The importance and availability of factors influencing socially responsible design curriculum in U.S. higher education undergraduate programs
Garcia, Amanda Rose
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Graphic design is a powerful tool capable of publicizing, informing, and propagandizing environmental, social, and political messages (McCoy, 2003). However, according to Heller (1994), “design is often seen but not understood, consumed but not appreciated as part of a larger social, commercial, and cultural context” (p. xiii). Within the over 2,000 undergraduate design programs in the U.S., overall, design schooling has not helped students become broader-thinking people who can help shape a democratic society (Swanson, 2005). Socially responsible design curriculum allows for critical dialogue, personal identification and expression, and consideration of cultural significance in a students’ body of work. Educators must find ways to expose students to a range of culturally significant curricula so that graduates will no longer perpetuate the culture industry of design education (Bierut, 1988; Kellner, 1989). A descriptive survey study was conducted to gain insight into the importance and availability of factors that may influence socially responsible design curriculum in higher education throughout the United States. The study used a 40-item online survey instrument that collected demographic and institutional data from 44 graphic design faculty at 42 unique institutions across the United States. Importance and availability of socially responsible curricula participant responses to the survey were compared, using the Wilcoxon Signed-Ranks Test. The importance scores were significantly higher than the availability scores for three items: the faculty member teaching the role of graphic design in society as a shaper of change/culture, the faculty member allowing students to work with local nonprofits, and including socially responsible projects in graduating portfolios. However, there were no statistically significant differences between the overall importance and availability scores. The results of the study have implications for the American Institute of Graphic Arts Design Educators Community, National Association of Schools of Art and Design, and graphic design faculty and departmental administration. Recommendations for future research include expansion of the population of participants, comparison of departmental and faculty responses to the survey, exploration of service-learning as a means for broader context for socially responsible design practices in higher education, and a qualitative research study with agreeable participants.
A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR of PHILOSOPHY in CURRICULUM AND INSTRUCTION from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in Corpus Christi, Texas.
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