On Design Pedagogy, Poster, 31 x 42 in, 2023.

How do graphic designers visualize their teaching philosophies—their pedagogical beliefs that are in constant dialogue with other cultural, philosophical, and disciplinary values and practices? This poster was created in response to this question and was subsequently selected for this traveling juried exhibition of invigorating, thoughtful, and diverse posters.

The call for entries for I Profess: The Graphic Design Manifesto, 20th Anniversary Traveling Juried Exhibition prompted graphic design educators to design a poster embodying their teaching philosophy and suggested that such a philosophy might thereby be “implicit in [their] syllabi, critiques, and grading criteria.” The call for entries also cited Edward Tufte’s use of the term “self-exemplifying” to describe something that is “an example of itself.” 

In developing a response, I extended “self-exemplifying” to possibly mean “self-reflexive.” Self-reflexivity is perhaps most commonly applied in literary works that reflect upon their own composition or process. This might help explain why I chose to display a poem as poster that is then presented within the graphic frame of an application used for typographic (and image) composition (Adobe InDesign). Self‐reflexivity is often utilized in poetry, notably through the use of mise‐en‐abyme and repetition. The rhythm and style of my pedagogical poem was inspired by the poetry of the American poet Alberto Ríos (b. 1952), including his poem “On Gathering Artists,” published in his 2015 collection, A Small Story about the Sky

Outside of academia, some may or may not be familiar with a few terms used in my overtly alliterated composition. For instance, the term “designerly” was first popularized by Nigel Cross in his paper “Designerly Ways of Knowing,” which was first published in a 1982 issue of Design Studies. In his paper, Cross suggested five aspects of design-based knowledge and three main points of justification for them. 

As for defuturing, the term was coined by Tony Fry—a contemporary design theorist and philosopher who writes on the relationship between design, unsustainability, and politics. “Defuturing” could be described as the destruction of the future by design. It underscores a new design philosophy while creating new imperatives for imagining and creating the future.

Lastly is my use of the term decentering. Decentering (as a pedagogical term) was coined by the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget (1896–1980). Piaget’s theories on teaching enable educators to adopt an individualized and learner-centered approach. Furthermore, for students, decentration allows learners to consider multiple components or concepts simultaneously. As a design educator, I have casually referred to this pedagogical approach as “responsive”—a play-off of responsive web design (popularized by Ethan Marcotte) and responsive architecture (popularized by Nicholas Negroponte).

The text of the poem is presented below:


Allow the dissenter
And be sure to decenter,
Disseminate discourse
And disfigure disproof
Dispense feedback deliberately
And with careful deliverance,
Digest the dispositions
And discover diversity.

In this time of distraction
Distilling down
Drawn from discovery,
And determination
Distanced from dogma.

Do this
Drawing from the disparate,
Drawn forth from the different
Dissolvable distinctions.

Do this
Oh you dispersers
Of designerly deposits
Denying defutures
And demanding delight.

What we do
Will surely be different
In decades
But desirable debate
Intentionality and deliberation
Ever demands
Due diligence.


Dan Vlahos, Designer


  • Chris Corneal, Associate Professor of Graphic Design at Michigan State University
  • Audrey G. Bennett, University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor


Portland State University, AB Lobby Gallery
School of Art and Design, Portland, OR
Feb 5 – 16, 2024

(SCENE) Metrospace Gallery
East Lansing, MI 48823
Hosting Institution: Michigan State University
Feb 16 – March 15, 2024

University for the Creative Arts-Farnham
Falkner Road, Farnham, Surrey, England
April 15 – 30, 2024

FILED IN: Design Research