Ms. Meredith Davis

About Me

I am a teacher, writer, and designer.

Member Type Non-member
Bio

Meredith holds masters degrees in design and education from Cranbrook Academy of Art and Penn State University. Meredith has taught design for 43 years and is currently Director of Graduate Programs at NC State University. She is a fellow and 2005 AIGA Medalist and recipient of more than 50 awards for professional practice. Meredith has served on the boards of the AIGA, Graphic Design Education Association, and American Center for Design, as well as the accreditation commission of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, for which she co-authored new standards for communication design. She is a frequent author on design and design education, most recently publishing Design in Context: Graphic Design Theory. Her research is in the application of design pedagogy to teaching other subjects in K-12 schools.

  • Meredith authored "The design curriculum of the future must be anticipatory and agile"
  • Meredith authored "From Design Students to Design Institutions: We’re All Responsible for Moving the Industry Forward"
  • Meredith Davis commented on the article "Where is Design in the K12 Curriculum? (And Why Isn’t it Taught in Art Education Programs?)"

    I think it is inaccurate to say that design has been overlooked in American schools. In 1997, I co-authored a study for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, titled Design as a Catalyst for Learning, on how design is being used in K-12 schools. In 3 months with almost no publicity we had 900 teacher nominees who use design in their classrooms; of the 169 case studies that made it into the book, only two were from art teachers. The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum trains teachers in all disciplines in the use of design as a pedagogical strategy (with hundreds of teacher-authored lesson plans online) and there are programs in design-based teaching and learning at universities around the country. The Research in Education and Design Lab (REDLab at Stanford) is an action-research extension of the d-school and a number of art education programs in the US (for example, RISD) have redefined their traditional fine arts mission to include design. 2014 will be the implementation year of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in Technology and Design Literacy (a study of education mandated by Congress and the US Department of Education, often called The Nation's Report Card) and most technology education programs have expanded their content domain to include design (the Council of Technology Teacher Education just published a book on creativity and design thinking in education). A number of states (Wisconsin and Michigan, for example) include design in their state standards for art education and the national content standards in science, language arts, and civics (precursors to the Common Core) are more explicit in their references to design than are the visual arts standards, which include the word only in the preamble and not in the standards themselves.  There is a 40+ year history of design (and designers) in K-12 schools in this country but I believe the among the problems in the US is confusion between the mission of creating more design professionals (with no evidence that there is a deficit, certainly not in student demand for enrollment in under-staffed college graphic design programs) and the mission to use design as a teaching and learning strategy for any subject area under the belief that design is a core competency for the 21st century. Many of my British colleagues who successfully argued for the creation of design and technology courses in the UK have said privately that carving out named classes was a mistake; that they would have had more influence and less marginalization had they integrated design across the curriculum. The problem of getting design-based instruction into teacher preparation is that there is no consensus regarding educational theories driving practice and few evidence-based research studies that confirm alignment between the outcomes of design-based teaching practices and core student competencies; this is a field built almost exclusively on application and anecdotes. And the problem with designers going into schools is that they have to commit to learning as much about K-12 education as they ask of teachers in learning about design; this is an environment under assault and not in need of one more "savior." Can more be done in the US? Absolutely. But there is a deep history to build upon and I don't think it will be accomplished by describing how design is a special subject or the domain of the arts. It will be by building a convincing case for a testing and measuring culture, that design is essential to teaching and learning in any subject.

  • Meredith Davis commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2171"

    Still listening (to very interesting offline comments, as well). I think there are a number of master's programs that are making very real attempts to prepare students for work in a research-driven culture. The Media Design program at Art Center is one of those programs, as are those at NC State, IIT, and Carnegie-Mellon, among others. This is really encouraging, but there is a limit to what master's students can do without explicit instruction in research methods and work under the supervision of practicing researchers. And how to generalize the research outcomes of very project-based experiences is not always easy. Further, there is a distinction between basic and applied research; a discipline that is new to using research in meaningful ways needs access to basic research, not just to case studies of projects in which existing knowledge has been applied in a specific or new context (even if that existing knowledge is unknown to design). I think PhD programs can contribute to the development of basic research in ways not possible by practice or master's programs. On the issue of cross-disciplinary study, I believe this is essential. The NASAD/AIGA briefing paper I did on design and general education talks a bit on how this might happen and the difference between "proximate" non-design study versus "integrated" non-design study. Simply requiring or recommending non-design courses isn't enough. We have to be prepared to address the concepts of such study in the design studio and and the construction of curricula; that means faculty, as well as students, have to broaden their understanding of this material. We are reconfiguring the undergraduate curriculum at NC State around the issue of systems; design as a system that interfaces with other systems. If we think of design in this sense, instead of as a discrete activity that produces freestanding products and components, deep understanding of the cognitive, cultural, social, technological, and economic contexts for design is essential content. The instant you shift to thinking at the scale of systems and designing the conditions for experience and lifespan, the need for research is immediately apparent, even to undergraduates.

