Faculty Spotlight: Assistant Professor Devon Ward

Graphic Design studio

Devon Ward

Devon Ward teaches graphic design in Auburn’s School of Industrial and Graphic Design (SIGD). Ward holds a Bachelor of Fine Art in graphic design from the University of Florida as well as a Master of Biological Art from the University of Western Australia. In addition to teaching in Australia, he has taught at Illinois State and Ball State and last fall he joined Auburn as Assistant Professor. “One of the things that drew me to Auburn was the friendly atmosphere and the high quality of design produced by the faculty and the students,” he stated.

Ward is currently teaching Introduction to Graphic Design, Advanced Interactive Media and Senior Project. “It is such a joy to work with students early in their design education and then see how much their design sensibilities have matured a few semesters later,” he said. In his Intro to Graphic Design class, students learn how to develop the logo and visual identity of a city. They also learn the basics of visual storytelling and app design. In Advanced Interactive Media they delve deeper into UI/UX and develop more interdisciplinary skill sets.

Not only is Ward a designer and educator, but he’s also an artist who works with interactive media and experimental art. “I’ve been fortunate enough to pursue a range of creative activities in my career. Some work has focused on commercial graphic design and concentrates on form and visual communication,” he said. “Other projects deal with new materials and ideas about our relationship with the environment.” His work has been exhibited nationally at The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center as part of the exhibition Design for Different Futures and internationally at Melbourne Design Week in Australia, The Chronus Art Center in Shanghai, China, and The Science Gallery Dublin in Ireland.

His research focuses on how the field of design is expanding and becoming more inclusive across disciplines. “Much of my research looks at the way that design and art can encourage reflection about the impact that society and technology have on biology and ecology,” he said. Recently his article “The Art of Environmental Personhood and the Possibility of Environmental Statehood” was published in Artnodes, a journal on art, science and technology. It examines how artists have developed creative responses to grapple with environmental degradation. “One of the most exciting projects in the article is the Embassy of the North Sea, which promotes greater representation and legal rights for the North Sea. It is an example of how clever design and imaginative art can encourage new ways of thinking,” he said.

One of Ward’s main areas of focus is Biodesign, a rapidly growing field of design that intersects art, design and biotechnology. Four of Ward’s students from his Interactive Design studio recently exhibited their project “Climate Chronicles” at the Biodesign Challenge Summit in New York City. The team, one of 46 finalist teams from 15 countries, presented their project at the summit before a jury of industry, academic and curatorial experts. “The students were so dedicated in the lead-up to the event. They worked very hard throughout the spring and summer semesters and their final project was excellent. They got such great feedback from the judges and other students.” Not only did Ward accompany his students to the summit, but he also spoke on a panel titled “Art and Design as Critique” at the Museum of Modern Art. “It was a great honor to discuss new directions for design, art and ethics,” said Ward. Later this year, he will also be hosting a conference panel titled “Total Change: Creative Practices in Response to Emerging Media” at SECAC 2023, formerly the Southeastern College Art Conference, in Richmond, Virginia. The panel will look at how designers are incorporating Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and Biodesign into their existing practices.

This past year, Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) honored six students from Ward’s Introduction to Graphic Design and Advanced Interactive Media classes in the student category of the 2022 American Graphic Design Awards, and like his students, Ward is also getting plenty of recognition for his design work these days. Ward created the logo and visual identity for The Other Film Festival: Western Australia, a film festival that featured 30 short films created by, for and about people with disabilities. GDUSA named Ward one of its winners in the Branding, Identity and Logos category of its 2022 competition, and he was recognized with a Gold Award by Graphis, an international publisher of books and awards for the visual communications industry, as part of its 2023 Advertising Awards. He was also named Runner Up in the 2023 Core77 Design Awards for Branding & Identity. “It’s been an exciting first year at Auburn, in terms of design and teaching. I’m excited to continue bringing a broad set of influences into every studio I teach and encourage students to blend their own interests with design, both at Auburn and beyond.”

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Devon Ward