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Speakers and Sessions

Keynote Talk: Expanding the Canon
This talk explores inclusive ways to teach graphic design history. In place of a linear narrative that progresses smoothly towards European modernism, design history instructors can tell stories that reveal conflict and highlight overlooked voices. Topics like “Pattern and Ornament” and “Futurisms and Dadas” incorporate the work of diverse makers. The Bauhaus was a contradictory endeavour—not a monolithic monoculture. Ellen shares stories drawn from her own classroom teaching and scholarship.

About Ellen Lupton
Ellen is a designer, writer and educator. The all-new third edition of her best-selling book Thinking with Type launched in March 2024. Her other books include Design Is Storytelling, Graphic Design Thinking, Health Design Thinking and Extra Bold: A Feminist, Inclusive, Anti-Racist, Nonbinary Field Guide for Graphic Designers. She teaches in the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, where she serves as Design Chair. She is Curator Emerita at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, where her exhibitions have included Herbert Bayer: Bauhaus Master and The Senses: Design Beyond Vision.

Keynote Talk: Of Contexts and Curriculum Transformation: Comparative Decolonizing Design Efforts Between Canada and the United States
In this talk, Dori Tunstall will address the different contexts for decolonizing design efforts in the United States and Canada. Comparing her work at OCAD University and California Institute of the Arts, Tunstall will address how differing political context, educational ethos, and institutional structures affects the promises and possibilities of decolonizing design curriculum. She concludes with tips on what students, faculty, and administration can do to accelerate the changes in their design educational institutions

About Dr. Elizabeth "Dori" Tunstall
"Dori" is a distinguished design anthropologist, celebrated author, visionary organizational design leader, consultant and coach. As the renowned author of "Decolonizing Design: A Cultural Justice Guidebook," she is a path-breaker of progressive approaches that challenge conventional design paradigms that exclude and harm cultural communities. Formerly Dean of Design at OCAD University, and the first Black dean of a Faculty of Design anywhere, Dori's profound commitment to making an expansive impact beyond academia has led her to establish Dori Tunstall, Inc., a firm dedicated to decolonizing and diversifying institutional processes for companies and organizations through corporate education, executive coaching and strategic consulting.

Representing Risk: Radical Collaboration in a Design Classroom
This presentation explores a collaboration between a York University undergraduate design studio and 4theRecord, an international research project on risk perceptions among LGBTQ2S+ and racialized young women in Melbourne, New York and Toronto. The course, conducted as a vertical studio, involved second to fourth-year design students working collaboratively. The research team acted as clients, providing data access and guidance throughout the term. Students, many representing the researched demographic, organized and showcased participant data through web-based visualizations and a physical gallery. The collaboration aimed to enhance interdisciplinary cooperation between designers and researchers, emphasizing social, cultural and environmental responsibility. Angela will share selections from the exuberant visual output of the course and discuss challenges and opportunities for integrating the collaborative course model into the core curriculum.

About Angela Norwood RGD
Angela Norwood RGD is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Design in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design at York University.

Learning Human-Centered Design Principles through Practice
Human-Centered Design (HCD) involves end-stage users in all aspects of the design and development process. It shows promise in fostering collaboration with underrepresented groups and understanding everyday contexts. However, its complexity lies in addressing power dynamics between designers and users, requiring trust and empathy. Rupsha shares her HCD approach, partnering with people with dementia to create augmented reality interfaces and highlights success strategies. She also discusses integrating these strategies to create an inclusive classroom environment, empowering students in co-creation processes and design ownership. Rupsha concludes by explaining how HCD serves as both a design practice and a pedagogical framework in classrooms.

About Rupsha Mutsuddi Provisional RGD
A Human-Centered Design specialist and emerging educator/researcher, Rupsha recently completed a Master of Design at York. Focused on design, accessibility and health management, her research integrates augmented reality interventions for early-stage dementia patients, enhancing their quality of life. Supported by a Government of Canada grant, she collaborates with dementia patients, caregivers and community organizations in Ontario to create supportive solutions for daily living.

Design for Good: Gen Z's Multi-Sensory Takeover
Generation Z, known for independence and tech-savviness, thrives on self-expression in today's society. As an instructor, Xiaojun empowers them with ownership through workshops, boosting motivation and cultivating enthusiasm for graphic design. In this presentation, we explore how Gen Z collaborates in group settings to lead impactful workshops that engage all five human senses while competing with other teams in the classroom. This experimental experience fosters empathy for individuals with disabilities and instills a sense of responsibility towards the community. Xiaojun shares student samples to explore creative workshop materials, outlines strategies to enhance students' empathy, creativity and sense of community and offers resources featuring successful sensory designs and materials.

