GRCD 3010-002: Design Methodology 1
Professor: Matthew Wizinsky
Mondays/Wednesdays 11:15a–2:05p
Location: Aronoff 6450C
Office Hours: By appointment

In this Communication Design studio, we will work independently and collaboratively toward the task of using design methods and outputs to shape the production of public history. The specific disciplinary challenge put forth is to explore the ways by which design and designers can aggregate multiple personal narratives, artifacts, and experiences into a cohesive “history” that gives form to both the past and present of a city.

The city (this city, any city, or “urban” spaces in general) is the site of dense, plural, layered, and multifaceted histories. Histories are inherently shaped by the perspectives of those who collect, distribute, and narrate them. In other words, while history is made by everyone, it is made relevant—and powerful—by those who communicate it. To make contemporary use of history requires access to it in a way that invites exploration, inquiry, and an opportunity for re-configuration.

Public history refers to the use of historical methods outside of academia: in government, corporations, the media, social organizations, cultural institutions, and even in the private practice of citizens. Across such a diverse field of activities, one overarching concept is the notion that there are many more voices and perspectives to be heard than those typically portrayed through the channels of traditional (capital-H) History. In fact, no place or time can be encapsulated in a single “history” without risk of leaving a remainder—those perspectives that are cut out of the “proper” documentation of what has taken place. If history has the potential to bear witness to inequities or injustice, then public history opens the door to a broader field of actors, narrators, and viewpoints.

History Moves is an ongoing cross-disciplinary project that engages members of various communities in a participatory process of making and making use of public history. The project was conceived and originated by faculty in History and Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is now expanding its activities to sites across the United States.

In this studio, we will engage materials produced through these participatory processes to conceive of new methods, forms, and systems of communication to both aggregate these personal experiences into a complex singular narrative and disperse this narrative across various media to a contemporary “public.” The final goal of our work is to produce what can be loosely described as a “mobile exhibition.” However, the ultimate form of this exhibition—as a physical, digital, or physical-digital hybrid experience—is to be determined by the design process and participating students. Critical to the project is the mobility of the materials we produce. Just as the processes of collection are intended to mobilize the production or public history, so too are the processes of display.

Some key questions we will address through our work:

  • How do we conceive of “public” or “a public” in contemporary society?
  • What values can we assign to contemporary uses of history? How do we use history? When and where is it relevant in contemporary life?
  • How can design processes not only give form to the material output of public history projects but also shape the processes of collection, curation, and display?
  • How might the complex entanglement of content-form-mode of engagement-interactivity posit the visitor’s experience of these stories as a “rupture” or a critical break in the current understandings of history and the production and consumption of history?
  • How does a granular specificity of place suggest new possibilities for curation, display, design, and access that only a mobile and modular system could employ?
  • How might that location-and-curation specificity be made manifest in the design and distribution of the materials?
  • Does the system imply a possibility for engagement beyond consumption of media? Could the system invite visitors into production of new historical stories, objects, or data—within or beyond the themes of the exhibit?


Your final grade is a result of the quality and craft of projects, rigorous effort given to the exercises, participation in class discussion, participation in team-based projects, attendance, and a consistent demonstration of effort and understanding regarding the course concepts.

An A will be given for work of consistently exceptional quality and craft, along with the demonstrated quality of research and investigation which produced those results, as evidenced through the final work book, class participation, and attendance.

A B will be given for work of overall good quality and craft, along with the final work book, class participation, and attendance demonstrative of a consistent understanding and application of the concepts being presented.

A C will be given for work of average quality and craft, and the minimum amount of research done to complete the projects and/or an inconsistent demonstration of understanding the concepts being presented and/or poor attendance.

A D will be given for work that is of poor quality and craft and/or consistently poor attendance or lack of class participation.

An F (failure) will be given for work of little quality, missing or incomplete projects, missing critiques and/or consistently poor attendance or lack of class participation.

Please refer to the University grading scale for more information.

Attendance is mandatory and required to gain the required skills for successful completion of the course. Two unexcused absences may result in a reduction of the final grade by ½ letter grade, three unexcused absences by 1 letter grade. Four or more unexcused absences will be grounds for failing the course. It is generally recommended to drop the course with more than four absences.

Late arrivals are very disruptive for other participants. Being late to class two times will count as one unexcused absence. There will be a sign-up sheet for each class meeting. It is the student’s responsibility sign in for each class; this is the basis for your attendance record.

Students will need to use their own laptop computers and required design software in class and for completion of course assignments. If you don’t already, make sure to get a USB drive or external hard-drive. ALL hard drives (internal and external) eventually fail, so file safety cannot be guaranteed on ANY computer. Always back up your files. Loss or damage of data or files is NOT an acceptable explanation for late or missing assignments. Files saved on the desktop of any UIC lab computers will not be available after logging out; you must copy to your own storage device.

Your files are your responsibility!

Time spent in the classroom will be dedicated to presentation, discussion and collaborative and self-directed studio work. Any other activities or behavior not conducive to our coursework will not be tolerated. Prohibited activities during class time include use of cell phones for talking or texting, surfing the web or social media for unrelated purposes (no facebook, no tweeting!), private conversations amongst students, rude or insulting language or behavior, and any other form of distraction from the tasks at hand. Eating in the class room is prohibited. Drinks are allowed in covered containers only.

We have a lot of exciting work to do, and our time together is valuable. Let’s make the most of it.

Additional Info
Student Code of Conduct
Special Needs Policy
Academic Conduct & Plagiarism
Title IX / anti-harassment & anti-discrimination
Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS)