Citizen Makers Workshop at the 20th Anniversary National Gathering of Imagining America

I presented and ran a new engagement workshop with conference attendees titled Citizen Makers in Community Design Intervention + Action at the Imagining America 20th Anniversary National Conference this fall in Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 18-20, 2019.

This collaborative and interactive workshop introduces participants to a citizen-inclusive design process that applies an open, participatory model for community engagement in design intervention and action projects. The workshop is based on a framework from my research and practice, called the Blended Perspective (see Figure 1 below), that merges social impact assessment (SIA) guidelines from the social sciences with a human-centered design approach to improve methods for assessing social impact as a major outcome of design work. [1]

Figure 1. The Blended Perspective. Copyright, Normoyle, C., 2019.

[1] Read my most recent publication in the FOURTH issue of the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) DEC (Design Educators Community) open-access scholarly journal, Dialectic Volume 2, Issue 02 (V2, I2) called A Blended Perspective: Social Impact Assessment in Graphic Design. To view the entire publication, click here:

The Citizen Makers Workshop is a tool for teaching this method of community engagement in design intervention and action projects to a wide range of audience types in an interactive and experiential way. The workshop explains how designers can work with (not for) communities through all the phases of a project. This particular strategy emphasizes the community’s ability and responsibility to actively contribute to the implementation and monitoring phases of a design intervention and action projects. This central idea, inspired by the DIY (do-it-yourself) movement, enables citizens to become producers versus consumers of their communities. Designers serve as researchers, systems thinkers, and activists for change, while community members find ownership and authorship in the work they produce. 

The workshop can be used in the classroom to teach students or in the field to teach community and city members, professionals, and others. It is an active approach to learning that provides opportunities for participants to co-create hypothetical design intervention and action projects, based on unique issues that are relevant and unique to them.

At the conference, eight participants completed the workshop. They worked through a series of activities to learn about this method of community engagement in design intervention and action projects. An overview of the workshop activities is listed below.

  1. Identify an issue of concern based on experiences and/or interests relevant to you and your community.
  2. Identify characteristics of your communities.
  3. Brainstorm design intervention and action projects for your community.
  4. Identify community members for participation.
  5. Identify community member interests, skills and knowledge for integration.
  6. Integrate community participation into design intervention and action projects and refine solutions.

The workshop lasted about an hour and a half. Feedback from participants has been reviewed in order to refine the workshop further, and I plan to run this workshop with students at ECU this spring to test and develop the workshop curriculum further.

Some other highlights from the conference included the film screening of From Here by film maker, Christina Antonakos-Wallace (Check out as well for more details about her work). The film shared the stories of four protagonists from different parts of the world who struggle to find a sense of belonging and self in the places that they call home. We screened the film at the Imagining America conference, but the film will go on tour across the states in 2020. I am working with another colleague to setup a screening at ECU for next fall. We hope to invite Antonakos-Wallace and one of the protagonists to ECU to screen the film and run a workshop with the School of Art + Design students (perhaps other ECU organizations who may be interested as well). We plan to run additional programming next fall that will align with the concepts and concerns that the film brings to light.

Another highlight of the experience with Imagining America was the opportunity to represent ECU (and Eastern Carolina in general) with my colleagues while at the conference. Angela Wells, Associate Professor of Photography in the School of Art and Design and Mark Rasdorf, Senior Associate Director for the Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center also presented work at the conference about their collaborative and on-going project, the True Colors Exhibition, a photography exhibit in celebration of LGBTQ History Month. The two have worked together for the past three years planning and implementing this show with students at ECU.


Silver Award in Environmental Graphics Category: Tenn Show 2012

Although I arrived in Knoxville late last night and missed the majority of the awards ceremony, I was able to accept my 2nd place award for the Environmental Design category for Communication Design before they closed the doors for the evening.

I was excited to be honored with this award and was happy to find out that two other folks from MCA also won awards for work they submitted. Fellow instructor, John Lee (Illustration prof) and illustration student, Clare Caldwell.

The event, hosted by AIGA Knoxville, took place in a quaint coffee shop in historic downtown Knoxville – Remedy Coffee, 125 W. Jackson Ave. Knoxville, TN.

The competition showcased communication design from all over the state. Categories for submission included print, brand / identity systems, package design, editorial, photography, illustration, motion broadcast, environmental, and interactive.

According to the website,

“AIGA Knoxville is proud to be hosting the 5th TENN Show, the prestigious statewide graphic design competition recognizing Tennessee’s most talented communication designers. Winners of the biennial TENN Show competition represent the best work across all disciplines of communication design from designers across the state, as chosen by a distinguished jury of regional design leaders. Professional and student designers from around the state are invited to submit their best work for consideration.”


Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming, Review

One of my favorite graphic designers and authors, Ellen Lupton, has a new book coming out this June called Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming. Last week, I was fortunate to have watched an AIGA lecture led by Lupton and some of her graduate students at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). The hour long lecture talked you through her new book and explained some of the design exercises from the book. There was also a question and answer session at the end of the seminar.

In the lecture, Lupton addressed three major components of the design process; Defining the Problem, Getting Ideas, and Creating Form. Her book further demonstrates different methodologies, activities,and exercises that one can do to push the design process. Some of the exercises included brand books, visual research, visual brain dumps, forced connections, action verbs, kit of parts, and sprinting. Overall, the book seems very clear and elegant, and makes for a “must have” in the design arsenal.

Ellen Lupton is the director of the M.F.A. Graphic Design program at MICA and curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City. She has also written some other favorite design books of mine including Thinking with Type which I recommend to all my beginner typography students as well as my seasoned design colleagues.


AIGA’s Ink & Drink Event cultivates New T-shirt Designs in Fun, Relaxed Environment

A couple weeks ago I went out to the Printmaker’s Studio in Atlanta to screenprint T-shirts and mingle with other designers in town.

We designed our shirts in advanced so that the screens could be prepared for us. We arrived at the Studio to see a demo and then we were off printing.

Below is the design that I printed. AIGA provided all the supplies including the screens and ink. We printed on paper initially to practice process and moved on to screen print multiple T-shirts.