  • Meredith Davis commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2171"

    Ernest Boyer, the late president of the Carnegie Foundation, classified types of scholarship. He described "new knowledge" generation (the traditional notion of research) as the scholarship of discovery. The scholarship of application, on the other hand, is most directly related to design practice and applies existing knowledge in new ways. The scholarship of integration introduces disciplinary knowledge and expertise into areas where they never before had influence. The presumption in both the scholarship of application and the scholarship of integration is that innovation will probably be in method and outcome, and that the information applied or integrated is already known. Finally, the scholarship of teaching explores new pedagogies and means for evaluating instructional outcomes. We can conduct research in any of these areas in design, using methods that are appropriate to each type of scholarship, but it is important to understand that all are subject to rigorous criteria for evaluation if they are truly to constitute "research". This previous paragraph got cut from Steve's article in editing, but might be helpful in responding to David's comment. It's not perfect but it begins to get at a range of performance, rather than singular definitions. There are lots of ways to view research and lots of things to tackle as content, including the history and culture issues that are more likely to contribute to the discipline than to the immediate needs of practice. The issue is not so much the subject of the research, but the rigor with which it is pursued, although I would argue that some problems are really urgent while others are more longterm intellectual projects in an evolutionary process. There are many epistemologies and methods, but having at least one of each is essential. And what we produce has to undergo some evaluation of relevance and quality. I agree that, wrongly or rightly, universities currently focus on funding and refereed journals as the primary means for assessing the value of work, but simply ignoring the issue of peer review is not an option. In addition, the world has changed. The problems of contemporary society exist at the level of systems, meaning that everything is connected to something else in some way (even culture and the politics of identity). Even when we're focused on a very narrow issue that appears absolutely central to the traditional domain, we're obligated to view it in terms of larger contexts in order to understand its true nature. A good book by Julie Klein called "Interdisciplinarity: History, Theory, and Practice", describes how new fields and practices emerge; they are frequently hybrids of other more established fields that arise in response to changing conditions and new knowledge. I believe the complexity of contemporary problems, which by their very nature demand a systems perspective, is accelerating this hybridization process. There are lots of variations in these emerging practices (more than we currently have nomenclature to describe in design). In my mind, research is not the cause of this, it is the response to these larger social processes. I wouldn't argue with the Harvard definitions but the devil is in the details. I've always felt the best argument for anything is made through demonstration, through action and "good deeds". If the field benefits from very different types of research/scholarship/inquiry, and I believe it does, then the best way to make that case is to do the work, to build a body of evidence. I don't believe that we should start that effort by first whittling away at long-established criteria for scholarship or research, under either the humanities or the social sciences, and fooling ourselves about the institutional infrastructure and conditions necessary to support credible research efforts. And if there is something special about design that requires new methods and different criteria, then we need to figure out what those might be within the context of actual work. That is what these new doctoral programs are trying to do.

  • Meredith Davis commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2171"

    The situation in Europe arises, to some degree, from an accord signed by countries in 1999 to standardize degree titles and criteria for the accreditation of programs within the EU. The intent of this accord was to allow students to transfer credits among institutions within the EU more seamlessly and to guarantee some assessment of minimum program effectiveness under accreditation processes. Prior to the accord, for example, design students in some countries earned a diploma while students in other countries received a bachelor's degree; this made it very difficult for students to move to the next level of study or to demonstrate confirmation of essential competencies outside their own countries. Under the accord, there is encouragement for a vertical scaffolding of degrees in which the DA logically follows the BA and MA. And there were existing programs that acquired new titles that may not be optimally descriptive of what they actually do. Further, the UK reorganized its educational system, impacting where design is taught and scrambling, in some cases, the traditional design education missions of colleges, polytechnics, and universities. Therefore, there is often great diversity among programs in Europe that makes it difficult to tell, by degree title, whether the degree is research-oriented or not. In some cases, European institutions offer PhD degrees under requirements that more closely resemble master's study in the US. I've recently returned from Germany and participation in a small working group of research programs, under the auspices of CUMULUS (a consortium of 125 college and university design programs, mostly European and Asian). Our goal is to describe benchmarks for design research programs, i.e. necessary conditions to adequately support the generation of new knowledge. If successful, we hope to bypass the current dilemma of relationships between degree titles and actual outcomes, instead focusing on what we know are essential pre-requisites for rigorous research and research education. As the US is at the front end of its foray into design research, I think it would be a mistake to muddy the waters by practices that replicate the European dilemma. A PhD, in all disciplines in the US, is well understood as the research degree and the professional doctorates are known to be accountable to a different set of practices and standards as defined by their respective disciplines.

