David Wang, James Madison University

One of the many ailments design education faces is self-isolation; encouraging rebellious behavior by working outside of common conventions to break contextual norms greatly limits our opportunity to share knowledge and participate a collective world. For digital scholarship, contributions to collaborative research requires becoming a member of an interdisciplinary environment. Designers need to relinquish self-imposed restrictions that require visual artifacts and irrefutable recognition. With the growth of STEM education and an expectation for worldwide digital connectivity, we need to elevate AIGA’s commitment to ethical practices and advocate for a broader role of design by redefining the role of creative thinking in academic research.

Collaboration is not a foreign concept for designers; AIGA’s standard of professional practice encourages responsibility in our client relationships and respect for the public; Commitment to a civic role beyond our community is not common. As many academics, I encourage students to read, share a variety of viewpoints, and contribute to worthy causes to improve understanding. Commonalities are shared across many disciplines, including business, communications, engineering, humanities, medicine, and science. Engaged learning is gaining prominence in higher education, but for the field of design, maintaining a continual role as a member of a research team is unexpected. Our need for specialized degrees and industry-specific training in the United States creates niche cultures with limited vocabularies and indecipherable dialects, which hinder acceptance among digital natives.

As universal design guidelines quietly expand, we have more opportunities to share and communicate without translation. Breaking traditional forms of publication review and media production, we are empowered to restyle our own worlds; Anyone can curate content with expert control to provide new interpretations and valuable feedback. Open access to archives provides a greater need for designers to assume global roles to help empathize and improve the quality of academic research. Asking questions, demanding responses, and contributing to society are primary goals for every designer (and scholar).

Interdisciplinary, collaborative research projects need to encourage support for larger collective groups with more diverse contributors. Many faculty with backgrounds in design continue an unsustainable quest to find an idealized research agenda focused on opportunities to create a beautiful product. If we assert our value as design experts, we can become active members with responsibilities based on the needs of our community. Power to concept, share strategies, and develop creative solutions that do not focus on commodities, but rather the value of creative thinking and meaningful relationships.

The following research questions will examine opportunities and potential challenges for designers & scholars who assimilate research agendas with more diverse backgrounds.

Are co-authored works from peer-reviewed journals or conferences outside of design acceptable contributions for tenure and promotion?

Can the inclusion of student contributors and classroom activities for research-based projects be viewed as scholarship, rather than teaching, service, or engaged learning?

Are design scholars interested in embracing equality to create a culture of co-authorship, which allows contributions from all levels of education?

Examples and documentation will illustrate the following themes:

  • self-isolation & rebellious behavior in design education
  • universal design guidelines to improve conventional design patterns
  • open access principles with commonalities for cross discipline research
  • pilot research based on a designer as member

Slide References:

Feature Image & page 1: A close-up of an educational installation at the Denver Botanic Gardens


Image page 2: An image JMU’s quad by Mike Miriello, University Photographer


More information about SMAD: http://www.jmu.edu/smad/our-program/index.shtml

Image page 3 & 4: Found Wallpaper Sample from the 1970s.

Image page 5: Places of the imagination: an exhibition catalog at the Lilly Library https://iucat.iu.edu/catalog/6554522

Something not discussed:


Universal Design Principles & Guidelines




Design Example 1 – Tellart





Design Example 2 – Viget





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David Wang is an assistant professor in the School of Media Arts & Design at James Madison University. He lives in the Shenandoah Valley in the state of Virginia after living in the Deep South and five Midwest states. He studied fine arts and design earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Drake University and a Master of Fine Arts in Communication Design from Louisiana Tech University.

With more than twenty years of industry experience, he has worked as an art director, photographer, and interactive developer in advertising, business-to-business communications, and higher education. A constant researcher and technical guru, he hammers out solutions to direct and produce a wide variety of strategic projects.

He teaches foundation courses for undergraduate students with an emphasis on creative process and interactive design. His hobbies include, tinkering with antiquated electronics, listening to music, and visiting art galleries. He enjoys traveling and is most interested in exploring food and culture.