The AIGA design education conference titled “Geo/graphics” was a stimulating symposium held this December at the East-West Center of the University of Hawai’i Manoa in sun-drenched Honolulu (Hawaii, USA). Led by educators from around the globe, the conference encouraged rich discussion and debate on the theme of transnational design through panel debates and paper presentations. The conference aim was to provide international design educators, scholars, and practitioners the opportunity to share examples of design programs, research, and projects implemented within a transnational context.

“For many design educators working in different parts of the world today, design practice is taking place in what may be called a transnational context. The boundaries that define the field of higher education have become increasingly fluid, and professors, students, programs, and curricula are moving back and forth between different regions of the world as never before. The design projects, research, and institutions that result retain a unique cultural complexity because they promote meanings and values that often transcend the cultures and boundaries of the nations within which they originate.”

Conversations centered on international research and pedagogy permeated the hallways during the event, making the ongoing opportunity for dialogue a highlight of the conference activities.

The event was also an opportunity to share the outcomes of my collaborative research with Kelly Murdoch–Kitt in order to extrapolate feedback and expand our work. Our study focuses on bridging internationally located students through design collaboration and resulted in our conference paper, “8,092–mile collaboration: A cross–cultural design education experiment between students in San Francisco and Dubai.”

After the conference, I spent 3 additional days working with Kelly discussing ideas for new exchange projects for our design students. Inspired by the conference themes of transnational approaches to cultural studies, we considered ways to form bridges of communication and cultural understanding between our classes. We hope to expand these ideas into opportunities for collaborations between classes, projects, and (potential) study-abroad opportunities.

All photos courtesy of aigahonolulu