Visual Communications Research Trip Ideas

Hello everyone!

I am a Visual Communications major at a small liberal arts school. I have a travel grant from my college that I can use to design an educational travel experience (“educational” used loosely- it has to have some learning associated with it but it doesn’t have to be deep). I am struggling to think of a place to go because unlike biology students, who can use travel to learn about different types of animals, or music students, who can travel to attend music programs, I can’t think of any specific visual communication related travel. There is visual communication everywhere in the world, so it doesn’t seem that there is any benefit to going to a different location to study it (correct me if I’m wrong). I am relatively new to the visual communications/graphic design world, so maybe I do not know the field enough to know the possibilities out there. I would like to stay away from a “tour of art museums” type of trip.

Are there any trips/research locations that you can think of that relate to visual communication? If you were in my situation, what trip would you design for yourself? I want to do something that relates to my major and my future job field, but if I can’t think of anything I will have to think of a different focus for my trip. Any advice is appreciated!

Ooh, a fun thing to think about. This falls into the brainstorm category, not all may be applicable or feasible, but they should get you going.

Burning Man – Not my cup of tea, but people seem to like it and an interesting visual journey.

Design Weeks – Our local AIGA chapter puts on a design week that is a week’s worth of lectures, studio tours, networking events, etc. I’d assume there are other chapters that do this as well. I’m pretty sure ours is in the spring.

SXSW – I only have a cursory idea of the type of content there. Maybe this one wouldn’t be applicable.

HOW Design Live – Graphic design conference (and all that remains of the once great HOW graphic design magazine). This is probably your best bet in terms of an immersive experience in visual communication where you’d be learning. I think the conferences are in the summer.

Hatch Show Print – Hatch is a historic letterpress shop in Nashville, Tennessee. They would print all of the posters for Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, etc. Maybe they have some sort of short-term apprenticeship program.

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Visual Communication is very broad. What kind of careers are you considering?

You could try for one of the SEGD design tours. Student membership is fairly low cost.
If the below are not to your liking, search around for chapter events where they do venue and neighborhood tours.
2024 SEGD Sports + Entertainment - SEGD - Designers of Experiences
2024 SEGD Xlab - SEGD - Designers of Experiences
2024 SEGD Exhibition + Experience Design - SEGD - Designers of Experiences

My dream career is to go to grad school and then teach entry-level design classes at the college level

National Art Education Association is the major professional body for art educators in the US. They have a national convention every year with educational sessions and an exhibit hall. It’s been a long while since I attended, but they used to have a subsection of sessions related to teaching all things digital.

If you are a member you can also propose a session. Speaking at a conference is a good thing to put on your resume if you intend to teach in higher education some day.

While doing my undergraduate work, the university organized a trip to various design studios and agencies in San Francisco. It was enormously enlightening to see the differences from one agency or studio to the other.

Of course, as an individual, doing that probably isn’t an option. However, several big design conferences take place each year that would enable you to interact with and experience the concerns of working professionals, as @Steve_O mentioned. Assuming you’re in the U.S., the 2024 AIGA conference might be a good bet. AIGA has some pretty reasonable rates for students.

A Google search for graphic design conferences will turn up more.

If I were you, I wouldn’t focus too much on that dream at this point. I would also put in at least five years working as a professional designer before returning to graduate school. The last thing the world needs is more graphic design professors with no practical experience in what they’re teaching.

For what it’s worth, I returned to graduate school after about ten years and taught a first-year design course there as a TA. I quickly found that teaching students wasn’t my thing. Of course, this doesn’t mean you will arrive at the same conclusion. However, as I mentioned, I wouldn’t focus too much on your teaching goal during your undergraduate work — learn graphic design first, get experience in the professional world, and then see if your experiences change your mind. With real-world experience to back you up, once you’re in grad school, you can decide for sure whether you still want to pursue teaching.

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