Misty Thomas-Trout, Assistant Professor, University of Dayton
The AIGA Designer 2025 document recognizes the “complexity of contemporary problems” which are “situated within larger systems that are characterized by interdependent relationships.” The core of my research studies this complex interconnectedness of the dynamic human networking system through community-based design initiatives. The client in my research is the community and the intention is to visualize methods for building viable and resilient local economies. Through mapping methodologies, patterns of relationships and information ecologies are visualized. The designer is then challenged with communicating the initiatives of multiple stakeholders and show how they can support one another through collaborative efforts.
This interdisciplinary, social design research reinforces the value in human relationships necessary to build collaborative projects that depend on mutual support. My current case-study is within my own community of Dayton, Ohio focusing on the negative influences that impact the system. The map is around 11’x14’ and will be layers of data collected from ArcGIS (Aeronautical Reconnaissance Coverage Geographic Information System) such as household income, crime index, unemployment rate, race population etc. The region is plagued with economic inequalities stemming from food insecurity/lack of access and the massive heroin drug epidemic that puts Dayton number one in the nation for drug overdoses. This research project investigates the interdependent nature of local systems and the methods designers can take to identify the values and friction within our communities. Revealing the available resources and/or the lack thereof teaches how collaboration and support can build a more resilient community.
I see the role of the designer in our “evolving paradigm” as socially- and community-engaged designers. Societies will continue to evolve and new problems will always arise. Graphic designers need to remain adaptable throughout the process of making in order to effectively approach these problems. The findings will educate and promote positive economic change in Dayton, Ohio while serving as a historical document of place.