Design Educators Conference – Webinar Series
  • Shared Visions for Change

    Friday, January 15, 1:00 PM ET



    Shared Visions for Change

    Design Educators have an opportunity and a mandate to centre new voices in the curriculum, to expand the canon and to decentre those forms and figures who have predominated for too long. While that means introducing new resources in our classrooms, it also means changing how we teach and how we expect students to learn. We see design education as a deeply emergent practice, and we welcome sharing the messiness of our process with our community. In this keynote, we introduce the names of those who have influenced us, share our visions for reform and model inclusion through our pedagogies and practices.



    Anne H. Berry is an Assistant Professor in the Anne Berry headshotDepartment of Art and Design at Cleveland State University. Her research focuses on race and representation and ethnic and racial disparities within the field of graphic design. She is a 2018 Design Incubation Fellow and recently published an essay titled “The Black Designer’s Identity” for Recognize, an anthology featuring essays from Indigenous people and people of color. She is also co-creator of the award-winning project Ongoing Matter: Democracy, Design, and the Mueller Report.


    Jennifer Rittner is a writer, educator and communications strategist. She  currently serves on faculty at the School Visual Arts, where she teaches in the MFA Products of Design, MA Design Research, Writing and Criticism andJennifer Rittner headshotBFA Graphic Design programs. Her courses include design history, design for social value, design politics and thesis writing. Jennifer writes and lectures about design and social justice. As a daughter of women, Jennifer centres the voices of her near descendants Bernadette, Aurea and Dianqui in her practices.


    Kelly Walters headshot

    Kelly Walters is an Assistant Professor of Communication Design and the Associate Director of the BFA Communication Design program in Parsons School of Design at The New School. She is the founder of Bright Polka Dot, a multidisciplinary design practice, which focuses on print, digital, exhibition design for educational organizations and cultural institutions. Her ongoing design research interrogates the complexities of identity formation, systems of value and the shared vernacular in and around black visual culture.


  • They Were There Too

    Friday, January 29, 1:00 PM ET



    They Were There Too


    Reorienting Approaches to Writing Design Histories, presented by Briar Levit

    In the brief period that graphic design history has been taken seriously, limited narratives have dominated. Today scholarship has grown considerably and it is from this continually expanding group of scholars that we will get the most complete, equitable and reflective understanding of our discipline. Briar focuses on why our history should be told by the many, rather than a few.

    Briar Levit headshot

    Briar Levit spent her early career in publishing.She was previously the Art Director of Bitch magazine and a book designer. More recently, her feature-length documentary, Graphic Means: A History of Graphic Design Production (2017) established an obsession with design history—particularly aspects not in the canon. She is currently collaborating on The People’s Graphic Design Archive and editing a book of essays about unheard design histories of women. Levit is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Portland State University.


    Revealing Missing Design Stories, presented by Tasheka Arceneaux Sutton

    Little is known about Black people that made significant contributions to the history of graphic design. Although there are many untold stories, this talk will focus on the achievements and the lifelong work of Louise E. Jefferson, a Black woman calligrapher, graphic designer, illustrator and photographer.

    Tasheka Sutton headshot

    Tasheka Arceneaux Sutton is an Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Southeastern Louisiana University, Faculty in the MFA program in Graphic Design at Vermont College of Fine Arts and runs a design studio called Blacvoice. Tasheka received her MFA in Graphic Design from California Institute of the Arts and a BA in English from Loyola University New Orleans.


    Retooling Resources: Democratizing History Research, presented by Louise Sandhaus

    With few archives and researchers, much of graphic design history is disappearing and many stories are going untold. Thanks to a new crowd-sourced virtual archive, "the people" can decide what work should be preserved and collectively decide what should be part of our diverse history.

