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AIGA Design Educators Conference

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Inside Outside

Graphic Design Education


April 16 – 18, 2015

School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design

York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada




This conference seeks to activate three conversational platforms embedded in the conference title:

1) Design Education as Interface
2) Design Education as Diverse Cultural
    and Social Space

3) Design Education as Politics.

The conference will explore the idea that graphic design education is rapidly evolving: the social spaces we work in, and the practices of teaching and learning we engage with, are themselves mediated by larger contexts of social, cultural, political and technological change.

Mindful of these changing contexts our conference will seek to pose questions about the assumptions we make about the relationship between making design, thinking about design, asking questions about design and theorizing design in as open and potentially interdisciplinary a framework as possible.

We will also address how, as a specific discipline of making, we are uniquely placed to explore the limits of the emerging conversation about visual communication and visual culture in contemporary spaces of learning.




Design Education
as Interface


Contemporary design education makes complex demands on educators to be both futurists and subject-matter experts. From both inside and outside of professional and disciplinary spaces, educators are tasked with identifying and articulating new interfaces of learning to prepare future designers for yet to be defined roles.

Concurrently, students are navigating between alternative positions of user/outside and maker/inside of new, unfamiliar spaces of graphic design practice. Graphic design education is being challenged at unprecedented levels to address the continued technological and pedagogical shifting of new platforms and processes. For design educators some questions might follow from this: What is an interface?

What is the range of subjective interface experiences open to teachers, students and designers? How does graphic design education understand changing notions of time, space, embodiment, sense, movement, attention, vision and desire? As technologies rapidly evolve, how does designing for and in unfamiliar spaces impact graphic design education?

What new pedagogies are needed to match contemporary circumstances? What has to be given up as the curriculum expands? How can design education lead industry through thought and practice as opposed to creating a new generation of production workers? How can critical pedagogies confront seductive trends and enrich the disciplinary objectives of established learning spaces? In what way do graphic design curricula respond to designing for the new and the unfamiliar and how does this unfamiliarity impact the roles of the design educator and student?


Design Education
as Diverse Cultural and Social Space


As many introductory textbooks on anthropology, sociology, media studies, communications studies, cultural studies or visual culture will tell us, ‘culture’ is one of the most contested words in the English language. Indeed, we use the word culture in a variety of often inconsistent ways in our daily speech: to use the term culture is, alternately, an attempt to represent ‘ethnicity’ or ‘race’ or community or language or ‘high culture’ or ‘art’ and the complex intersections between these phenomena.

When we are in those spaces where culture is constructed — the design education classroom is our primary space — we are also in spaces where ideas and projections of Self and Other are constructed, contested and negotiated.

For design educators some questions might follow from this: How can we engage with our students’ encounters with visual, popular and other forms of cultural experience in order to cultivate a deeper sense of curiosity, interest and engagement in the larger design process? What does the discourse of ‘culture’ mean to our students and how can we critically engage with and unpack those meanings?

What is the role of voice and story in the process of interculturality and hybridity? How might the experience of being ‘hyphenated’ add to the exploration of story for design students and teachers alike? How do we engage with these stories?


Design Education
as Political Space


No doubt design education is a political and contested space. Design programs everywhere are involved in discussions about their relevance and the nature of it in rapidly changing socio-economic contexts. More intimately within these spaces, design educators and students are interacting within paradigms of gender, race, class, sexuality, dis/ability and other factors that influence power dynamics.

Then, as resources shrink, the need to activate real democratic processes in increasingly diverse classrooms expands; as the expectation of meeting the neo-liberal ideal of student-as-worker-bee consensus widens, the possibility of supporting the contestation that democracy requires narrows. For design educators some questions might follow from this: Who is the Insider in graphic design education? Who is the Outsider?

What are the ethical and pedagogical spaces between Insider and Outsider? What are the larger political macro-forces shaping our micro-experiences in design education and how do we address those forces? Is it the job of design-educators-as-Insiders to convert students to be Insiders, too?

How do design educators negotiate the liminal terrains of the industry (not fully inside or fully outside) and of the academy (not always fully inside or fully outside)? How do our non-design academic colleagues and our non-academic design colleagues perceive what we do? How might understanding these perceptions help us prepare students for the difficult movement between Inside and Outside, between Insider and Outsider?




Proposal Submission

Through 20-minute paper presentations we invite discussion on the following platforms: Design Education as Interface; Design Education as Diverse Cultural and Social Space; Design Education as Political Space.

Proposal submissions will require a login or creating a new account with EasyChair.

We also encourage your proposals for other conference formats such as pre-conference workshops, lunchtime roundtable discussions and other possible spaces for exploring design education. Proposals for these formats or any questions about submitting your proposal can be sent to


Design at York

The Department of Design at York University is recognized as a leader of graphic design education in Canada, offering both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Design at York focuses on creative experimentation, scholarly research and formal experimentation.
Department of Design




Denise Gonzales Crisp


Denise Gonzales Crisp is a graphic designer, writer, educator, and curator bi-located in Raleigh, NC, and Los Angeles, CA. She is Professor of Graphic Design, in the College of Design at North Carolina State University, where she served as Department Chair from 2002 to 2006. Her design work and writing are widely published in print and digital publications including Design Observer, Eye Magazine, Items Magazine, Design and Culture Journal, Book 2.0, Design Research (Brenda Laurel, 2003), The Designer as...Author, Producer,

Activist, Entrepreneur, Curator, and Collaborator: New Models for Communicating (Steven McCarthy, 2013), and Graphic Design: History in the Writing (1983–2011), (Catherine de Smet, Sara De Bondt, 2012). Her work has also been exhibited in the US and Europe. Denise is the author of the college-level textbook Graphic Design in Context: Typography, (Thames & Hudson, 2012).


