Monday January 29, 2018

Design Incubation Fellowship

University of Dayton assistant professor of graphic design and alumnus Misty Thomas-Trout '11 is working on her first publication as a professor under a 2018 Design Incubation Fellowship. The competitive award allows her to pursue a six-month research project and three-day writing workshop in New York City.

Thomas-Trout was one of 15 fellows to attend the 2018 Design Incubation Fellowship Workshop, Jan. 11-13, on the Manhattan campus of St. John’s University. Participants shared and developed ideas for research and individual writing projects, and received constructive feedback from faculty mentors and peers in the field. The workshop also included sessions with Maggie Taft, managing editor of the journal Design and Culture, as well as guest appearances by a number of authors and publishers.

The 2018 fellows also represent art and design faculty from the University of Arizona, University of San Francisco, Cleveland State University, The New School and Seton Hall University, among other institutions.

“It was a rich experience to learn about academic writing strategies and publishing opportunities with the other professors,” Thomas-Trout said. “The workshop was about creating scholarly discourse and focusing on critical analysis of topics related to design studies. Learning how to implement these topics into our writing taught us how we also critically analyze other people in our field as well.”

Her fellowship research project is a book review of Paul Shaw’s Revival Type: Digital Typefaces Inspired by the Past, which presents typography’s living history and explores digital type revivals. Shaw is an award-winning designer, typographer and design historian who teaches at the Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has designed or helped design 18 typefaces.

Over the next six months, Thomas-Trout will continue to work on her project and receive feedback during group check-ins. Her goal is to publish the review in Design and Culture, the journal of the Design Studies Forum. Ultimately, she hopes to publish her own research on the interconnectedness of the human networking system within the Dayton community.

While much of their work is visually based, graphic designers need to master academic writing to convey knowledge in their research area. Publishing articles in academic design journals is also important for young, tenure-track faculty like Thomas-Trout, who joined the University of Dayton faculty in fall 2016.

“If a designer doesn’t fully understand the work they are creating or the problem they need to solve, we can’t write about the work or communicate it to a larger audience,” she said. “The largest portion of my focus is research and writing before I even get to ‘make,’ and then the process of making becomes the content of the research.”

Thomas-Trout uses geovisualization as one method in her mapping projects. This interdisciplinary social research aims to investigate how or why pockets of downtown Dayton struggle economically and what specific influences are creating this issue.

“Thomas-Trout’s work turns data and statistics into highly informative visual graphics,” said Judith Huacuja, professor and department of art and design chair. “Her research is interdisciplinary, complex and visually beautiful. The fellowship puts her in contact with leaders in graphic design, connecting her with equally influential and creative makers. The fellowship produces research essays that extend the reach of their scholarship.”

During the fall 2017 semester, Thomas-Trout organized a student poster exhibition at the downtown Dayton Metro Library. Students designed posters to visualize Dayton neighborhood narratives collected during the “Facing Dayton” project from the University Fitz Center for Leadership in Community. The “Facing Project” is part of a national community storytelling project intended to bring awareness about local human rights issues to inspire social action.

“Designers have the ability to create lasting positive change through these types of socially- and community-engaged projects,” Thomas-Trout said. “The Design Incubation fellowship provides transparency for publishing in the graphic design field through specific presentations, connections and critical writing analysis sessions. This fellowship has created new relationships that will certainly grow into life-long support and friendships.”

Thomas-Trout teaches typography and graphic design courses and also owns a traditional letterpress printing shop. Lovely Lady Letterpress and Design — or L3&D — at the Front Street Buildings in Dayton features a 1902 10-foot by 15-foot Chandler & Price printing press, which uses moveable wood and metal type.

She holds a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in visual communication design from the University of Dayton and a master’s of fine arts in graphic design from Ohio University. Her previous map, Atlas of Athens: A Visual Literacy of Place, now resides in the rare book collection within the Mahn Center of Archives and Special Collections at Ohio University.

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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