    Louise Sandhaus is a graphic designer and is Louise Sandhaus headshotfaculty at California Institute of the Arts. She is founder and co-director of The People’s Graphic Design Archive, a crowd-sourced virtual archive, author of Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires and Riots: California and Graphic Design, 1936-1986 and co-author of A Colorful Life: Gere Kavanaugh, Designer. Louise is an AIGA LA Fellow and in 2017 received the Design Icon Award from Los Angeles Design Festival.

  • Strong Like Two People

    Friday, February 12, 1:00 PM ET

    Theme: Equity – within all spaces


    Strong Like Two People: Curriculum Development for Northern Creative Program on Tłı̨chǫ Lands


    Presented by Adolfo Ruiz, Assistant Professor at MacEwan University in Alberta, Canada


    The project developed through this research is based on the rich history of Dene storytelling and is intended to engage regional elders and youth in ongoing activities that combine traditional (oral) ways of sharing stories with visual communication design practice. This research also draws from the United Nations Creative Economy Report, 2013—which emphasizes how culture, creativity and innovation are vital in meeting challenges of sustainable development, while encouraging economic growth, and promoting social inclusion. In his work, Adolfo aimed to empower learners from a northern community through the development of culturally appropriate curriculum, embrace the land as classroom, expand the idea of design to include Indigenous knowledge, and finally, to explore ways of engaging participants from the Dene region, as well as educators from a southern university. Most importantly Adolfo worked to facilitate equity through the creation of an educational experience outside the urban environment. 



    • How does design education engage with society, with our student’s lives, with the industry at large?
    • What strategies can educators share on creating a culturally appropriate curriculum?
    • How can educators increasingly encourage and promote students to be culturally aware, engaged and active in their visual communication design practice?
  • "I hated assessment, well, I get why we did it."

    Friday, February 26, 1:00 PM ET

    Theme: Empower – the learners


    “I hated assessment, well, I get why we did it. I liked finishing off all my projects with a deadline, yeah, I quite liked it actually.”


    Presented by Tracey Waller, Head of Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art in London, UK


    Critical thinking is essential to understand the implications of new social orders, politics and rapid technological advancements. The prevailing hierarchical classroom structure is not enough to support a type of thinking that is essential for innovation. Our pedagogy calls out for insights that further critique the reiteration of the ‘canons’ of educational frameworks with the intention to act. Tracey introduces a case study of a dialogic assessment model which was co-designed with students and responded to student feedback about their experience of assessment. The student feedback was “Assessment is being done to us, not with us.” This research is based on the principle that the student benefits from being present during the assessment of their work, taking part in the discussion with tutors and arriving at a grade in collaboration with them. This model gives students the agency to be both assessor and assessed, thus giving them lifelong skills, independence and confidence to judge the quality of their own work and that of others, in turn making them aware of the goals and standards of the subject. 



    • How do you empower students to become active learners?
    • How do we train and create an ecosystem of resilience?
    • What systematically needs to change in order for assessment to be executed with students taking part in grading?
    • How does the classroom dynamic shift if we involve students in the assessment process
    • What other opportunities exist in changing the assessment model?
  • Theme: Expand  the experience


    Presentation: Health + Design: Expanding the Undergraduate Curriculum to Embrace Real World Problems


    Presented by Gillian Harvey, Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada


     In this case study, students from an undergraduate design program are introduced to design research techniques in teams to gain an understanding of the visual landscape of health education. It considers the designer’s role and responsibility in creating persuasive messages and designed objects in different media that have the power to suggest a new approach to social design education in undergraduate curriculum. As a problem-based learning approach, design and medicine work well together. As Frascara (2017) notes, pedagogy in medicine has recently discovered the value of problem-based learning. Leading educational institutions have adopted it as a way to introduce students into the realities of human health. Design education has always been organized as problem-based learning, embedded in projects. Gillian shows how incorporating design thinking methods, such as visualizing, diagramming, systematic exploration and creating frameworks for understanding, can help designers interpret, understand and design the visual messages that they create. The call to action is for us (designers) to reconnect, preserve, value the ‘work of a conversation’ in how it shapes our lives.