Carl DiSalvo


Carl DiSalvo is an Associate Professor in the Digital Media Program in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication at the Georgia Institute of Technology. At Georgia Tech he directs the Public Design Workshop, which is a design research studio that explores socially-engaged design practices and civic media. He also is the co-director of the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing. His current work is broadly concerned with forms of collectivity and the role of design in shaping and enabling collectivity. More specifically, he is studying issue-oriented hackathons as ad-hoc design events and collaborative urban foraging as a site of speculative design in food systems.

DiSalvo publishes regularly in design, science and technology studies, and human-computer interaction journals and conference proceedings and he serves on the editorial board of the journal Design Issues. His first book, Adversarial Design, is part of the Design Thinking, Design Theory series at MIT Press. DiSalvo’s experimental design work has been exhibited and supported by the ZKM (Center for Art & Media), Grey Area Foundation for the Arts, Times Square Arts Alliance, Science Gallery Dublin, and the Walker Arts Center. He holds a Ph.D. in Design from Carnegie Mellon University (2006).


Sanne van der Beek


Sanne van der Beek is a cultural scientist (MA). She works as academic researcher, journalist, project coordinator and editor. Her work focuses on popular visual culture, with a special interest in design, fashion, new technology and urban issues. Van der Beek currently programs and produces the monthly live talkshow and digital magazine Stadseven (Citylife) about urban developments. She also works as a programmer for StadsSalon, a modern salon and exhibition space for meetings on architecture, design, arts and the cultural sector.

Prior to this she worked as a project coordinator for the Creative Industries Research Center Amsterdam (CIRCA) and the Digital Humanties Center at the University of Amsterdam and she writes about design, fashion and new media for various clients. Her research always places her subjects in relation to broader cultural developments and can be considered as a thought experiment to open up the traditional discourse and explore new ways of thinking.


York University

Founded in 1959 and today Canada’s third largest university, York is helping to shape the global thinkers and thinking that will define tomorrow. Our unwavering commitment to excellence reflects a rich diversity of perspectives and a strong sense of social responsibility that set us apart.
About York




$225 AIGA members

$275 Non-members*

$75 AIGA Student members

Online Registration will be available soon

* To join the AIGA and receive the reduced rate prior to registration, contact:



Although we urge attendees to register online, registrations will be accepted on-site at the conference on a space-available basis. A processing fee of $25 will be added to all registrations that are not completed online, including those that are processed at the conference site. This also includes registrations received by mail or fax.


There will be a $20 cancellation fee for cancellations made prior to Febraury 16, 2015. AIGA will refund 50 percent of conference fees paid for cancellations made between February 17 and March 16, 2015. No refunds will be available after March 16, 2015. To cancel your registration please contact AIGA's registrar.








View on Google Maps


From Union Station, take the northbound Yonge-University-Spadina line towards Downsview At Downsview, transfer to the 196a Express Rocket – York University bus. Get off at The Pond Rd. and Sentinel Rd. The TEL Building is one block west. (allow about an hour, $3)


From Highway 401

Take Hwy 401 and exit north onto Hwy 400. Exit Hwy 400 at Finch, westbound. Follow Finch to Sentinal Rd and turn north. Follow Sentinal Rd until you access York Univesrity.

More Driving Directions
Parking at York


From Pearson Airport, taxi service will run $40-50. From Billy Bishop Airport, take the Porter shuttle to Union Station and follow subway directions.


Due to the subway extension project some of the main arteries into York are under construction. Please use posted detours where necessary.



City of Toronto

Toronto is Canada's most populated city, and considered one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. This range of cultures give Toronto a colourful and booming artistic landscape and a cutting edge design scene. Lots of helpful information about what to see and do can be found at:
NOW Magazine
Tourism Toronto





Schulich Business School
Executive Learning Center Hotel

On the York University Campus
Flat Rate of $130.00 per night + HST
Includes Breakfast Buffet

Confirmation Number: 594569.

Schulich Guest Accommodations

Hilton Garden Inn Toronto/Vaughan

About 6km from campus, convenient by car or public bus (York Region Transit Bus 020A) to come onto campus. Parking on campus is $14/day.

3201 Regional Road 7
Vaughan, ON L4K 5Z7

Hilton Hotels


Downtown Toronto Hotels

Allow at least an hour to get to York via TTC


The Drake Hotel
The Drake Hotel, self-proclaimed as the city’s "Hot Bed For Culture," is a modern boutique hotel and one-stop experience that makes both nightlife lovers and design nerds soil their trousers. Directions: Take the 501 Queen St. Streetcar to Osgoode Station and follow subway directions

The Gladstone Hotel
The Gladstone Hotel, a once run-down flophouse, has been recently transformed into a boutique hotel, situated in the heart of the vibrant West Queen West art scene at the edge of Parkdale. Directions: Take the 501 Queen St. Streetcar to Osgoode Station and follow subway directions

The Thompson Hotel
The Thompson Hotel in Toronto is the first Canadian outpost of the growing Thompson Hotel chain empire. Found on Bathurst south of King, the Thompson is already re-invigorating the area with its three restaurants and rooftop patio. Directions: Take the 504 King St. Streetcar to Osgoode Station and follow subway directions


Conference Co-Chairs



David Gelb
Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director, Department of Design, York University

Robert Gill PhD
Department of Design, York University

Angela Norwood
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Design, York University


York University


Designed by Jacob Colosi BDES '16, Angelina Tjhung BDES '16