The Importance of Cross-discipline in an Undergraduate Graphic Design Curriculum

By Kimberly Mitchell.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Throughout our combined educational experiences we have attended art schools, private universities and public universities. It wasn’t until our graduate-level experiences that we felt we were better prepared as graphic designers. Graphic design is, certainly, about making beautiful things; but it is our duty as designers to also explore and learn about different people, different cultures, and different approaches before we can truly pick up a pencil and begin sketching. As educators we feel it is vital that we introduce cross-disciplinary aspects into our classrooms at the earliest stages of design education. Too often our educational systems fail us. At art schools, students are sometimes not required to take any outside classes like Psychology or Sociology. At public and private institutions students are not always required to take vital courses like Public Speaking. Our students need to think outside of the box by being researchers as well as designers. They need to be able to sell their final product through powerful oral presentations. Because of our different curriculums, many times we cannot control the outside courses our students take. We can, however, introduce important cross-disciplinary courses into our own classrooms so that students can understand the relationship between that course (or idea) and what they are designing in the classroom. Without the implementation of cross-disciplinary aspects into our classrooms today, our students are lacking a very big part of the true design educational experience. Though graphic designers and visual communicators are not scientists, it is our duty as Design Professors to make certain our students find the visual solution to a problem. This paper will be discussing our cross-disciplinary experiences as students in an undergraduate, post-baccalaureate and graduate program in graphic design, visual communication and education as well as how we’ve tried to implement cross-disciplinary measures into our classrooms today.

Keywords: Design Education, Cross-disciplinary, Graphic Design

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.129-148. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.076MB).

Prof. Kimberly Mitchell

Assistant Professor, School of Communication, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

Kimberly Melhus is an Assistant Professor of Visual Communications at Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, Arizona). She graduated from Bradley University (Peoria, Illinois) with a BFA in Graphic Design. She received a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Visual Communications from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois), and her MFA in Graphic Design from Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa). While attending graduate school at Iowa State, she became interested in the field of Gerontology. She believes in the power of social impact of design. Her research has consisted of design for aging eyes and what designers can do to make things universal for everyone involved.


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