RGD’s Design Educator Conference Highlights: Part II

RGD Design Educators Conference 2023 emcee and speaker, Diana Varma RGD shares takeaways from the conference.


On June 1, a group of passionate design educators took to the lecture hall at Vancouver Community College, transformed into students for the day at the RGD’s Design Educators Conference 2023. In this article, Diana shares takeaways from presentations by Eric Forest RGD, Nida Fatima, Scot Geib and Marian Bantjes.
You can view Part I with Debbie Millman, Diana Varma RGD, Glen Hougan and Vivien Anayian's presentations here
Sessions were recorded and the RGD Members have access to these presentations and 750+ recordings of our webinars, conferences and other events in the Members-only section

No More Accommodations, Eric Forest RGD

Accommodations are a source of stress and stigma, potentially compromising learning outcomes. The solution lies in designing materials that meet student accommodation needs by default. 
Overview: Designer and educator Eric Forest RGD shared how last-minute, unexpected and ad-hoc nature of accommodation requests (and their improvised solutions) are a source of difficulty for both students and instructors: a problem of the system, not the learner. To break the cycle, Eric suggests anticipating accommodations and designing learning materials so that the activation of an accommodation doesn’t result in a rushed solution. He encourages educators to adopt an “accommodation first” mindset. 
  • Consider creating modular courses that offer student-selected assignments with the same learning outcomes that allow for choice to fit accommodations. This will benefit all students in tailoring their learning journey.
  • Create new assessments as new accommodation needs are identified and add them to the assessment bank for the next iteration of the course.
  • Reconsider the purpose of testing. Is it a learning tool or an evaluation tool? If it’s a learning tool, design questions that are intended to have students seek out the answers and allow open-book testing for all.

Equality in Design Curriculum, Nida Fatima

“Everyone shines, given the right lighting.” — Susan Cain author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Let’s understand the “right lighting” for every student.
Overview: Creative tech artist and educator Nida Fatima shared the ways that classroom group dynamics in post-secondary education often reflect roles established in childhood. No matter the nature of these roles, well-designed classroom spaces, meeting different learning styles and the role that educators play, can disrupt expected behaviours and create new opportunities within the classroom for students to see themselves as leaders. 
  • Behavioural management strategies: well-designed classrooms can open up communication and interaction among students.
  • Meeting learning styles: understanding students’ preferred and most effective form of receiving, analyzing and synthesizing information is critical to their success.
  • Peer-to-peer learning: helping students to connect and develop their communication skills (putting them back into the leadership role, versus a more passive role in the classroom).
  • Optimizing failing: we need to feel safe making mistakes.


Decolonizing the Design Process, Scot Geib

We must rethink the design process within a new paradigm… starting with the classroom.
Overview: Architect, graphic designer and educator Scot Geib described working with Indigenous curriculum consultants to begin to decolonize the curriculum of design, uncovering cultural paradigms within the design process. The design process is typically linear and one-directional with the designer sitting in the centre of the process (between the client and the outcome) holding power and control. In contrast, the decolonization of the design process is non-linear and multi-directional with the designer an equal partner within the design ecosystem, alongside the client and the outcome.
Decolonizing design requires: 
  • Collective knowledge versus independent knowledge
  • Facilitation versus direction
  • Collaboration versus consultation
  • Get students to actively think about and answer why decolonizing a course is important. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer; they will be individual and emotional, facilitating deeper learning.
  • Decolonizing design and the classroom can be messy and uncomfortable, but it’s a critical part of truth and reconciliation efforts.


Closing Keynote: From Kerning to AI, Marian Bantjes

Students must engage in learning the ethics of AI. Copying has happened for ages and it’s humans who do it; AI has no intent.
Overview: Designer, typographer, writer and illustrator Marian Bantjes provided attendees with clarity and hope about the use of AI in classrooms, as well as the role educators must play in teaching ethical use of AI. Namely, AI should not be prompted to create works “in the style of…” another artist, students should not upload images to copy and modify and students should not prompt AI to generate images of real people, living or dead. With these guiding ethics, educators can help students understand when and how to use AI in the classroom and beyond.
  • Marian gave children the same prompt as AI and the children produced far more accurate and interesting results.
  • It’s important to understand the legal frameworks upon which the foundation of the Internet is built. For example, Meta’s user agreement states: “We do not claim ownership of your content, but you grant us a license to use it.” Visual information willingly uploaded to social media is given or sold to companies that train AI. 
  • We need to tell students “do not copy”. Don’t give students prompts to design in someone else’s style! It promotes copying and teaches nothing.
  • What is AI good for? 
  • Presentations, mockups, memes, birthday cards, memos and notices (assets online that are protected by copyright; AI can create original versions that don’t infringe on copyright)
  • Colour studies
  • Images that can spark debate, spark stories and exist in place of photography in final designs
The RGD’s Design Educators Conference 2023 was an excellent event filled with passionate people and inspiring ideas. From accommodations to AI, engagement to equality, decolonizing classrooms to design thinking, there was huge value in the topics presented.
Until next year, which will take place at Vancouver Community College immediately after DesignThinkers 2024 in Vancouver (May 28+29) on May 30. To get notified about updates on the event, fill out this form.