DESIGN EDUCATION: Pushing the Boundaries Designing with Non-Western Writing Systems
Students developed educational kits for Museums that implore writing systems of non-westerns cultures.
Over the year’s I began to notice a distinct shift in the diverse ethnic composition of my classes, first when I taught at School of the Art Institute in Chicago, then at Pratt Institute. I began to explore several ways to include cross-cultural design projects in my classes. One semester while teaching at Pratt, I noticed that out 15 students, only one was American born. All the other students were from Asian, South East Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean or Africa. Since I had started to collect and research writing systems of non-western cultures, I challenged this ethnically diverse group to design a booklet, or an educational packet with specific writing systems. The varied list of countries included Japan, Korea, India, Mexico, Egypt, Russia, Israel, Thailand, the Philippines, the Fuji Island, and a few other Arab countries.
Before they began, I invited my good design buddy Saki Makfundikwa, to talk about his upcoming book on Afrikan Alphabets, and ZIVA the digital design school he set-up in his home country of Zimbabwe.
Students became immersed in researching their writing systems. Some grappled with their limited understanding of their own cultural heritage, or most were surprise to learn of the the significance of culture in design. Pushing the dialog further, I challenged my students to explore the issues of appropriation, reappropriation and sampling or borrowing.
Once the students let down their guard, their creatives minds produced an impressive range of designs.