Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts


Graphic Design


Graphic Design

First Advisor

Andrea Quam


Communication Design (CD) has historically been normed as male through education, practice, and observation. This includes seminal thinkers, readily available cultural examples, and even the design school studio model. The result is a gender binary that prizes male—and increasingly white, hetero, cis—thought, practice, and work above all others. This is problematic for a myriad of reasons; the perpetuation of patriarchal dominance, reinforcing white supremacy, and the fundamental limiting of the discipline. Lastly, upholding these ideals comes at the cost of expanding the knowledge of the discipline.

I will focus on the gendered ramifications of the gender binary. This study aims to; One offer a historical and contemporary context in which CD adjacent disciplines have made new initial commitments regarding gender and undergone paradigm changes as a result; Two examine three critical case studies examining gender and CD; Three identify channels of communication by which gender is expressed, for purposes of establishing a Theory of Gender Communication Design (GCD). Through a close examination of the literature the following research question has been formed.

RQ1: What elements of Communication Design need investigation to understand the

discipline’s relationship with gender?

RQ2: How might form, color, linguistic cues, material, sound, and motion be understood

to express gender through Communication Design?

Ideally, this research will lead to an increased understanding of the role of gender in CD. This understanding has implications for initial commitments, disciplinary matrix, and ultimately the paradigm of CD, and can also offer a solution to the drawn-out paradigm shift of CD. Through these investigations, strategies for the implementation of GCD can be developed that directly affect design education, design practice, and design scholarship.


Copyright Owner

Joel Nathanael Hughes



File Format


File Size

66 pages