Nancy Wynn, Associate Professor, Merrimack College
In an age of easy-to-get facts, shorter attention spans and ubiquitous “survey” courses, academics often struggle with the challenge of how to make history more “real” for students. This presentation focuses on the unique challenges Design professors face in creating Graphic Design History courses that are engaging, build an understanding of the importance of design “movements,” and encourage students to incorporate historical influences in their own work.
History should be seen as not a static collection of dates and names, but a process that is alive and changeable, a story that depends, of course, on who is telling it and why. Creating a Graphic Design History course that engages students will not just help them retain information. It will also expand their understanding of the world and help them incorporate past theories and styles into their own creative work. Students can learn from the past to design for the future.
Letting your students discover and identify their own important historical content is key. Better yet, create small group projects where students collaborate and make physical artifacts that personify design history. Provide field trips to help students appreciate that design is, in fact, everywhere. As educators, we must create courses where students learn about history, see how design history relates to all history, and find their own design voice within it. In short, bring design history “to life.”