February 11, 2010
What is good design in a postmodern, image-saturated world in a time of grave environmental concerns?
In my graduate seminar, Contemporary Art, Theory, and Pedagogy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, MFA students in Graphic Design, Industrial Design, Photography, Film and Studio Arts considered how contemporary issues, theories, and technologies call into question established methods of teaching "foundations" in these fields.
Theoretical revisionings of such concepts as self, identity, language, representation, and knowledge, as well as contemporary practices of art, design, and aesthetic valuing, challenge traditional and modernist pedagogical models of teaching art. Students examined the assumptions underlying their own arts education backgrounds and considered how to structure contemporary curriculum that reflects the complexity of current practice in their fields.
Rather than gloss over the inconsistencies inherent in teaching art and design in a heterogeneous, culturally diverse global society, students were encouraged to formulate teaching practices that foreground discontinuities and conflicts as generative sites in contemporary artistic discourses.
I was impressed and excited by the insights and imagination of the students in this seminar. Several of the students in graphic design developed presentations that explored the possibility of graphic design curriculum that unites rigorous formal aesthetic education (in the tradition of the Basel School of Design) with semiotically oriented and socially conscious curriculum. Another student's presentation suggests the importance of considering the widest range of social and process possibilities when teaching students methods of industrial design. Recalling the tradition of radical design strategies, two students researched the Dymaxion Design of Buckminster Fuller.
These are important ideas to share with K-12 teachers who incorporate the teaching of design into survey studio courses and into specialized high school level design courses.