Master of Design: Information Futures | Five Questions with Katherine Gillieson

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By Emily Carr University

Posted on March 07, 2024

Katherine, a designer and ECU faculty member, chats about her influences and what makes her excited about the new Master of Design: Information Futures stream.

What do you teach and why does this design discipline(s) interest you?

I’ll be teaching the Fall core studio class in Information Futures. This is a hybrid studio combining online classes with a week-long, in-person intensive during our Fall study break. I am thrilled to be contributing to the new stream with this course.

Over the years, I’ve taught a variety of studio and academic classes and I really appreciate the core studio as a space for engaging students in developing and deepening their practices and capacities for design as research. This is as much about an expansive approach to tools and techniques as it is about how design can act as a tool for advocacy, information equity and as a change agent in various contexts. As a Communication Design faculty member, I’m always inspired by what our diverse grad students bring to the Master of Design (MDes) program, and I’m excited to engage with a new cohort of grad students through the unique learning environment offered by Information Futures.

Can you talk a little about your own work / design practice?

In addition to my current role as Associate Dean of the Master of Design program, I’m a designer, educator and researcher with a focus on information and editorial design, active for over 20 years in higher education. I think of design and communication as empowering tools for socially-engaged projects – currently I am running the Occasional Press (with faculty colleague Jon Hannan), an agile imprint aiming to showcase creative research at Emily Carr, and The Stationery Project, a long-running initiative to recoup waste materials through creative bookbinding to generate useful stationery products for the community.

Most recently, I contributed as design lead to the Community Networks Roadmap, a SSHRC-funded project led by Michael Lithgow (Athabasca University). Combining engineering expertise, information design knowledge and community network experience, this document is carefully constructed to help guide people with no prior background in network technologies to build and maintain their own local broadband networks.

What makes you excited about the Information Futures MDes stream?

I am so excited to be working on this new stream for several reasons. The focus on information and systems design, which includes communication, experience, and other allied design practices, is extremely valuable and will empower graduates to become powerful facilitators, communicators, and otherwise contribute in a wide array of professional and creative contexts. All this with know-how around remote work practices, which makes this degree especially strategic.

Also, as an information designer and advocate for inclusivity, I appreciate the added accessibility factor of online learning for students who have particular access needs (such as the use of captions, transcripts and recordings). It also provides an option for students, as well as any guest visitors, to join from locations around the world! And lastly, it provides an accessible grad school option for anyone with specific work, family, or other commitments.

What’s a project / designer / book that you’re currently interested in?

I am currently interested in the very recently published book Information Design Unbound by Sheila Pontis and Michael Babwahsingh (Bloomsbury, 2023). I’m also catching up on the proceedings of the Information+ Conference 2023; as with past iterations of this conference, the website is a great resource covering a broad range of topics in information design and visualization, and includes a downloadable exhibition catalogue.

(By the way, the first Information+ conference took place at Emily Carr University back in 2016!)

Katherine Gillieson is a designer whose work includes projects, research and writing in information design and editorial design. Katherine is an Associate Professor in Communication Design at Emily Carr and Associate Dean of the Master of Design program.