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The VCFA MFA in Graphic Design Program Blog

Principles and Context: An Introduction to Graphic Design

October 17, 2020

VCFA MFA in Graphic Design alumnx Patricia Childers will be speaking at the Design Incubation Colloquium 7.1 at Oakland University on Saturday, October 17, 2020at 1 pm EDT. This is a remote conference.


Principles and Context: An Introduction to Graphic Design

Patricia Childers
Adjunct Professor, New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Anita Giraldo
Associate Professor, New York City College of Technology, CUNY

First-year students enter our classes with a host of influences, but little awareness of them. Although their portfolios present a view of their training, their doodles and sketchbooks present something else. Many regard their sketches as mindless, they’re unsure of why they created them and feel they have little meaning. However, their portfolios, usually formulaic, don’t have the spirit of the doodle. They lack the expression, shown throughout time from the marginalia in illuminated manuscripts to the unconscious dashing in a notepad, exhibited by the extemporaneous inclusion from the creator.

We have begun research into a design text/book/package that introduces graphic design by integrating design “history” in the design praxis courses. However, this book does not adopt the canon—it initiates making from the student-focused context that investigates often overlooked influences in the design canon. It will encourage students to consider the everyday by researching their influences, a process that contextualizes lived experience and influence.

We intend this project to serve as both a reference and a workbook. Scaffolded projects develop from a graphic image to a poster, to a motion or three-dimensional project, to a book that documents the semester’s process. Through a process of continuous building, students explore and reevaluate their previous work. They reinforce lessons learned while developing confidence.

The emphasis on designer as researcher and curator, as well as maker, will cover the traditional modernist design principles and elements with an emphasis on student as a contributor. In this method, making will result from context—not replication. Each student’s contributions will reflect their view of time, place, or nodal influence.

We see design as an integrative field that bridges many subjects. Approaching it through critical awareness empowers students with a different type of education—one with an emphasis on meaning, and how it created, as well as form. Student fulfillment comes from the agency to create meaning based on their values. Their understanding comes from reflecting on those decisions and alternate possibilities.