    • How do we decide who and what to include in the experience of design education?
    • How can educators connect design curriculum to healthy education.
    • As we culturally become more aware of health importance, how can design thinking curriculum include this aspect?
    • How do we both teach and communicate the importance of design to address real world problems?


  • Embracing Equitable Remote Learning

    Friday, March 12, 1:00 PM ET

    Theme: Embrace – the classroom

    Embracing Equitable Remote Learning

    Presented by Saskia van Kampen RGD & Ellen Christensen, Design Practitioners & Assistant Professors within the Visual Communication Design program at San Francisco State University, CA

    Due to the shift from physical space to virtual space, the remote classroom, in some ways, allows for interesting new pedagogical approaches for creating a more equitable classroom. With new methods for teaching, new methods for social presence and community and new ways of creating equity and accessibility, we have the opportunity to decolonize and open up learning in new and, as yet, unknown ways. Saskia and Ellen reveal techniques that can be borrowed from the virtual classroom to improve the in-person classroom, and vice versa. Fundamentally Saskia and Ellen plan to show how the design studio classroom can be redefined in this unique cultural moment, looking toward potential needs of the future.



    • What will the future classroom look like? 
    • What are the methodologies, technology and/or practices we need to embrace to move forward?
    • How do we incorporate unique cultural moments into the classroom?
    • What do we know about the needs of the future that can influence the classroom?


  • The Act of Teaching Design is Design

    Friday, March 12, 1:00 PM ET

    Theme: Embrace – the classroom


    Re-imagining Legacy Post-secondary Design Education in a “Teacherless” Society


    Presented by Andrew Hladkyj, Professor at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario


    Through a human-centred examination of today’s educational environment, this project derives 20 aspirational motivations at the heart of an independent learning model. It reframes the disconnect between design academia and industry using an ’80s computer game and a Greek myth as fresh paradigms to uncover the value of strategic partnership, addictive learning and platform-agnostic foundational training in preparing post-secondary design education for the future. Andrew offers 4 alternative worlds built around distinct sets of motivations and presents one in detail to illustrate a higher-value ecosystem of flexible locations, virtual spaces and re-defined roles to empower tomorrow’s independent learner. A high-level road map outlines a stakeholder consultation and implementation plan to make this re-imagined world a reality. With the ever-growing disruption of education by technology and the trend toward self-directed and autonomous learning, how might we re-imagine legacy post-secondary design education in a “teacherless” society? 



    • What does the future classroom look like? 
    • What are the methodologies, technology and/or practices we need to embrace to move forward?
    • As educators, how do we feel about the idea of a ‘teacherless’ society?
    • What does this mean for education? How will this change the culture of our schools in the future?
    • How can our system of education change to allow for more autonomous learning?
  • Theme: Expand – the experience


    Making Real: or Why We Don’t Teach Speculative Design 


    Presented by Ali S. Qadeer & Richard Hunt, Graphic Designers & Faculty at OCAD University in Toronto, Ontario


    In the past 20 years, design departments in higher education the term “speculation” has become a shortcut for critical engagement, creativity, and political commitment. However, speculative practice has itself developed a dogma with tools and methods which are rarely challenged. Ali and Richard propose a return to the function of professional practice as a means for “making real”: real publications, real artworks and artefacts, objects, systems and spaces that operate against prototype logics and in favour of performing their function beyond artifice. Making real things is an opportunity for students to develop a rich, critical and nuanced understanding of their own processes as makers. Using examples, they propose a mode of teaching design rooted in the development of independent, self-driven designers who use their practices to analyze and engage with the world, rather than in the construction of extrapolated utopias or dystopias. Asking students to engage with the world in the creation of design allows them to create meaning and artefact simultaneously. 



