Dora Ivonne Álvarez1
Abstract In March 2009, at the Faculty of Graphic Design at Universidad Popular Autónoma de Puebla (UPAEP), started a research project applied to a specific situation that aroused the interest of the Academy: the need to strategically reposition the educational degree graphic design direct and indirect audiences. Taking as its starting point the concept of graphic design as a persuasive communication technique, we detected the need for an intervention that, being consistent with our point of view about design, should be highly persuasive. The theoretical framework consisted of the code theory and production of Umberto Eco, marketing and positioning according to Kotler, Ries and Trout, and rhetoric of Perelman. The initial hypothesis is as follows: a program for strategic repositioning of the degree in graphic design UPAEP, encourage the perception of the concept of the profession in the minds of their audiences directly and indirectly. The implementation of the project allowed to achieve several objectives: • The development of a methodology that would link students in graphic design with marketing students in interdisciplinary work from the classroom, promoting their integration into a real intervention project in the interaction of various figures developed different roles according to their training. This allows the student to learn to appreciate different perspectives from which to analyze and solve a problem, enabling you to work as a team. • Help students appreciate the value of applied research as a fundamental tool for solving problems in the professional field through a project that actively participates and provides conclusions of value for decision making and strategy generation. • Get a product of applied research: a comprehensive strategic communication program. This work allowed me to develop working strategies to make connections between my tenure as a teacher, designer and marketing doctoral student in establishing a unifying approach focused on efficiency in the management of intellectual, economic, and technical resources. Keywords: Interdisciplinarity, applied research projects, rating, design.
Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla (Puebla, México) / email@example.com
Introduction The economical crisis that a country such as México faced in 2009 is a sensitive factor with which educational institutions must handle, that demands from their researchers the creativity to develop projects by using efficiently their resources. The paper that is presented is an answer to this necessity that seen as an opportunity, allowed the integration to the research process to an interdisciplinary team formed by students of two areas: graphic design and marketing, and the professors of the graphical design academic program. This research strategy offered as a benefit for the students, the help in the fulfillment of their academic objectives, and most of all, a significant experience that allowed the student to experience the work of other discipline to value the interdisciplinary work. In the summer of 2009, the work of an applied research project for the Graphic Design degree at UPAEP (Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla) was begun. The aim of this project was to define the strategies of the program positioning which permitted to establish the best communication conditions with their audiences (specifically high school students); And the initial hypothesis was as follows: a program for strategic repositioning of the degree in graphic design UPAEP, encourage the perception of the concept of the profession in the minds of their audiences directly and indirectly. In this first stage, a team work was formed by five students that were coursing the subject Research Workshop, given by the responsible of the project; in the fall of 2009, the theoretical framework was developed with the participation of scholars. This theoretical frame was basically integrated by the Code Theory and The Production of Signs Theory by Umberto Eco, Marketing and Positioning following Kotler, Ries and Trout, and the Rhetoric of Perelman. (Semiotics, Rhetoric and Hermeneutics).
In the final stage of the research, the interdisciplinary work is emphasized by the participation of students of the Marketing area as well as students and professors of the Graphic Design area coordinated by the professor in charge of the project. In the labor field, the necessity of working in teams and to interact with professionals of different areas is an inevitable condition, and in the specific case of the graphic design professionals, given its nature as a communication technique, this necessity is remarked. So, for the development of the research project, the following hypothesis was defined: the college student participation in interdisciplinary teams of applied research allows them to assess the interaction of working with other disciplines. And our approach addresses the phenomenon from the rethoric calling of graphic design, the competences model, and interdisciplinary factor.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK 1.1 Graphic design as a persuasive communicative
1.2 Graduate profile based in the competences model
Graphic design is a rhetorical action because its purpose is to persuade a determined audience (user). According to Benavides , the relationship between communication and persuasion determines the design rationale. “All acts of communication have an intention, seek to persuade others. It has been said, and with good reason, that the communication is not achieved if it doesn’t have persuasive purposes, and is has been set that persuasion as the deliberate use of communication to achieve a purpose”. Castañeda and Del Rio  conceived the design as a process of communication, and they mention that “rhetoric serves as a guide in developing design products: part of the process is the discernment between the previous agreements of its public and the arguments to use in its communication piece”.
