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Research Paper: Design & Culture

It may be said that design and culture influence each other in an ongoing dialogue. Select an era from design history (any time from 1450 A.D. to the present day). Focus on a discrete aspect of graphic design from that era, and discuss how that design aspect influenced and was in turn influenced by the culture in which it existed. Your paper should not only address the design movement and its historical/cultural context; it should delineate and explicate relationships of influence back and forth between design and culture.

Your paper should be based on your own original thinking, supported by researched examples and logic. Don't just say what you observe, convince me that it is true by logical argument, examples, facts, and testimonials that support your observations.

The paper should include the following:
a. an explanation and analysis of your design movement (or sub-movement)
b. an explanation of the culture in which it exists
c. an explanation of how design influenced the culture
d. an explanation of how the culture influenced the design
e. arguments and examples that support your assertions of influence
f. a summary of your position


  1. The paper is NOT to be simply a researched history of a historical era, but rather an analysis of the ways in which graphic design influenced and was influenced by the culture of that era.
  2. The paper should be as long as necessary to explain the relationship between your design movement and its culture, and to convince the reader of your observations.
  3. Don't just tell me what you think, explain WHY and convince me with EXAMPLES.
  4. Credit your sources via footnotes. You don't have to footnote your own position or argument, but you do have to footnote historical facts, quotations, and examples that support your argument.
  5. Have a breadth of sources. We want to see that several people support your position, not just one or two. Choose sources that are relevant and valuable to your position.
  6. You may use Meggs as a source, but your research should be well beyond what we learn from the book and in class. Your paper is a chance to choose a specific area of personal interest and dig deeper. I should get much more from your paper than a mere re-iteration of Meggs.
  7. Include an image (or images) of the work you are discussing, and/or a URL where reproductions of the work may be viewed.

Ways to do Original, Creative Research:

  1. Radically undermine the generally received understanding of things. (This rarely happens at the undergraduate level.)
  2. Perform a nuanced and original analysis of something. (This often includes original field research.)
  3. Make nuanced connections heretofore unseen. Don't just assert that two things are connected; explain how and why they are connected, and the implications of this connection. (This may be your best bet.)

Grading criteria:

  1. Basic Requirements: properly attributed sources, properly formatted figures, correct spelling.
  2. Knowledge and Scope of Topic: shows clear understanding of the design movement, its surrounding culture, and the relationship between the two. Scope of topic is not overly broad or narrow.
  3. Convincing Position: original, clearly stated, sensibly delineated, well supported; research is ample, relevant, valuable, and properly documented.
  4. well written: includes specific details, dynamic introduction and conclusion, continuity of reasoning (not hopping from point to point), proper grammar.

Failure to complete this assignment will automatically result in an F for the entire course.

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