Dan Vlahos

Graduate Work

Dynamic Media Institute, 2016-2017

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Through a series of speculative projects and seven case studies, The Education of a Communication Designer explores and evaluates new tools, systems, and heuristics for teaching and learning in the arts and beyond. Through these learning experience (LX) design-based investigations, I speculatively re-imagine and re-contextualize the relationship between learners, educators, and peers within a range of learning environments. Drawing inspiration from Professor Gunner Swanson’s essay, “Design and Knowledge in the University and the ‘Real World,’” all seven case studies are guided by a set of four interrelated themes: communication, expression, interaction, and cognition, which according to Swanson represent four broad areas that graphic design could bridge.

What is graphic design? Throughout this work I re-examine “graphic design” and place it in the broader context of “communication design”—a comprehensive field that posits a wider range of media, disciplines, technologies, and applications. Much of the research and inspiration for my thesis is derived from Steven Heller’s anthology “The Education of a Graphic Designer,” to which the title of this thesis alludes. By replacing “Graphic” with “Communication,” I am largely acknowledging a personal shift from the strictly “graphic” (mainly designing visual artifacts) to a wider practice of designing experiences, interactions, and systems. While the experiences, interactions, and systems that I have designed all primarily focus on art and design education, one can easily imagine how these multimodal interactive learning techniques could be used as broader assistive learning tools, or as catalysts for interdisciplinary communication and collaboration.

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