Graphic Design Professor Selected for 2017 Community Research Award

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Marty Maxwell Lane, assistant professor of graphic design in the Department of Art, was awarded the 2017 Community Research Award by the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences. The annual award for up to $10,000 is supported by the Bernice Jones Chair in Community and the Community and Family Institute.

This competitive research stipend is offered annually to assist faculty who are actively involved in some type of community-focused research. With this $6,600 grant, Maxwell Lane will continue her work with The Arkansas Coalition of Marshallese (ACOM).

During the spring 2016 semester, Maxwell Lane taught human-centered design to graphic design students in the Department of Art. This course merged her research and teaching by asking: In what ways can community-based graphic design pedagogy assist in the legal challenges that the Marshallese face in Northwest Arkansas?

Maxwell Lane was also interested in how this curriculum could serve as a framework for other design educators who wish to use the power of design to help communities. This collaborative research-based studio introduced students to design methods that prioritize an audience-centric process.

The course also focused on the legal challenges faced by the Marshallese (and those who interact with them in this context) in Northwest Arkansas. The students worked with a wide array of local experts, including a criminal defense attorney, an immigration attorney and the only nationally certified Marshallese court interpreter. The students actively engaged with the Marshallese and the other players in the legal context by carrying out participatory research methods to get to the heart of the issues — working to design with the people.

Maxwell Lane now has an official partnership and MOU with The Arkansas Coalition of the Marshallese. 

“The Graphic Design program is perfectly situated to promote an approach to design that prioritizes social good,” Maxwell Lane said. “This curriculum and the resulting outcomes have the potential to be used as a framework for designers who desire to partner with other groups facing similar socio-cultural issues. Despite the growing interest in ‘design for good,’ ‘design for social change,’ ‘visual advocacy,’ ‘design thinking’ and so on, there are few research schools executing these explorations in deep ways — ways that link research, teaching and action.”

The funding from this grant will allow Maxwell Lane to produce the most successful design outcomes from the course, thus moving beyond the speculative and into action. Once the design products are out into the community, it will further demonstrate the power of design to the Marshallese…

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