John Gialanella, Assistant Professor of Design, Western Washington University
Kimberly Mitchell, Associate Professor of Visual Communication, Northern Arizona University
It started with a murder trial and ended with five Arizona designers, each with different backgrounds, coming together to show how design can be used to better the world in which we live. The team worked closely together to apply for an AIGA Innovate grant, which is a program developed to fund game-changing projects at AIGA chapters across the country, by encouraging chapters to create projects that improve the AIGA member experience, impact the wider community, and are scalable to other chapters.
The AIGA Arizona Innovate team project which is titled, Parallel: A Game of Design, is based around the idea of helping to solve two problems at once—the lack of design education opportunities for students attending schools in areas underserved by the arts, and the lack of diversity in the design industry. In a report generated by AIGA in 1990, it was found that nearly 93% of graphic designers in the U.S. were Caucasian, and many statistics to-date fail to explore diversity (or lack-there-of) in areas outside of ethnicity, such as disability, gender, orientation, etc. In an industry that is so connected to solving problems for global and cultural audiences, a shortage of diverse designers causes problems for making authentic and inclusive solutions to design challenges.
The other issue facing the future of diversity in design is through education. Low income communities often don’t have K-12 education that can afford to focus on the creative arts. In Arizona, the Arts spending per student is measured in cents, not dollars. If design can’t find its way into these student’s hands, how will they ever know it is a possibility?
The Parallel team has worked for over a year creating a tool for high school students and teachers in these schools in order to introduce design-thinking in the form of a low-tech, but super fun card game. The game introduces design and creative professions through a fictional, yet familiar, world, asking students to think empathetically, work collaboratively, and solve various challenges facing their team.
During MAKE, two college-level design educators from the team will share the game by encouraging other educators to learn and play. We envision this being a successful 2-hour workshop. Following our brief background and game play introduction, we will have participants play the game. When game-play ends, which is expected to last approximately one-hour, we will have time for questions and answers. It is our goal that educators become so engaged with the game play that they will be excited to share this opportunity with their AIGA student groups, and together, can host game-play workshops for underserved high schools in their own communities.
We’d love the opportunity to introduce our game in a teaser-like fashion, to help build excitement and support, as well as encourage fellow design educators across the country, to carry their design advocacy to the high school and underserved community.