Five active designers and educators discuss their research, writing, and developmental strategies for bringing design research to life in various media formats. This Symposia will examine the breadth of research in the design field and illustrate the benefits of learning how to present and produce research in specialized formats. Independent research is an asset for your growth and the education of others.
Black Design in America
Tasheka Arcenaux-Sutton + Pierre Bowins
Black Design in America: African Americans and the African Diaspora in Graphic Design, 19th—21st Century is the first BIPOC-centered design history course to revisit design histories to center previously marginalized perspectives. Class topics include ancient African origins of alphabets and fractals in architecture, systemic racism and the transatlantic slave trade, W.E.B. Du Bois’s innovative information diagrams, the Harlem Renaissance and queer Blackness, the rise of hip hop’s graphic language, Black liberation from Civil Rights to Afrofuturism to Black Lives Matter, and more. The course was offered live in January 2021 and lives online asynchronously in a learning environment that flattens existing economic hierarchies by offering sliding scale tuition, scholarships, and a free lecture. Tasheka Arceneaux-Sutton and Pierre Bowins tell personal journeys to fill gaps in their education, we share our anti-capitalist and collective process of collaboration, and future models of design history that support BIPOC Designers and their allies.
Some Perspectives on Design Research Through the Decolonial Turn
My talk will focus on taking a long view of how the present decolonial turn in academic design discourse has made, and has the potential to make, major contributions in how designers do and present research. These contributions extend, I argue, well over the qualitative study of cultural, racial, and temporal others, an old problem in disciplines like cultural anthropology and history. Taking a close look at the different aspects of the research cycle: framing, identification, interlocution, interpretation, translation, and representation, I will present a set of observations and insights from postcolonial studies and decolonial theory, as well as from other perspectives in the humanities and social sciences, that design researchers may want to take into consideration.
We are long passed the question of whether a designer can author their own work, rather than just provide the visual “spit and polish” as Ellen Lupton called it, for someone else’s proverbial “shoe.” And when it comes to graphic design history, we practitioners, are often obliged to assume responsibility for research and dissemination, as generally speaking, historians have been less interested in graphic design. The great news, is that we are living in a period of unprecedented access to tools and information. We are also experiencing a period in which attitudes of collective work and the sharing of resources is often valued above the once glorified solo designer/researcher/author/producer. In this presentation I will talk about the way I have developed my own research and design practices by working with others to create a product to best communicate lesser heard stories in graphic design history through film, an edited volume, and a crowd-sourced archive.