Choosing a Path

To a faculty member in a ‘research one’ institution or any other hall of higher learning, what constitutes a viable research track in graphic design? Do you feel you should be positioning your research so that it has a direct impact on how and what you teach? Do you simply focus on what is comfortable and natural to your artistic tendencies or do you feel a responsibility to flesh-out areas of inquiry that have had little attention?

Some faculty are encouraged to get their work into CA or some such glossy mag with little or no reflection on context or goals. Making the pretty-picture press seems to be acceptable at some schools. How can this be? Many have seemingly forgotten the writings, experimentation, and viable trajectories of design research begun in the ’80s and ’90s. Graphic design research is still viewed as an oxymoron to many who profess to teach. Others choose activities that fall far outside the rubric and fail to support the advancement of graphic design study or the study of their students.

There are a few pockets of directed, responsible research, but there is a great need for the academic community of graphic designers to begin a much more open dialog in defining viable research paths. This can’t be something that is insular and individual. It must be collective and decisive or we will continue to grown in increasingly smaller circles.

posted by Tony Brock on December 21, 2004 | comments: 1 | post a comment

Excellent points. I think part of the problem is a sense of disconnect between the life of the mind and the life of the studio. Stop me if I'm off base - but many designers seem uncomfortable with the intellectual (i.e. critical, research, pedagogic) aspects of their role as educators. Without a personal sense that advancing knowledge in the field or becoming a better educator is an important part of one's responsibility, I don't think that can really be solved.

It seems that too often design educators, coming from fine arts educational backgrounds, simply do not have a strong feel (or affinity) for the academic, critical, research-oriented nature of nudging knowledge forward in their chosen field through the lengthly (often admittedly tedious) process of rigorous thinking, solid research, and writing.

Should they?

I think so. Not only because the continued broadening and deepening of knowledge is of paramount importance in educators becoming better educators. It's also simply because that's the way knowledge is enhanced and advanced in any field worthy of critical inquiry.

And I believe design is worthy of serious inquiry, as is pedagogy for design education, and the field has long deserved a solid historical sense of itself that is just beginning to take shape. I believe these are responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of design educators -- if not us, then who?

Posted by Dan Warner on December 21, 2004 01:04 PM