UNLV Design History Curriculum Proposal
I was hired by the University of Nevada Las Vegas to reconceptualize and develop a two-semester design history curriculum. The two classes would be electives for undergraduate students and potentially used throughout the University of Nevada system. Due to contractual obligations, I am unable to share the full curriculum but below is the statement I provided with the new syllabi.
The study of design history is not simply a study of artifacts but rather a study of technology, of culture, of ideology, of people. These two courses, when taken together, present a detailed, comprehensive, and critical survey of graphic design history from the invention of alphabets to the rise of digital interfaces. While the courses build upon each other, they do not need to be taken in order, as they are structured thematically, as opposed to chronologically or geographically to better present as wide a range of work as possible.
In the first course, students will be presented with a survey of the major themes emerging from design history: the invention of alphabets and letterforms (typography), industrialization and mass production (books and printing), expressive and liberated typography (Futurists, Dada), and standardization and modernism (international typographic (or ‘swiss’ style, Bauhaus). In the second course, students will analyze contemporary design history critically to better understand the work happening today. Major themes of this course include branding and nationalism, interface design and publics, authorship and ownership, and vernacular or localized design.
Together, the courses strive to decolonize graphic design history, resisting the dominant modes of the Western design canon. The courses attempt to present a global view of design history, highlighting designers, movements, and genres often left out of the traditional canon, including topics like subcultures, afrofuturism, feminism, and speculative design. History is not simply that has happened, or that is over, but rather something profoundly connected to contemporary culture and practice. These courses attempt to connect the history of graphic design to the issues facing the contemporary designer, regardless of where they are and what kind of work they do. ✖