A Visual World Demands Design Sense: Advocating for Visual Communication Across the Curriculum

By Kelly Norris Martin and Kelly M. Murdoch-Kitt.

Published by The International Journal of Design Education

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

Design in the 21st century is expanding its effectiveness, influence, and reach through research methods borrowed from other disciplines, such as the social sciences. However, those other disciplines can also benefit by borrowing theoretical and practical understanding from the design field. Speaking and writing skills have long been prized in academia and business, resulting in many universities implementing communication across the curriculum programs. Historically, this “communication” has excluded visual communication or design knowledge. In our increasingly visual culture—and online culture of user-created content—non-designers are called upon in the professional realm to illustrate their ideas. Graduates entering the workforce will encounter situations where they will benefit from possessing some level of design sensibility, even if only to communicate effectively with professional designers. As educators and researchers from different ends of the visual communication spectrum, we believe professional designers should lead the way in integrating visual communications literacy into higher education curricula. They also present an outline of basic design elements and practices that could be incorporated into a visual communication initiative across the curriculum program (or visual communication center), from color, layout, and composition to iterative sketching, modeling, and concept mapping.

Keywords: Cross-disciplinary, Visual Communication Literacy, Design Sensibility, Higher Education, Communication-across-the-Curriculum

The International Journal of Design Education, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp.13-24. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 363.591KB).

Dr. Kelly Norris Martin

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, USA

Kelly Norris Martin is an Assistant Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on the intersections of visual communication, rhetorical criticism and design and she teaches courses in visual communication, digital design and copywriting and visualization to non-designers. Kelly attended North Carolina State University, where she received a Ph.D. in communication, rhetoric and digital media and a Master of Science in communication. In addition to her dissertation where she proposed a schema for visual research methods, she has worked with Drs. Gallagher and Ma on developing a theory of visual wellbeing and with Dr. Melissa Johnson on a theory of digital credibility with a focus on public relations blogs. Kelly has also conducted communication across the curriculum research with Dr. Deanna Dannels examining the communication practices of design critiques. Prior to attending graduate school, Kelly worked for “The Coastland Times”, Dare County Public Relations and founded “ripCurrent” magazine on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Kelly M. Murdoch-Kitt

Design Researcher and User Experience Specialist, gotomedia User Experience, gotoresearch Research Team, University of San Francisco, Berkeley, CA, USA

Kelly Murdoch-Kitt combines her design sensibility, interest in research, and linguistic facility to create sensitive, effective, and delightful concepts and solutions. In 2009, after completing her Master of Graphic Design degree at North Carolina State University’s College of Design, Kelly relocated to California. Her thesis research explores theories of situated learning and experiential elements of virtual communities. Kelly balances her love of researching and designing for the digital environment with an equal passion for communication in the physical realm: her undergraduate degree is in fine art and theatre, and she has over ten years of experience in print design. In addition to design research and UX strategy at gotomedia, Kelly also teaches in the Design Program at University of San Francisco and the Graphic Design Department at California College of the Arts. In her spare time, she gardens, writes, experiments with photography, travels, and teaches yoga.