  • Meredith Davis commented on the article "Where is Design in the K12 Curriculum? (And Why Isn’t it Taught in Art Education Programs?)"

    I think it is inaccurate to say that design has been overlooked in American schools. In 1997, I co-authored a study for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, titled Design as a Catalyst for Learning, on how design is being used in K-12 schools. In 3 months with almost no publicity we had 900 teacher nominees who use design in their classrooms; of the 169 case studies that made it into the book, only two were from art teachers. The Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum trains teachers in all disciplines in the use of design as a pedagogical strategy (with hundreds of teacher-authored lesson plans online) and there are programs in design-based teaching and learning at universities around the country. The Research in Education and Design Lab (REDLab at Stanford) is an action-research extension of the d-school and a number of art education programs in the US (for example, RISD) have redefined their traditional fine arts mission to include design. 2014 will be the implementation year of the National Assessment of Educational Progress in Technology and Design Literacy (a study of education mandated by Congress and the US Department of Education, often called The Nation's Report Card) and most technology education programs have expanded their content domain to include design (the Council of Technology Teacher Education just published a book on creativity and design thinking in education). A number of states (Wisconsin and Michigan, for example) include design in their state standards for art education and the national content standards in science, language arts, and civics (precursors to the Common Core) are more explicit in their references to design than are the visual arts standards, which include the word only in the preamble and not in the standards themselves.  There is a 40+ year history of design (and designers) in K-12 schools in this country but I believe the among the problems in the US is confusion between the mission of creating more design professionals (with no evidence that there is a deficit, certainly not in student demand for enrollment in under-staffed college graphic design programs) and the mission to use design as a teaching and learning strategy for any subject area under the belief that design is a core competency for the 21st century. Many of my British colleagues who successfully argued for the creation of design and technology courses in the UK have said privately that carving out named classes was a mistake; that they would have had more influence and less marginalization had they integrated design across the curriculum. The problem of getting design-based instruction into teacher preparation is that there is no consensus regarding educational theories driving practice and few evidence-based research studies that confirm alignment between the outcomes of design-based teaching practices and core student competencies; this is a field built almost exclusively on application and anecdotes. And the problem with designers going into schools is that they have to commit to learning as much about K-12 education as they ask of teachers in learning about design; this is an environment under assault and not in need of one more "savior." Can more be done in the US? Absolutely. But there is a deep history to build upon and I don't think it will be accomplished by describing how design is a special subject or the domain of the arts. It will be by building a convincing case for a testing and measuring culture, that design is essential to teaching and learning in any subject.

  • Meredith Davis commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2171"

    Still listening (to very interesting offline comments, as well). I think there are a number of master's programs that are making very real attempts to prepare students for work in a research-driven culture. The Media Design program at Art Center is one of those programs, as are those at NC State, IIT, and Carnegie-Mellon, among others. This is really encouraging, but there is a limit to what master's students can do without explicit instruction in research methods and work under the supervision of practicing researchers. And how to generalize the research outcomes of very project-based experiences is not always easy. Further, there is a distinction between basic and applied research; a discipline that is new to using research in meaningful ways needs access to basic research, not just to case studies of projects in which existing knowledge has been applied in a specific or new context (even if that existing knowledge is unknown to design). I think PhD programs can contribute to the development of basic research in ways not possible by practice or master's programs. On the issue of cross-disciplinary study, I believe this is essential. The NASAD/AIGA briefing paper I did on design and general education talks a bit on how this might happen and the difference between "proximate" non-design study versus "integrated" non-design study. Simply requiring or recommending non-design courses isn't enough. We have to be prepared to address the concepts of such study in the design studio and and the construction of curricula; that means faculty, as well as students, have to broaden their understanding of this material. We are reconfiguring the undergraduate curriculum at NC State around the issue of systems; design as a system that interfaces with other systems. If we think of design in this sense, instead of as a discrete activity that produces freestanding products and components, deep understanding of the cognitive, cultural, social, technological, and economic contexts for design is essential content. The instant you shift to thinking at the scale of systems and designing the conditions for experience and lifespan, the need for research is immediately apparent, even to undergraduates.