    • How do we decide who and what to include in the experience of design education?
    • How can we better bridge the gap between the education space and ‘making real’ world design systems that teach students about industry concepts and processes?
    • How do we design curriculum to best resemble the life cycle of real-world design projects?
  • 'Show & Tell'

    Friday, March 26, 1:00 PM ET

    Theme: Engage – with external participation


    Show and Tell: Student Engagement and Virtual Design Studio


    Presented by Sheeraz Waria, Graphic Designer & Educator at George Brown and Sheridan Colleges, Toronto/Oakville, Ontario


    One of the core aspects of UDL is to create opportunities for students to be better engaged and to feel more involved in their learning, and to maintain that what they are learning is relevant and important. All students have ideas and something to share, they all have goals and a reason for being a part of a programme, but not all of them share those ideas directly. The ‘Show & Tell’ approach encourages them to share their passions, aspirations, influences and/or motivations for being in this field. This presentation reviews the effect of this initiative and how it impacted individual student participation and the student body as a whole, as a part of an online community. Itl takes into consideration student feed-back and personal observation, to further the idea in making it a tool for constructive discourse and reasoned conversation. The key idea here being able to help students to connect better with the course content and with each other, by sharing ideas, get inspired and be excited about the field they are in.


    • How do you empower students to become active learners?

    • How do we train and create an ecosystem of resilience?

    • What is the importance of autonomy in the educational environment?
    • How do we balance learning and autonomy in this space?
    • How do we create a safe space for sharing aspirations, passions, influences and motivations in the classroom (virtual and in-person)?


  • Theme: Empower – the learners


    Design Feedback Sprint Sessions Produce ACE (Actively and Creatively Engaged) Students 


    Presented by Nicki Wragg, Associate Professor, Chair, Communication Design; Lauren Martyn, Lecturer, Swinburne Online; Judy Worthington, Lecturer, Swinburne Online at Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria, Australia


    Design students must be empowered to become active learners – learning by example, embracing technology and building their resilience in a scaffolded ecosystem that focuses on learning outcomes. Critique sessions have traditionally been part of the design learning process, but their effectiveness has long been questioned, with some students misinterpreting lecturers’ feedback under the pressure of a critique, while others leave crushed by negative feedback. After our fully online Communication Design program commenced, we engaged in a reflective process to understand the serendipity of the studio and the positive aspects of design critique sessions. Reimagining the studio, we considered how to best embed constructive criticism in the curriculum. Through experimenting with various online platforms, we developed a collaborative system between peers and lecturers to shape projects as they progress, without the emotional bias associated with studio critiques and the term ‘criticism’. We report on the iterative development of design feedback sprints online, how they translated to on-campus delivery and how the method creates actively and creatively engaged students. We describe the major elements of the sessions in addition to reporting the impacts of feedback sprints on students’ development and how the method has benefited lecturers’ practice. Design feedback sprints are extending the boundaries of the traditional critique session, helping us to pursue continuous improvement with a strong focus on student-centred experience.



    • How do you empower students to become active learners? 
    • How do we train and create an ecosystem of resilience?
    • how can the design feedback sprint revolutionize the classroom? How and why does this method align with soft industry skills?
    • What tools and online platforms allow for the most effective collaborative feedback sessions and critiques?
  • Theme: Empower – the learners


    Graphic Design and Communication Can Be a Powerful Tool


    Presented by Cat Normoyle, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at East Carolina University. Normoyle is a Boston-native designer, artist, and educator. Her research and creative activity explore design as an agent for change. She is interested in a range of design topics including social design and impact, community engagement, digital experiences and technology, and speculative design. Her work is interdisciplinary, experimental, collaborative, and strategic at its core. It ranges from the physical to the digital, from the static to the dynamic, and from the 2-dimensional to the 3-dimensional.


