I completed my PhD, titled Ntaria Design: A Western Arrarnta Imagining of Digital Drawing and Communication Design, in the School of Design at Swinburne University under the supervision of Dr Samantha Edwards-Vandenhoek and Professor Karel van der Waarde. The abstract can be found below. If you would like a PDF copy of the thesis, please send me an email.
This thesis is about culture, representation, perception, and visual communication. It is set in the community of Ntaria, amongst the ranges of Western Arrarnta Country in the Central Desert of Australia. The research sets out to explore and reveal a Western Arrarnta imagining of communication design through the digital drawings of young adults at Ntaria School. Central to this research are 16 participants from Ntaria School and their digital drawings. This dissertation has three interrelated aims. Firstly, to explore how the introduction of digital drawing can reveal Western Arrarnta imaginings of communication design in relation to design principles, processes, and meanings. Secondly, to evaluate the teaching of communication design through design workshops according to Western Arrarnta ways of learning. Thirdly, to understand the value of digital drawing and communication design education according to Ntaria students’ perspectives and priorities.
Communication design develops visual language to convey ideas, information, stories, and messages. Foundational to this study is approaching, situating, and teaching communication design in a way that prioritises the voices, perspectives, and narratives of Ntaria participants. The theoretical framework and methodological approach interweaves youth based participatory action research processes (YPAR), the 8-ways pedagogical framework, and the capability approach. Digital drawing was introduced at Ntaria School through a series of collaborative design workshops. The iterative and adaptive approach to data collection involved interviews, card sorting tools, observations, and a self-reflection survey. Responsive to Ntaria cultural practices and on Country learning processes, it emphasised student participation in all phases of the research. Through ongoing dialogue, the methods, timelines, and educational materials were adapted to suit the realities and priorities of the participants.
The participants’ digital drawings reveal a world from a Western Arrarnta youth perspective. The main finding of this study is that a Western Arrarnta communication design process and educational approach can be used to affirm the participants’ connections with family, culture, and community. This study found that the Ntaria participants imagine Western Arrarnta communication design principles and processes in relation to their own spiritual and cultural practices, knowledge systems, and responsibilities. The participants’ spoke about the value of communication design education from their own perspectives, particularly its ability to connect to cultural knowledge, stay on Country, and share stories across generations. They are proud of their design outcomes and positive in how they represent culture, community, and their contemporary identities.
You can download the thesis here: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/454995