Reimagining Identity in the Design Classroom

By Jan Fairbairn.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

‘Identity’ functions critically in graphic design, as the object of professional work while also bearing the trace of the designer’s personality. How might one use the concept of ‘identity’ to help students explore their sense of design’s possibility beyond typical conceptualizations? Can design pedagogy encourage students to think of ‘identity’ as an intervention into the world?

This paper shares service-learning classroom strategies that focus on the multi-valent layers of ‘identity.’ Situating ‘identity’ as a zone of encounter that engages the designer, the client, and the audience provides opportunities for student designers to explore their own emerging values while also seeking to engage with the vision and values of their clients, resulting in a myriad of dialogic possibilities.

Keywords: Identity, Design, Gender, How We Think of Ourselves, Teaching Design

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.269-276. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.194MB).

Jan Fairbairn

Professor, Graphic Design, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, South Dartmouth, MA, USA

Ms Fairbairn’s education includes receiving an MFA degree in Graphic Design from Yale University School of Art, in 1991, a BFA degree in Graphic Design from Maine College of Art in 1988 two years of study at the School of Visual Arts, two years at the University of Maine, and one summer abroad in Brissago, Switzerland. She has worked as Principal of Fairbairn & Company, a graphic design studio for the past 20 years that produces a range of print publications, identities, branding and exhibition catalogs. Ms Fairbairn concurrently holds the positions of Senior Critic at Rhode Island School of Design and Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth; was an Assistant Professor at SUNY Fredonia, and has taught at Rhode Island College and at Yale. Her work has been shown in numerous juried shows including: AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers, AIGA Design of Understanding 2, New York is Book Country festival, The International Platform Association, Maine Coast Artists among others. Her work includes: public installations & permanent collections in New York, Connecticut and Maine. Publications include: ‘DesignInquiry Journal 2007’, Essay: ‘Identity as a self portrait: as it relates to a sense of self—who we are to ourselves, our students, our clients, our lovers, the world’, 2008, ‘Design Culture: An Anthology of Writing’ from the AIGA Journal, Section: Love, Money, Power, 1997; ‘AIGA Journal of Graphic Design’, Volume 10, Number 01, 1992, Article: ‘Gender as Cultural Construction’.


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