    “Accountability for predicting outcomes for design action” is a major competency for the future of our discipline. Teaching design action and accountability to students means articulating the relevance and responsibilities that are tied to any power of persuasion when we design artifacts, systems, services, experiences and environments, for others across diverse societal contexts. Teaching designers to create responsibly means understanding audiences, considering and addressing the impacts that their work may have and reflecting on the outcomes of their work in broader contexts. Cat reviews a design methodology, based on research and design practice, called the ‘blended perspective’, that merges rigorous social impact assessment guidelines from the social sciences with a human-centred design approach to improve processes and outcomes for impact assessment in graphic design work. This methodology exposes students to methods for successfully designing for impact. Cat presents student case studies that show this model in action and how students learn to frame and implement graphic communication projects that advocate for change and have impact in their communities.



    • How do you empower students to become active learners?
    • How do we train and create an ecosystem of resilience?
    • As design artifacts become much more powerful in persuasion, how do we teach students to recognize responsibility and impact in their design process?


  • Pedagogy of Design: Studio-Based Design Learning


    Presented by Aidan Rowe, University of Alberta
    Chair, Department of Art & Design
    Associate Professor, Design Studies
    Co-Editor, GDC Journal


    21st century higher education faces a variety of challenges, shifting contexts and opportunities (and these are even more acute in light of COVID-19). Responding to these changes, academia has integrated new learning and teaching practices to: increase collaborative learning situations; further develop interdisciplinary learning opportunities; and, create quality curricular experiential learning experiences to ground and extend education opportunities.

    For example, a 2017 University of Toronto whitepaper entitled Rethinking Higher Education Curricula asserts it will "grow its experiential, work-integrated, and community-engaged learning offerings, and that this growth would collectively enhance both the student learning experience and the University’s ability to support broader community and societal needs." (University of Toronto 2017, 2).


    Common across these practices—and other pedagogical advances—is that they are central to design education. I argue that Design Studio-Based Design Learning (SBDL) offers unique teaching and learning practices to non-design areas and in fact can serve as a model higher educational framework.


    For example, SBL commonly employs a range of diverse learning and teaching practices including:

    • Problem-focused scenarios learning;
    • The assumption of a critical stance by students;
    • Interdisciplinary and interprofessional learning;
    • Collaborative learning situations;
    • Curricular / co-curricular experiential learning opportunities;
    • Learning through doing: A focus on hands-on creation and making.


    While these pedagogical practices are common to Studio-Based Design Learning they are often at the vanguard of other academic disciplines. This presentation documents the benefits of applying Studio-Based Design Learning to other academic disciplines, the positives exposed, and the challenges encountered.


    Situating design in a broad sense—and after Simon—as the changing of existing situations into preferred ones we must engage with the edges of our discipline. Interrogating the contexts of, and possibilities for, design education we bring to life potential futures and directions for higher education and practice pushing both towards needed practices in the 21st century.


  • Curricular Hegemony and Design Education

    Friday, April 23, 1:00 PM ET

    Theme: Engage – with external participation


    Curricular Hegemony and Design Education


    Presented by Brian DeLevie, Associate Professor, University of Colorado Denver


    Historically, IHE’s and design programs have fulfilled and served complementary and contradictory roles. By striving to create missions and curriculums that embrace multicultural paradigms that promote inclusivity,, empathy, IHE’s have produced knowledgeable professionals that serve the economy and as social agents and activists. However, through restrictive entrance requirements and delivering hegemonic pedagogy and curriculum, IHEs and design programs have perpetuated “symbolic racism” that denies existing patterns of racial inequalities and sent implicit messages to minorities about what constitutes valid knowledge, and who are the dominant and subordinate classes. Brian asks: what role does personal, discipline, and institutional biases play in design curriculum decision making?; what can design programs do to actively and effectively challenge hegemonic structures to engage better and promote more equitable and diverse forms of education? and how can design programs create curriculum that recognizes, respects, and uses students’ identities and diverse backgrounds to encourage and support their pursuance and entrance into the design profession?



    • How does design education engage with society, with our student’s lives, with the industry at large?
    • How can we make small changes in curriculum to shed light on student identities and encourage pursuit of their autonomy through their learning experience?
    • How much of design curriculum should be personal, discipline-based or institutional?