In partnership with the Department of Design at York University, RGD issues call for proposals for Design Educators Conference
Graphic design education is constantly in flux as it attempts to respond to the demands of modern life. Educators are compelled to anticipate the needs of each year’s graduates in order to prepare them to enter a constantly evolving profession, one whose boundaries are increasingly diffuse as it encounters new technologies, while simultaneously demanding increasingly specialized forms of intellectual capital.


Today’s graduates find themselves called upon to be information managers, systems analysts, healthcare researchers, artists, curators, and critics. Technology has intensified our reliance on digital media for communication and has accelerated the evolution of design education. How can university and college faculty members develop relevant and flexible curricula to keep pace with the needs of students and practitioners?


As teachers, designers, students (and consumers) of visual culture, we find ourselves in the position of adapting and redefining our roles in this new environment.


The Design Educators Conference seeks to examine the symbiotic relationship between pedagogy and professional practice through the lens of the student experience. It will bring together university and college design educators from across Canada and beyond who are interested in sharing their perspectives on this interdependent relationship. Presenters will have opportunities to share projects and initiatives that represent major shifts in design education in response to the needs of contemporary practice. Others may present theoretical or speculative perspectives about what it means to teach design in the current context. Educators may ruminate on the question of, “who influences whom when everything is in transition?”


This conference will coincide with DesignThinkers 2013 on November 6 and 7 2013, the annual gathering of professional design influencers. DesignThinkers will feature a panel session including both professionals and academics. This panel will initiate a timely dialogue, continuing with a more in-depth session to be held at the Design Educators Conference at York University the following day.



Submit a Proposal



We will explore Perspectives from the Field through 20-minute paper presentations within three broad themes: Teaching, Learning and Doing design.


Paper presentations may address but are not limited to the following thematic concepts:



Design educators are charged with developing curricula that anticipate and respond to the needs of the profession while also encouraging future designers to develop their individual voices and approaches to the design process. We are challenged to instill qualities of good design in our students while also asking them to explore and redefine the ways design contributes to the world. We must assess our values and negotiate the terrain between imparting traditional skills and developing 21st-Century designers prepared to think critically about the issues they’ll face.


Within this category we welcome presentations that represent ways in which instructors respond to the following topics:

  • Educators’ perceptions of the industry and professionals’ perceptions of the academy
  • The role of experimental, hypothetical, non-applied projects in pushing the industry forward
  • The shift from design education as problem-solving process to an activity that involves questioning and framing
  • Delivering traditional, comprehensive graphic design education while embracing advances in technology
  • How faculty advance the discipline through their own research (as distinct from pedagogical research)



In order to develop a curriculum that responds to industry needs, we must also understand who our students are and how design students have changed over the past few decades. Students’ needs and desires have changed along with their expectations for future prospects. They struggle to reconcile differences between what they want to design and what they believe is expected of them in design programs and professional practice.


We welcome educators and graduate students to present papers that consider the following topics:

  • Students’ perceptions of the profession
  • Ways in which students explore the relationship between design and social engagement
  • Alternatives to design as problem-solving / students’ engagement with the design process
  • Questions that today’s students wish to examine through design
  • Student-driven initiatives that challenge the discipline



This category is intended to serve as a reality check for both educators and professionals and will attempt to reach the heart of how we prepare students for a future of life-long learning. We will attempt to uncover issues such as the relevance of what goes on in the classroom and the relationship to professional practice. We will look at how we bridge academic concerns and their affect on practice.


Papers in this category might address the following topics:

  • Educators' perceptions of the profession
  • The value that professionals place on critical thinking and/or skills training
  • Preparing the designer of the future to have the ability to adapt to ever-changing conditions
  • Providing an education that will allow for the pursuit of careers in other areas where the hands-on knowledge provided by the act of making is valued as a complementary skill-set. Such careers might include curatorial practice, marketing and education
  • Taking professional practice beyond client-driven work to expand the discipline



We invite you to submit proposals for 20-minute paper presentations in the form of a 750-word abstract with supporting images. All proposals will be evaluated via a peer-review process.


Please fill out the following form:

Proposal Submission Form


Images can be emailed as a separate PDF to .

Files must be named as follows:


/ Last name / Initial for first name / Images

example: Smith_M_Images.pdf



If you have any questions about submitting your proposal please email or


Conference Co-Chairs:

Sandra Gabriele RGD, Associate Professor, Department of Design, York University

Angela Norwood RGD, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Design, York University