Toward a theory of gender communication design

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Hughes, Joel Nathanael
Major Professor
Andrea Quam
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Graphic Design
The Graphic Design Program at Iowa State University offers the professional Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design degree. The BFA degree in Graphic Design from Iowa State provides the foundation for a career in the visual communication profession. The undergraduate program prepares students for immediate entry into design practice as well as continued personal and creative growth. The program also offers Master of Arts (MA) degrees in Graphic Design and Environmental Graphic Design, and a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Graphic Design.
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Communication Design (CD) has historically been normed as male through education, practice, and observation. This includes seminal thinkers, readily available cultural examples, and even the design school studio model. The result is a gender binary that prizes male—and increasingly white, hetero, cis—thought, practice, and work above all others. This is problematic for a myriad of reasons; the perpetuation of patriarchal dominance, reinforcing white supremacy, and the fundamental limiting of the discipline. Lastly, upholding these ideals comes at the cost of expanding the knowledge of the discipline.

I will focus on the gendered ramifications of the gender binary. This study aims to; One offer a historical and contemporary context in which CD adjacent disciplines have made new initial commitments regarding gender and undergone paradigm changes as a result; Two examine three critical case studies examining gender and CD; Three identify channels of communication by which gender is expressed, for purposes of establishing a Theory of Gender Communication Design (GCD). Through a close examination of the literature the following research question has been formed.

RQ1: What elements of Communication Design need investigation to understand the

discipline’s relationship with gender?

RQ2: How might form, color, linguistic cues, material, sound, and motion be understood

to express gender through Communication Design?

Ideally, this research will lead to an increased understanding of the role of gender in CD. This understanding has implications for initial commitments, disciplinary matrix, and ultimately the paradigm of CD, and can also offer a solution to the drawn-out paradigm shift of CD. Through these investigations, strategies for the implementation of GCD can be developed that directly affect design education, design practice, and design scholarship.

Sat Aug 01 00:00:00 UTC 2020