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Fostering Transcultural Competency Through Typography: A Case Study to Understand Cultural Heritage and Identity of China

Graphic Design is a human-centered, service-oriented profession where designers have a greater responsibility to be culturally aware and understand diversity, inclusion, and social constructs to create designs that are authentic and relevant to multicultural communities. It is imperative that design education adopts new methodologies to address transcultural learning. Design is a philosophy of life in which designers have to empathize with and respect the diverse communities of people they serve. As more universities begin to welcome international students, it’s critical that campus communities become aware and foster cross-cultural education and understanding. As an educator and cultural researcher, Archana Shekara was instrumental in establishing a 3+1 Program with Shanghai Normal University and the Tianhua College of Art and Design. The cohort of students study three years in Shanghai before completing their final year at our school. Students here created Designing Authenticity: Shanghai-Normal, a typography-based project that enabled students from both institutions to become aware of the heritage and cultural identity of China while exploring vernacular designs with Roman letterforms to create new meanings. It aimed to raise transcultural awareness through the design of letter forms. This presentation will describe innovative teaching methodologies, share student research writing, images, and learning outcomes.


Archana Shekara

Archana Shekara is an associate professor of graphic design and creative director of design at Streak Studio, a research-based social innovation lab focusing on human-centered service design at Illinois State University. The studio lab collaborates with cultural, nonprofit, and educational organizations in the midwest. Shekara’s research interests include diversity and multiculturalism in the classroom, transnational identity, social justice, and community engagement. Shekara’s practice explores innovative methods in creating cross-cultural awareness through interactive installations, print, time-based media, and performance. It also includes community workshops, lectures, and presentations. Shekara received a master’s in graphic design from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.