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How can design students develop intercultural competencies using critical approaches to global consumerism?

Macdonald, Iain; MacLeod, Myrna


Iain Macdonald

Myrna MacLeod


Within the field of graphic design many contemporary designers and educators seek to challenge global corporate homogenization and the exploitation of developing countries (Rawsthorn 2013; Poynor 1999; McCoy 1994). The ‘First Things First 2000’ manifesto re-booted the Humanist and socially conscious perspective that was originally set out by Ken Garland’s ‘First Things First’ manifesto (1964), arguing that Design was not a neutral process, but one that should be more critical and challenging of consumerism.

In an increasingly global economy students must develop an intercultural awareness of themselves and other cultures, a key attribute of global citizenship. Within the field of design education Mendoza & Matyók (2013) argue that design is a transformative and social engaged practice offering an important platform for student internationalisation. This also raises pedagogical questions about the cultural perceptions that are brought into post-colonial encounters. Although there is a growing body of academic literature on the internationalisation of higher education, there is still a lack of research on the students’ perspective.

This paper analyses of how UK design students participated and negotiated the implementation of live projects in an African context, specifically Mozambique. The aim was that a cultural learning experience in a very different environment with challenging resources and social conditions would develop student global citizenship and mobility.

The research methodology was to record the learning experiences of the students using student blogs written in the field, and from video interviews recorded before, during and after the 4-week long trip to Mozambique. In the analysis their understanding of Mozambican nationalism as an ‘imagined community’ (Anderson 1991) and post-colonial identity (Said 1994; Chomsky 2000) was questioned.

Many academics are critical of the impact that such studies abroad claim to have on the student. There is an assumption that immersion in a different culture will automatically lead to intercultural competency. Instead students must first reflect on their own culture and behaviour (Chomsky 2000). Intercultural competency requires effective communication with others, the ability to establish relationships and the ability to deal with psychological stress. These competencies are essential if graduates, and especially those in design, are to be prepared for global citizenship and design without borders. Post-colonial theory can challenge ‘cultural essentialism’ (Crouch 2000) that might otherwise inhibit a culturally informed encounter between European and African students as they actively try to shape the world around them.

Conference Name AIGA Design Educators Conference
Start Date Apr 18, 2015
End Date Apr 20, 2015
Publication Date Apr 19, 2015
Deposit Date Jun 11, 2015
Publicly Available Date Jun 11, 2015
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Intercultural; graphic design; global consumerism; internationalism; Africa; mobility;
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