Thanks to my research partners Kelly Murdoch–Kitt and Dr. Kelly Norris Martin, I was able to virtually attend the UCDA (University and College Designers Association) Annual Design Education Summit. Held in May of 2014, this summit for graphic design educators enables opportunities for professional participation and development. As part of the conference activities, we presented two papers – focused on topics of sustainability and collaboration.

UCDA intercultural virtual presentation

The first presentation with Kelly Murdoch–Kitt was titled “Intercultural by design: Exploring virtually mediated cross–cultural relations between middle eastern and western design students.”

This paper introduces the rationale, methods and design-related outcomes from an ongoing series of virtual cross-cultural collaborations, with the goal to motivate educators to develop positive collaborations between students situated in seemingly disparate cultural contexts. The research involves design students, studying in Western and Middle Eastern universities, with no previous experience in cross-cultural design. Course methodology invites cross-cultural teams to work together across distance and time zones, understand a range of audiences, give and receive critical feedback, exchange projects, and respond with culturally sensitive design solutions to pertinent global topics, such as sustainability. Students research each other’s local culture, exchange imagery, develop an understanding of international perspectives through their partners, and use virtual technologies to arrive at collaborative design solutions. The course methodology and outcomes exemplify the power of creative collaboration in building positive cross-cultural experiences and competencies that extend beyond the classroom.

UCDA Sustainability Presentation

The second paper was presented with Kelly Murdoch–Kitt and Dr. Kelly Norris titled “Anything but the color green: Introducing sustainability into project–based visual communication courses.”

This paper considers a diverse collection of case studies from university-level design and communication courses at different international institutions that placed sustainability at the forefront of design challenges. Examining multiple curricular approaches helps to highlight broader themes, learning advantages, and best teaching practices. Working together, students and faculty could put their intellect, talents and resources toward solving real problems, making the classroom an instrumental force for environmental stewardship.