collaboration as an EGD core competency. As a researcher and practitioner, I am excited to engage the EGD community in dialog about innovative venues for knowledge sharing toward professional development and integrated design practices. As a campus designer and planner charged with EGD and the wayfinding master plan for the university, I understand the need for multi-disciplinary collaboration at a project level, as well as the challenges of timely professional development in a rapidly changing field. As a Ph.D. candidate my research focuses on harnessing social networking as a vehicle for collaborative learning which can be applied both at the design industry level as well as at the scale of an individual discipline such as environmental graphic design.

Bridging EGD: Introducing Communities to the Potentials of Environmental Graphic Design

Justin Molloy
The University of Oklahoma

ABSTRACT
This paper discusses the potential for environmental graphic design (EGD) in emergent and small communities where both EGD and the value of design are unknown. When designers arrive in a community for the first time, they tend to notice things other people do not. Things like how information and experiences are integrated into a cityscape or neighborhood, or how a vision of a community shapes the delivery of their identity or message. When I arrived in Oklahoma nearly a year ago, I was told that there were huge opportunities for design to make an impact. Designers in Oklahoma are aware of what could be possible, but “the bridge” to make design a community focus had to date not been completed. Leaders in these communities have not been connected to the full potential that design offers. Without this knowledge base, the users of these communities do not understand what design is. A common misunderstanding that complicates matters is that design is equated as marketing. Design is mistakenly understood as the way to “dress things up” or make something “eye catching.” The incomplete part of “the bridge” is the notion that design can be a transformative mechanism that goes beyond the surface, and has the capacity to change the way we experience our present moment and envision our future.

The Development and Implementation of an Interdisciplinary Foundation Program at FIT/SUNY: Thinking, Making, Doing

Leslie Blum and Donna David
Fashion Institute of Technology/State University of New York

ABSTRACT
Before students can undertake sophisticated environmental graphic design (EGD) projects, they must learn very basic skills in visualizing three-dimensional space, working in scale and “making things.” Because these skills span traditional educational boundaries and departmental programs, they often fall between the cracks. This paper explains the design of an innovative interdisciplinary foundation program at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), a part of the State University of New York, which incorporates “learning by doing” and teaches skills that cross the disciplines.

The program contains the traditional components of an introductory Communication Design or Graphic Design program: typography, layout, color, computer skills, design history and a generous offering of liberal arts courses. In addition, the program concentrates on integrating three-dimensional visualization, incorporating the concept of “scale," introducing “time” and “space” as part of visual language and design basics, strengthening presentation skills and professionalism, and strengthening hand skills by “making things.”

Storefronts: Lettering & Digital Technologies in the Urban Landscape

Patricia Cue
San Diego State University

ABSTRACT
Commercial storefronts play a vital role in signposting and broadcasting the cultural identity of the urban landscape. Storefront signs address basic commercial communication needs such as naming and stating the type of business, marking the location, advertising services, and attracting customers. But they also fulfill a more important need: expressing the characteristics of a given culture, and defining how that culture is represented visually. They add flavor and authenticity. They let us know, culturally and geographically, where we are.

How a culture is perceived is largely determined by how it is presented. As cultural readers and interpreters, we look for signs and symbols to help us make sense of the space around us. In an ethnic urban landscape, commercial storefront signs are powerful coded symbols that communicate a wealth of cultural information. Sign painting has traditionally been the most common and effective means of conveying that information. In the past, such signs would have been hand-painted. However, since the introduction of plastic materials, and with the dominance of digital technologies, traditional sign painting has declined in popularity, especially in major commercial centers, where it is rarely, if ever, seen. But in many ethnic areas, sign painting has managed to survive as a vernacular form of design that operates on the margins of professional design practice.

This project examines the “membrane” that separates vernacular and professional graphic design, by investigating a particular form of indigenous hand-painted murals that advertise folk music concerts in rural Mexico, and by surveying the current state of storefront designs along University Avenue and San Ysidro Boulevard in San Diego, California. The main objective is to develop models for commercially competitive design solutions that translate the visual language of traditional handmade lettering into modern sign-making technologies and materials, in order to explore culturally sensitive ways to brand small businesses in ethnic pockets within urban areas. By creating design alternatives in the form of prototypes that expand the possibilities of modern technology, this project aims to foster cultural vitality and economic prosperity for small ethnic businesses, and to advocate for the preservation of visual diversity.

Smarter Sidewalks

Brett Snyder
University of California Davis, Department of Design

ABSTRACT
How we navigate the streets has changed radically over the past decade, thanks largely to new technologies. To take just one example, smart phones have made an ever widening array of maps and information available to the public, enabling new ways of seeing and experiencing the urban landscape. iPhones allow the street to become a museum without walls, support pop-up events, and enable the creation of thematic journeys.

While our modes of navigating streets have transformed, the streetscapes themselves have remained fundamentally unchanged. We still have traffic signs, phone booths, historical plaques, and bus stops that look and operate much the way they did 20 or even 50 years ago. Why are our streets so slow to adapt? The time is ripe to reconsider how public infrastructure could operate and how it might transform the way we navigate and experience the public realm. Could there be alternative ways to access location-based information, beyond personal digital devices—ways that help make information more widely accessible to all and lower the digital divide? Could a public media infrastructure achieve secondary aims such as reducing carbon footprints and creating more habitable cities? How can the street itself learn from the open source, mobile platforms that characterize the latest turn of the digital revolution?

An Interior and Graphic Design Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Miranda Hall and Nicole Bieak Kreidler
La Roche College

ABSTRACT
Design has undergone many changes over the past several decades. What was once a trade activity is now a practice-based profession that has diversified into very distinct disciplines (Buchanan, 1998). Design disciplines have worked independently until recently, when interdisciplinary collaboration has become increasingly valuable. Studies have shown that collaborative efforts can produce new and original ideas not possible in a uni-disciplinary setting (Nelson, Wilson and Yen, 2009). Too often design education lags behind what is happening within the design profession and it is for this reason that this collaboration was initiated. The decision to plan the interdisciplinary collaboration came out of a discussion of the crossover of content topics within two courses in the Design Division at La Roche College. After additional conversations and planning, it was also driven by the desire to better integrate students and initiate them as co-creators.

Jim Harding

Jim Harding leads Gresham, Smith and Partners, an award-winning Environmental Graphic Design Group based in Nashville, Tennesee. Since 1986, his career at GS&P's includes a diverse range of signage and wayfinding design experience is unique in the breadth of industries and project types it covers, including corporate and urban design, healthcare, land planning and aviation clients.

Headshot of Designer Jim Harding, Gresham, Smith and Partners
Gresham Smith
Nashville, Tennessee

Design Innovations through Collaborative Research Methods

University of Cincinnati

ABSTRACT
Technology is presenting new opportunities for designers and educators to collaborate in developing tools for reading instruction. This paper shares a collaborative research study that leveraged visual communication design, reading literacy, and educational psychology research to help teach early reading skills through a multi-sensory experiential learning tool. This study demonstrates how collaboration and design problem-solving can contribute to addressing communication design problems and developing experiential learning methods.

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