About Xiaojun Huang
Xiaojun is a maker, designer and educator originating from China. Currently Assistant Professor at Bowling Green State University, Xiaojun employs innovative, hands-on teaching methods and leads impactful research initiatives to push the boundaries of design education. In her art-making and design practice, Xiaojun navigates the intersection between Eastern and Western cultures through bilingual typographic graphics, symbols, and installations, exploring the nuances of cultural fusion.

Bridging the Arts and Sciences: Using Design for Transdisciplinary Collaboration
Albert Einstein famously declared that scientists are also artists. Throughout history, innovators have relied on creative methods to drive research forward. However, integrating creativity into scientific methodologies remains a challenge. The Integrated Creative Practices (ICP) framework seeks to address this by delineating how art and science can collaborate within transdisciplinary projects. Design, positioned at the intersection of art and science, provides a suitable foundation. Design methods are increasingly recommended for guiding robust collaboration across disciplines, particularly in addressing complex real-world challenges. Design's dialogic and participatory nature makes it ideal for guiding transdisciplinary collaboration. Bridging the gap between knowledge and action is crucial, especially in the sciences. Design's focus on effective communication and problem-solving can contribute to this effort. An interdisciplinary project addressing an invasive species in BC has informed the development of the ICP framework, aiming to enhance research's societal impact through transdisciplinary collaboration.

About Joshua Hale
Joshua is a graphic designer, educator and contemporary artist from Texas, currently living in BC. Having professional and educational experience in both the design and studio art realms, he brings with him a unique interdisciplinary perspective. He is experienced in the areas of branding and identity, typography, front-end web design and UI/UX Design. He is also interested in creative thinking processes, problem-solving techniques and innovative design methodologies. This led him to integrate various creative problem-solving frameworks and strategies into his design and studio work and the classroom. His most recent SSHRC-funded research explores the ways that art, design and knowledge mobilization might be integrated within collaborative transdisciplinary research.

From Struggle to Success: A Conversation on Navigating a Return to Student Workplace Readiness
In this talk, Jan and Eric explore the challenges faced by design educators in preparing students for the workforce, especially in the post-Covid era. They discuss the skills and knowledge that their design students need to be successful in their careers and how professionals have seen a change in resilience and risk taking — the very skills creatives use in problem-solving. They also examine the struggles that educators face in designing effective curriculum and assessments, and how to create student outcomes that resonate with recruiters and employers. Finally, they share stories from creative directors who have hired recent graduates to provide practical tips and strategies for educators to develop tools to help their students succeed in their careers.

About Jan Ballard and Erica Holemen
Jan joined Texas Christian University in 2010 after 25 years as Adjunct Faculty in the School of Art. With a BFA in Graphic Design from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, she teaches typography, branding and more. Her research interests include typography, cross-disciplinary collaboration and UI/UX partnerships. Jan’s teaching effectiveness has been recognized by Student Affairs, Student Development Services: Engaged Faculty Award; Neeley Innovative Teachers Guild Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Deans’ Teaching Award; District 10 AAF Award for Outstanding Advertising Educator; Faculty of the Year, College of Fine Arts, Student Government Association; and Wassenich Award for Mentoring.
Erica holds an MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art and a BFA from Oklahoma State University. She taught at MICA and UMBC, volunteered for portfolio reviews and was a senior designer at Pentagram. Her diverse background spans non-profits, local agencies and freelancing.

Ungrading Unlocked: One Educator’s Experience with a Completely Self-Assessed Course
Diana has been exploring 'ungrading' for years, particularly through a framework called 'specifications grading,' discussed at RGD's Design Educators Conference in 2023. In the Fall of 2023, she implemented a fully self-assessed course with success and room for improvement. Traditional grading methods seemed less relevant in her experiential teaching approach, fostering safe spaces for students to experience low-stakes failure. Ungrading, which rewards risk-taking and vulnerability, was found to elevate both grades and quality of student reflection. Students appreciated the opportunity to evaluate their own work, leading to deeper self-awareness and motivation. Diana shares insights from her experience with ungraded self-assessment, addressing pedagogical aspects and future plans for student-centred learning.

About Diana Varma RGD
Diana works as a design educator by day and a podcaster by night; getting creative with creatives about all things creative. She is a curious human who dabbles in a variety of printing technologies. Diana lives with her family near Toronto, and can be found on Instagram @talkpaperscissors.

Design Engaging with Indigenous Languages
This presentation highlights research that occurs amongst critical, creative, social, academic and ecological spaces. More specifically, the highlights of this work are rooted in the question of “what can design support?,” in the context of Indigenous Language Revitalization, Preservation and Reclamation. In the fall of 2021, Leo started teaching design at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, which is situated on unceded, traditional and ancestral territories of the Xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) and Səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. Along with the challenges of establishing research directions as a new faculty member and imagining an indigenous design curriculum, Leo also inherited a unique collaborative relationship. A collaboration with Kenneth Gordon Maplewood School (KGMS) was one that lasted a decade, only recently being terminated in 2023 due to the lack of funding to support such efforts. A surprising but enduring connection from these two terms developed with the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation). Leo shares insights into his work as a practicing indigenous designer, how that influences academic structures like curriculum and program development, while also touching on student experiences and outcomes. In conclusion, he speaks to supporting collaboration, sovereignty and self-determination within creative practices.

