Advocating for a Visual Communication Initiative across the Curriculum

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Design in the 21st century is expanding its effectiveness, influence, and reach through research methods borrowed from other disciplines, such as the social sciences. However, those other disciplines can also benefit by borrowing theoretical and practical understanding from the design field. Speaking and writing skills have long been prized in academia and business, resulting in many universities implementing communication across their curriculum program. Historically, this “communication” has excluded visual communication or design knowledge.

In our increasingly visual culture—and online culture of user-created content—non-designers are called upon in the professional realm to illustrate their ideas. Graduates entering the workforce will encounter situations where they will benefit from possessing some level of design sensibility, even if only to communicate effectively with professional designers.

As educators and researchers from different ends of the visual communication spectrum, Dr. Kelly Norris Martin and Kelly Murdoch-Kitt believe professional designers should lead the way in integrating visual communications literacy into higher education curricula. They also present an outline of basic design elements and practices that could be incorporated into a visual communication initiative across the curriculum program (or visual communication center), from color, layout, and composition to iterative sketching, modeling, and concept mapping.


Keywords: Cross-disciplinary, Visual Communication Literacy, Design Sensibility, Higher Education, Communication-across-the-Curriculum
Stream: Instructional Design and Learning Systems
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , , , Visual World Demands Design Sense, A


Dr. Kelly Norris Martin

Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, NY, USA

Kelly Norris Martin is an Assistant Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology whose primary research interests include visual communication, visual research methods, design and digital media. She teaches visual communication and digital design courses to non-designers. Martin attended North Carolina State University, where she received her PhD in communication, rhetoric and digital media and her Master of Science in communication. In addition to her dissertation where she proposes a schema for visual research methods, she has worked with Drs. Gallagher and Ma on developing a theory of visual wellbeing and with Dr. Melissa Johnson on a theory of digital credibility with a focus on public relations blogs. Kelly has also conducted communication across the curriculum research with Dr. Deanna Dannels examining the communication practices of design critiques. Prior to attending graduate school, Kelly worked for The Coastland Times, Dare County Public Relations and founded ripCurrent magazine on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Kelly M. Murdoch-Kitt

Design Researcher and User Experience Specialist, gotomedia User Experience
gotoresearch Research Team, gotomedia

Berkeley, CA, USA

Kelly Murdoch-Kitt combines her design sensibility, interest in research, and linguistic facility to create sensitive, effective, and delightful concepts and solutions. In 2009, Kelly relocated to California, after completing her Master of Graphic Design degree at North Carolina State University's College of Design. Her thesis research explores theories of situated learning and experiential elements of virtual communities. Kelly balances her love of researching and designing for the digital environment with an equal passion for communication in the physical realm: her undergraduate degree is in fine art and theatre, and she has over ten years of experience in print design. Currently, Kelly is a design researcher and UX specialist at gotomedia, an interaction design and research firm in San Francisco, and will also teach in the Design Program at University of San Francisco as of fall 2011.

Ref: G12P0263