The Design of Portraiture to Regulate Social Power and Hierarchies

Portraiture commissioned for print was predominantly a preserve of the wealthy, with the majority of editions from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century generated for an elitist demographic—that of kings, queens, prime ministers, presidents, and other heads-of-state. Its publishing and distribution by the ruling classes over these three centuries left a wealth of material that is loaded with signifiers and presentation modes designed to express and promote systems of hierarchy and control. Over a similar period, and in contrast to the depiction of the ruling elite, are portraits of slaves and workers. These prints produced as reportage documents, or for satirical commentary, also offer insights into the demographics of class, race, and the design structures that underpin the portrait’s semiotic content. This article will compare portraits for their ability to function as mechanisms for the regulating of power, to reinforce hierarchies of control. In summary, the legacy of the portrait and the influence it has had on contemporary society will be explored, asking whether similar power mechanisms still operate, and why particular characteristics have been retained.

Design Research toward Viable Bus Use for an Aging Population

Older Americans are increasing in numbers and addressing their needs through better public transportation design will improve their quality of life. This study sought to increase understanding of the obstacles faced by people with impairments in vision, hearing, and/or mobility, which are common issues for older people, and generate physical product solutions. The research was conducted to conceptualize products, structures, and services to reduce or eliminate these obstacles. With a focus on the Eugene, Oregon public bus system, elderly riders were surveyed and interviewed. Designers rode on buses noting what worked well and where problems arose. Five ride-along observations of older and disabled persons who had mobility, hearing, and/or vision impairments were conducted. Two focus groups at Lane County Independent Living Alliance (LILA) with experts on public transportation and disabilities were conducted. This research shows that aging riders face conceptual, physical, and social barriers that impact their willingness to use buses. Using the bus was seen as inconvenient, time consuming, physically draining, and potentially frustrating. Priority seating areas designated for older and disabled users fill quickly. People with mobility challenges may use bulky walkers and require the availability of grab bars, and users of wheeled mobility devices need different device security. Several situations noted in the study show that physically challenged riders are subject to awkward, uncomfortable social dynamics more than other bus users. Innovation in easy access seats and secure WhMD stations at the front of the bus are critical for older users, as it makes riding the bus less draining and more safe.

Graphic Design in Flux: Multiliteracy, Multimodality, and Meaning

Undergraduate graphic design students at Western Carolina University in North Carolina, USA, engaged in two multimodal projects on subjects outside of art and design, required technical skills using a range of media, involved partnerships with professionals, and new ways of thinking when designing learning experiences. The goals were to engage students in the larger dialog of interdisciplinary graphic design, its applications, and implications. The first project, presented in spring 2016, involved graphic design students working in teams to design and develop non-digital Cherokee word games for the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians to use in their language classes. The games focused on learning, reading, and speaking Cherokee pronouns and using them in various contexts. The second project, assigned in the following fall 2016 semester, included the same students each assigned to design and build animations introducing various aspects of nanotechnology to the general public. This project was in partnership with the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office, Community Idea Stations—Science Matters, National Public Radio and the National Public Broadcast Stations in central Virginia. This article considers the contexts within which graphic design education exists and situates the graphic design program at Western Carolina University within this environment.