Research Teaching & Student Work

Design Activism and Impact in the Classroom: Presenting at CAA 2019 with Design Incubation Panel in New York

Last month, I presented work at the College Art Association (CAA) 2019 Conference in New York with the Design Incubation panel.

My presentation reviewed a methodology, based on my research and design practice, called the ‘blended perspective’, that merges rigorous 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 graphic communication design work. It is a model, or process for understanding and measuring social impact that incorporates phases such as identifying social impact objectives, conducting baseline studies, and measuring and monitoring impact.

This methodology in the classroom exposes students who are considering social, economic, political, and/or cultural design agendas in their practice how design activism and action for change can shift design futures in a measurable way.

This presentation also reported on student case studies where this methodology was integrated into the learning objectives of the classroom. In the example cases, students work across different contexts, but otherwise they share a similar goal, which is that they intend to build awareness around a particular issue and foster shifts in behaviors and attitudes. The main learning objective for students is to focus on how to measure “increased awareness and shifts in behaviors.” The learning process highlights theories of cause and effect as well as tools and tactics for measuring and monitoring change.

Photo notes
“Bees are in Danger” by Sydney Evans and Rachel Leslie
“Gender Equality” by Danika Scones

To view the full abstract submission, click here.


New York, Design Incubation, The New School, College Arts Association, Cooper Hewitt Museum, Birthday parties, oh my

I love New York. An amazing city, always buzzing with people, and an infinite amount of things to do. Last week, I traveled to NY to present in a symposium with Design Incubation, my first experience with the organization, which turned out to be a great event. Hosted by The New School—Parsons, the presentations were structured in Pecha Kucha format, and the topics ranged from design education, game/app design, social design, data visualization, and others. My talk touched on resident engagement in community development projects. See more on this topic here: Design as Process—an open model for community engagement.

My friend and one of the co-creators of Design Incubation, Dan Wong introduced me to the organization. Dan and I have collaborated together in the past and it was great to participate in his design event and meet some of his colleagues.

The event was well timed with other festivities happening in New York as well. My good friend and someone I collaborate with often, Cotter Christian, recently relocated from Hong Kong to New York this past August in a new appointment at The New School—Parsons. He invited me to a critique with his interior design students who were working on an interesting project to design a hospice space for dying patients. They were just beginning the process of conceptual development and I was able to participate in this discussion, reviewing mood boards for three hospice concepts.img_20170216_123012

It was also Christian’s birthday last Friday, and we celebrated with Dim Sum followed by ice cream and some good-old-fashioned nightlife and dancing.

My trip also overlapped with the CAA (College Arts Association) conference, which is held in New York every other year, usually at the Hilton hotel in midtown. The conference brings designers, artists, and academics from all over, hosting presentations/workshops, a book fair, portfolio reviews, and other career development opportunities. Although I was not registered for the conference, I was able to meet up with my former professor, Liz Throop. She and I had lunch and talked about some new opportunities at Georgia State, my alma mater. I was also able to visit with some other friends who traveled for the conference—Colleen Fitzgerald, a photographer based in Massachusetts and Rebecca Tegtmeyer, another collaborator friend that I work with frequently, based in East Lansing, MI.

Another highlight of the trip was visiting the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. They always have fantastic exhibits but I was very excited about two in particular—By the people: Designing a better America and the Process Lab: Citizen Design. Both exhibits highlighted the importance of design for good, design, democracy and citizenship, and design for social innovation, themes that are important to me personally and show up consistently in my research work.