Minimizing Bias through Visual Analysis

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It is important for design students to understand how viewers might interpret the visual messages they have created, and how each element within a design solution can contribute to the communication of an intended message. This is a difficult task partly because within any context there may be multiple messages or layers of meaning, and because viewers have unique backgrounds and experiences. As educators, our job is to work with students to be systematic in their analysis and exploration. Students in the Bachelor of Design program at the University of Alberta are taught to critically analyze messages in a second year research class in Visual Communication Design Studies. In this class, they are encouraged to gather and explore visual messages in their world on campus. Students create an analytical tool to aid in systematic exploration of the messages. Using the tool, they redesign one message in three different ways effectively generating different versions of the same message. This project allows students to do four things: 1) think about the value and effectiveness of designing messages using an analytical tool; 2) dissect a visual message and understand it’s component parts in order to be able to create something new; 3) reflect in writing about their process and outcomes and impression of the value of various approaches to message analysis and construction; 4) document and reflect on the importance of creating tools in their own work that will aid in the creation of work that is socially and culturally relevant.