A Case Study of an Innovative Graphic Design Curriculum Focusing on Social Responsibility

By Sue Vessella and Behnoush McKay.

Published by The Design Collection

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

Through visual examples and lecture, this paper will showcase a new and innovative under-Graduate graphic design curriculum with a keen focus on models of social responsibility. Outcomes of this new practice have resulted in students’ enhanced understanding of the subject matter and its application, including improved knowledge and skills, as well as both civic and educational engagement. As a result, we have seen our students become involved in and excited by these topics, and it has impacted the quality of their work. The contributions that they have made to the campus community and society as a whole are promising. The new Graphic Design curriculum asserts that designers’ decisions have an impact on the planet, and understanding that impact and accepting responsibility for one’s actions, contributes to the moral and ethical condition of the educated professional. This philosophy has influenced our methodology of teaching graphic design through projects that stimulate a greater understanding of the social responsibility of a graphic designer. Students are encouraged to investigate various cultures and theories in order to shape their projects and arrive at unique design solutions. As a result, they boldly take initiative in conveying their voices. Topics include investigation of issues of design responsibility, sustainable practices, cultural awareness including equality and tolerance, as well as the application of knowledge in response to the physical, cultural, and social human factors that shape design solutions and impact civic and ecological attitudes. In order to prepare graduates to contribute responsibly in a global community, it was necessary to make significant changes in both the scope and pedagogy of the graphic design curriculum. Additionally, a process of yearly assessment was established to assure program quality and promote continuous advancement in the effectiveness of teaching, the improvement of student work, and the design of curriculum.

Keywords: Graphic Design, Innovative Curriculum, Social Responsibility, Assessment

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp.471-488. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.472MB).

Sue Vessella

Professor of Graphic Design and Associate Dean, School of Media, Culture and Design, Woodbury University, Burbank, California, USA

Sue Vessella is the Associate Dean of the School of Media, Culture, & Design, Chair of the Department of Graphic Design, and Professor of Graphic Design studies at Woodbury University. She has presented papers and lectured at both international and national design, educational, and administrative conferences, on topics including interdisciplinary pedagogy, educational assessment, social responsibility in design, and assessment in the arts. She has taught courses in Typography, Graphic Design, Professional Practice, Package Design, Portfolio Presentation, Advertising, Identity Design, Environmental Graphics, Design Elements, and Color Theory. Sue specializes in corporate identity systems and information graphics, and occasionally works in the area of environmental graphic design. With a background in advertising, publishing, marketing, and public relations, she has designed promotional material for numerous companies including NBC Sports, The Los Angeles Zoo, Orion Pictures, Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, The City of Beverly Hills, Blair Entertainment, Numero Uno Restaurants, and Caesar’s Palace and Casino. Both an educator and award-winning designer, Sue has been a Creative Director for national companies, working in the area of identity design and restaurant merchandising. She is a member of the AIGA, American Institute of Graphic Arts, and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Environmental Graphic Design dealing with signage and wayfinding systems.

Behnoush McKay

Associate Professor, Graphic Design and Assistant Chair, Department of Graphic Design, Graphic Design Department, School of Media, Culture & Design, Woodbury University, Burbank, California, USA

Behnoush McKay is Assistant Chair of the Department of Graphic Design and Associate Professor at Woodbury University. She received her BFA in Graphics and Packaging Design from Art Center College of Design and her MFA in Visual Communication from California State University Northridge. As an instructor, her goal is to assist students in developing analytical views in design and theory through research and its application in order to translate complex materials into a clear and cohesive message and advance professionally within the fields of graphic and communication design. Courses taught include Typography, History of Graphic Design, Portfolio Presentation, Degree Project Research, Degree Project, Motion Typography, Expressive Letterforms, Graphic Design, and Design & Color Elements. She has presented papers and lectured at both international and national design and educational conferences, on topics including educational assessment and social responsibility in design. Since 1990, Behnoush has been a principal in McKay Consulting Group, Inc. With a solid background in Art, Design, Color Studies, and Visual Communication, she has designed and provided art direction on projects involving packaging, multimedia, print, and product design. Clients have included Eveready Battery, Inc., J. Schmidt & Associates, Digital Evolution, Party of Three, Nokia Inc, Universal Network Inc., the City of Santa Clarita, and CSUN Art Galleries. Currently Behnoush is exploring experimental typography, motion graphics, and Time/Space installation designs.


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