Rethinking Curriculum Saturday, June 9th, 2018

Teaching Emerging Media Design: Exposing students to designing for the ecosystem of social media on the web

John O’Neill, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, University of Minnesota Duluth

Social media is a part of the ever-expanding ecosystem of the web. Are design students prepared to design and publish content for these platforms?

The use of social media marketing has changed how the Graphic Design Degree Program at the University of Minnesota Duluth prepares its students to design for the world-wide-web. It will speak to why a new course was developed to expose students to all the devices and media for the web.

The emergence of the world-wide-web during the latter half of the 1990s and early 2000s marked a shift culturally and economically. People around the world began to acquire information, communicate with each other, and conduct business easier and faster than at any previous time. Websites became the primary vehicle for the world-wide-web at this time. The growing use of web design changed the curricula of the graphic design degree offerings around the globe.

The web’s ecosystem grew when smart devices became highly available in the late 2000s. This marked another shift in how people used the web. Mobile apps made social media platforms the mechanism that has shaped communication, entertainment, and e-commerce for a new age. Branding, advertising, and design agencies are now gearing their entire practice to developing content and campaigns to be viewed and experienced on many social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

The use of social media has tapped into nearly all facets of our daily lives. In response, the Graphic Design Degree Program within the Department of Art & Design at the University of Minnesota Duluth developed a new course: Emerging Media Design. The class exposes students in the fall semester of their junior year to design content across web media. Students learn the use of WordPress, the production of video and animation, as well as the development and management of social media campaigns. Students gain an understanding of how each media connects to each other through the use of system thinking. This class addresses the trends and competencies of the AIGA Designer 2025 future projections.

The course is a catalyst for the classes to follow in the curriculum. Students who complete the course are more prepared to take on complex design problems later in their junior and into their senior years. They have a foundation to understand how each of the design solutions is built using a defined system across the ecosystem of the web. From these design experiences, students can create complex systems that can be simplified and used across different digital platforms.

The course has been offered for the last three years. Within that time, current students have obtained internships, and graduates have found full-time employment to make and manage social media content.

Going forward, students will have the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the demands of the design profession incorporating the Designer 2025 standards.