  • Meredith Davis commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2171"

    Ernest Boyer, the late president of the Carnegie Foundation, classified types of scholarship. He described "new knowledge" generation (the traditional notion of research) as the scholarship of discovery. The scholarship of application, on the other hand, is most directly related to design practice and applies existing knowledge in new ways. The scholarship of integration introduces disciplinary knowledge and expertise into areas where they never before had influence. The presumption in both the scholarship of application and the scholarship of integration is that innovation will probably be in method and outcome, and that the information applied or integrated is already known. Finally, the scholarship of teaching explores new pedagogies and means for evaluating instructional outcomes. We can conduct research in any of these areas in design, using methods that are appropriate to each type of scholarship, but it is important to understand that all are subject to rigorous criteria for evaluation if they are truly to constitute "research". This previous paragraph got cut from Steve's article in editing, but might be helpful in responding to David's comment. It's not perfect but it begins to get at a range of performance, rather than singular definitions. There are lots of ways to view research and lots of things to tackle as content, including the history and culture issues that are more likely to contribute to the discipline than to the immediate needs of practice. The issue is not so much the subject of the research, but the rigor with which it is pursued, although I would argue that some problems are really urgent while others are more longterm intellectual projects in an evolutionary process. There are many epistemologies and methods, but having at least one of each is essential. And what we produce has to undergo some evaluation of relevance and quality. I agree that, wrongly or rightly, universities currently focus on funding and refereed journals as the primary means for assessing the value of work, but simply ignoring the issue of peer review is not an option. In addition, the world has changed. The problems of contemporary society exist at the level of systems, meaning that everything is connected to something else in some way (even culture and the politics of identity). Even when we're focused on a very narrow issue that appears absolutely central to the traditional domain, we're obligated to view it in terms of larger contexts in order to understand its true nature. A good book by Julie Klein called "Interdisciplinarity: History, Theory, and Practice", describes how new fields and practices emerge; they are frequently hybrids of other more established fields that arise in response to changing conditions and new knowledge. I believe the complexity of contemporary problems, which by their very nature demand a systems perspective, is accelerating this hybridization process. There are lots of variations in these emerging practices (more than we currently have nomenclature to describe in design). In my mind, research is not the cause of this, it is the response to these larger social processes. I wouldn't argue with the Harvard definitions but the devil is in the details. I've always felt the best argument for anything is made through demonstration, through action and "good deeds". If the field benefits from very different types of research/scholarship/inquiry, and I believe it does, then the best way to make that case is to do the work, to build a body of evidence. I don't believe that we should start that effort by first whittling away at long-established criteria for scholarship or research, under either the humanities or the social sciences, and fooling ourselves about the institutional infrastructure and conditions necessary to support credible research efforts. And if there is something special about design that requires new methods and different criteria, then we need to figure out what those might be within the context of actual work. That is what these new doctoral programs are trying to do.

  • Meredith Davis commented on the article "http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2171"

    The situation in Europe arises, to some degree, from an accord signed by countries in 1999 to standardize degree titles and criteria for the accreditation of programs within the EU. The intent of this accord was to allow students to transfer credits among institutions within the EU more seamlessly and to guarantee some assessment of minimum program effectiveness under accreditation processes. Prior to the accord, for example, design students in some countries earned a diploma while students in other countries received a bachelor's degree; this made it very difficult for students to move to the next level of study or to demonstrate confirmation of essential competencies outside their own countries. Under the accord, there is encouragement for a vertical scaffolding of degrees in which the DA logically follows the BA and MA. And there were existing programs that acquired new titles that may not be optimally descriptive of what they actually do. Further, the UK reorganized its educational system, impacting where design is taught and scrambling, in some cases, the traditional design education missions of colleges, polytechnics, and universities. Therefore, there is often great diversity among programs in Europe that makes it difficult to tell, by degree title, whether the degree is research-oriented or not. In some cases, European institutions offer PhD degrees under requirements that more closely resemble master's study in the US. I've recently returned from Germany and participation in a small working group of research programs, under the auspices of CUMULUS (a consortium of 125 college and university design programs, mostly European and Asian). Our goal is to describe benchmarks for design research programs, i.e. necessary conditions to adequately support the generation of new knowledge. If successful, we hope to bypass the current dilemma of relationships between degree titles and actual outcomes, instead focusing on what we know are essential pre-requisites for rigorous research and research education. As the US is at the front end of its foray into design research, I think it would be a mistake to muddy the waters by practices that replicate the European dilemma. A PhD, in all disciplines in the US, is well understood as the research degree and the professional doctorates are known to be accountable to a different set of practices and standards as defined by their respective disciplines.