About Leo Vicenti
Leo (Jicarilla Apache) is an Assistant Professor of Communication Design at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. His current research approaches indigenous language preservation, revitalization and the return of these languages to everyday use through the development of language support in typography and representation in the design field.

Design hacks and strategies for teaching immersive media
The confluence of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) has yielded a new subdiscipline that young digital designers will need to fill in the coming years. Hardware and software in this space has been launched and dissolved in the span of a decade, but the resources allocated by Meta and now Apple have all but ensured a path forward. Until now, the media landscape in this field has been dominated by games at one end and operator training for high-skilled industries at the other. Device comfort, ergonomics and availability of hardware and software has started to push development of applications for the middle-tier user. Travel, storytelling and creativity are at the heart of some of the newest offerings available. So, how will you teach your students to design spatial interfaces and content? Until fairly recently, this had to be done in a dressed-up, two-dimensional way or with the help of a developer. Static mock-ups and proof of concepts using motion graphics have been the standard in conceiving immersive layouts. Now, we’ve finally arrived at viable options for prototypes of all levels that can be taught from within a design curriculum. This presentation outlines how to get started teaching design for immersive media, from early-stage sketching, mid-fidelity mockups and high-fidelity prototypes that will “wow” potential stakeholders. Open source or free tools will be used to ensure wide accessibility for students and educators.

About David Hardy
David's practice focuses on a multidisciplinary approach to design and technology for nonprofit, community and forward-thinking organizations. His research concerns the craft-based exploration of digital methods and tools and the concept of hacking them for novel uses. His book "Introduction to Digital Media Design" (Bloomsbury) serves as a framework for educating young designers in the 21st century. David leads an annual study in The Netherlands where students study Dutch design and culture.

Advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in Post-secondary Education
All universities have a role in championing sustainable development, particularly since we as educators are responsible for preparing future leaders. In 2015, all United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is a roadmap to action to eradicate poverty and inequality, and to preserve the planet for generations to come. Using design education as a vehicle for change, John applies the United Nations Goals as a means to prepare designers to engage with challenges such as poverty, health and education. Examples include two courses for the University of Manitoba’s School of Art (Department of Design) and most recently at NSCAD University. John begins with an overview of motivating factors and a brief overview of Universities Canada's commitment to the United Nations’ SDGs. This is followed by two examples of coursework. The discussion of the projects includes anecdotes on teaching methods specific to these courses.

About John deWolf RGD
John is a multi-disciplinary designer who specializes in print, interactive, broadcast and exhibition design. With a focus on creating accessible communication systems for broad audiences, he integrates process, narrative and experience into his work. While design is often product-driven, John emphasizes sustainability, inclusivity and community awareness over consumerism. With over 30 years of experience, he has taught at NSCAD University and the University of Manitoba and presented at Yale University and Carnegie Mellon. Currently, he leads the Narrative Environments Studio, dedicated to safeguarding culture and heritage for the public good.


Nurturing Resilience and Well-being: Empowering Students with Compassionate Design Education
In the evolving realm of design education, there's a growing need to nurture both technical skills and emotional resilience. This talk advocates for an integrated educational approach merging the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model, Non-Violent Communication (NVC), Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) and the Ikigai concept. By incorporating these frameworks, students develop self-awareness, empathy and purpose, vital for inclusive and compassionate design solutions. Emphasizing empathetic communication, conflict resolution and self-kindness, this approach fosters resilience and prepares students for professional excellence and personal growth. It encourages empathy-driven design practices, fostering inclusive and socially impactful solutions. As design educators, we hold the responsibility to create nurturing environments that cultivate both skills and well-being, shaping a future where design not only solves problems but also uplifts and connects communities.

About Brandon Laird
Brandon brings 28 years of experience to his roles as a design professor and creative professional, currently teaching at Seneca Polytechnic and Sheridan College while managing projects for Calian Advanced Technologies. With a Master of Design in Inclusive Design from OCAD University and additional credentials from Sheridan and St. Lawrence College, Brandon's learner-centered approach focuses on preparing students for the creative industry. He blends traditional and digital methodologies in advanced design courses, spanning from user experience design to interactive digital media. Advocating for inclusivity, Brandon champions accessibility and diversity, believing in design's transformative potential. Recognized with the Fulbright Canada Emerging Faculty Fellowship Award, his teaching philosophy combines academic rigor with real-world applications, equipping students for the challenges of the design field.