Communication design and community: pedagogy and empowerment
This paper will discuss two social action initiatives that were undertaken as part of communication design courses offered in Australia and New Zealand. Each initiative involved student designers collaborating with a discreet community on a project that each community had identified as of importance to them. It provided the students with valuable industry experience and with the opportunity to think not only critically about the world in which they live, but also to think about how designers can make ethically responsible work, rather than churning out logos, brands and adverts aimed at encouraging rampant materialism and fostering the shallowness of western culture. This may seem antithetical to the purposes of design education, yet almost all university design courses identify both a worldview and a practice grounded in ethics as desired graduate attributes. We see art and design education in terms of Atkinson’s notion of pedagogies against the state, in particular ‘pedagogy as a form of resistance to liberal democratic economics as the driving raison d’être for state education’ (Atkinson, 2012 p. 15). Working within community settings is not a novel concept. Artists, either individually or whilst working alongside communities have attempted to depict historical stereotypes or assumptions that have shaped collective memory and identity (Desai & Hamlin, 2010). However, in an attempt to define its boundaries, communication design education appears to have aligned itself with the 1% of the population who control the state (Landers, 2012). Located in Freire’s theories of empowerment through participation, (Benmayor, 2008; Freire, 1972) the art we make demands that designers use their skills to become part of the solution rather than as one of those who sit on the fence silently yet vicariously supporting the problem. We believe that designers do have a valuable role to play in increasing the store of humanities knowledge by designing ‘like the world matters’ (Gablik, 1991).