Leveraging diversity in the studio classroom: Helping beginning design students draw on their own histories to develop unique approaches to making and learning.


Curriculum which focusses on Western fundamentals and precedents of graphic design may limit the beginning design student to a finite, predictable, and culturally limited view of what design is. Such restricted curriculum also risks the erasure of what the students bring to the classroom—diverse perspectives and years of unique experiences. Fundamentals and precedents should be seen as part of an education that sees students and faculty questioning, pushing against, and possibly even rejecting the past. This approach to design education will stimulate a rich and rigorous environment of empirical research and self-reflection that may appear similar to the postmodernist search for “new presentations, not in order to enjoy them but in order to impart a stronger sense of the unpresentable” (Lyotard, 1984).

Curriculum that cultivates diverse approaches for students’ response to assignments incites learning from and with both faculty and students—unlike top-down learning, which occurs through the traditional Western archetype of teacher as master. The classroom should be a safe space for experiences and cultural backgrounds to be expressed, not obscured by Western dogma. Not only will this create a richer environment for learning but may also cultivate students who have a better understanding of, and more empathy for, others.