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This paper shares an exploratory and inquiry-based graphic design project and the resultant pedagogic approach that offers arts and design educators ideas on teaching to instigate positive social change. The author summarizes a year-long fellowship project where he worked as a change agent in service to a partnership of six non-profit, after-school arts programs in Providence, Rhode Island who are organized as the Providence Youth Arts Collaborative (PYAC).

The intention of this project was two-fold. The primary effort was to investigate ways graphic design can be strategically used to seed interest and empower youth to make positive choices with how they spend their time after school, such as enrolling in a free PYAC member Arts program. The second aspect was to use design to strengthen the visual identity of PYAC in order to unify their voices and improve their offerings.

The design process and the visual outputs are presented as a model for teaching at high school and college levels that cultivate awareness of the social power of visual communication and a civically engaged process. Systems thinking and theoretical models of social change are discussed in support of the project intentions.


This paper was presented at The Future of Education International Conference held in Florence, Italy on June 13-14, 2013. This project was fully funded by Bridgewater State University’s Presidential Fellowship Program.

Original Citation

Tarallo, D. (2013, June). Designing Social Change: Inquiry-Based Teaching in Graphic Design. Paper presented at The Future of Education International Conference, Florence, Italy.