Context is king

This may be a bit off-topic but since (I assume) we’re all interested in design education, I thought it would be relevant to post here. It’s a summary of the sessions from the 2010 AIGA Design Education conference that was held in October, “New Contexts/NewPractices”, at North Carolina State University.  Faculty member Meredith Davis, a prominent design educator, organized the conference (with lots of help) under a new paradigm — provacateurs instead of presenters and collaborators instead of audience. It would have been a great conference to attend. Maybe next time…

The gist of the conversations at the conference was about the best way to prepare graphic designers now that design has become part of the vernacular culture and a designer’s role has expanded from creating (mostly) print to designing systems and using the skills of an anthropologist and ethnographer, among other professions.

A quote: “Graphic design was about creating artifacts and we’ve moved past that to now creating contexts in which activities happen, in which people participate collectively,” said coauthor Barbara Sudick from California State University Chico. “That’s very different from when we made discrete artifacts.”

Lots of good points are raised, including one from doctoral student Deb Littlejohn (who used to be here at the U of M and was a designer at the Walker) about the need to incorporate more of the liberal arts and sciences into design education. I also appreciated a point made about doing good in your own backyard before traveling to an “exotic” location to “improve” others’ lives with your skills. Throughout the conversations I heard the voices of what I know designers (and other good communicators I’ve worked with over the years) to be — always curious and always wanting to make things better somehow.

As someone who’s new to the education side of design, I’d be curious to hear what other people think about what was talked about at this conference. Are they rehashing a lot of the same stuff that’s been discussed for awhile, or is there something here that we can use in our own studies?

— Nance


One response to “Context is king

  1. Nance,
    We’re reading about our sister, Fine Art, and this very topic in ArtS 8400. Miwon Kwon in “One PLace after Another” writes about artist as project director and manager for experiential and participatory art. Others have written about this too: Allen Kaprow in “The real Experiment, 1983. These writers are challenging creative people to integrate with other disciplines, rather than keep to our selves. A good plan, I think.

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