UPAEP has formed a competences based educational model, which is permeating all institutional structures. In this model are considered generic competences : “those which all students should be able to perform, that allow them to understand the world and influence it, those that let them a continuing and independent learning throughout their lives, and to develop harmonious relationships with those surrounding them, and to participate effectively in their personal, social and professional life”. Within these generic competences, which should be reflected in the graduate profile, it is emphasized that a fundamental content guidelines is “to form the capacity, that in its connection with the different and diverse disciplines lead to the successful integration of the individual in all the areas of academic and professional life. Educational experiences that make possible to realize the graduate profile”.
Yves Zimmermann  a prestigious designer, offers a design definition that allows us to think of it as a task oriented to selection and production of signs, capable of responding to a communicative purpose. For this author, design is synonymous with intention. This definition served as the basis in 2009 for the Academy of Graphic Design at UPAEP  to undertake an arduous study and review of the definition of graphic design, in which the rhetoric vocation that characterize our approach is declared: “Graphic design is a service profession, contemporary, and produced industrially, which through a creative process focused on the user, establishes all the formal, functional and symbolic figures of discourse from a persuasive intent in a determined time and context. Graphic design manifests itself as a social and cultural action that is intended to meet communication needs.”
One of these generic competences is that related to teamwork in which the professional “participates and collaborates effectively in diverse teams”, a competence that in the UPAEP pedagogical model emphasizes the following aspects that students should develop: • He sees the others as equals, respects their points of view, and values their contributions at work. • Suggests ways of solving a problem or developing a team project, defining a course of action with specific steps. • Provides points of view and considers the others’ in a reflexive way. • Assumes a constructive attitude, congruent with the knowledge and skills that owns in different work teams. • Participates proactively in collaborative teams.
• Develops virtues such as justice, generosity and charity seeking personal and social good. The effective participation requires an understanding of domain profiles and fields of those with whom the student interacts in the teams so that open dialogue, negotiation, empathy and knowledge permit to achieve team goals. In this document, the teaching competences that outline the profile of a UPAEP professor are described, and it is stressed in competence 3: Plans the teaching and learning processes paying attention to the competences approach, and places them in disciplinary, curricular and social contexts, that considers as relevant aspects. • Designs work plans and projects based on disciplinary and interdisciplinary research oriented to the development of competences. • Contextualizes the contents of a curriculum in the everyday lives of students and the social reality of the community to which they belong. • Identifies previous knowledge and the needs of students, and then develops strategies to make progress from them. These competences should permeate the graduate profile of each of the degrees, according to his professional vocation, so that, in case of graphic design students, Torres  states that “studying graphic design at university level should serve to get the knowledge of the design and determine rigorously and ordered their qualities, their development stages, their links and relationships with other instances, its processes, and as a result, knowing and mastering the conditions of its practice.” On the other hand, Castañeda  states that, according to a competence based model, a design course can be evaluated according
to three types of learning: know-how, knowbeing and know to know.
1.3 Interdisciplinarity Following Rugarcía , a discipline is a specific set of knowledge that has its own characteristics in the field of academy, the formation of alumnae, the matters it deals with and the mechanisms and methods that handle. Let’s consider then that the term discipline refers to the tools, methods, procedures, examples, concepts and theories that account coherently to a group of objects or subjects. As a derived concept, interdisciplinarity is defined by this author as “the interaction between two or more disciplines.” This interaction can range from simple communication of ideas to the mutual integration of directive concepts, epistemology, terminology, methodology, procedures, data and organization of research and teaching. Thus, an interdisciplinary group consists of people who have received education in different fields of knowledge (disciplinary), having each one concepts, methods, data and specific terms that seek to integrate efforts in teaching, research, and diffusion. A person interdisciplinary educated is the one that achieves the integration of two or more disciplines. Interdisciplinarity is a concept that considers the individual or group potential to learn, investigate or solve a complex problem because of its wide contribution of knowledge and methods from different scientific and/or professional disciplines. In the practice of teaching and research, it is common to identify the relationship between theory and practice as an emerging element in a variety of situations. Rugarcía explains that this bipolarity of the disciplines is contained in the definition of interdisciplinarity and claims
its consideration in applied research projects, for it draws the attention to a particular issue and seeks to establish alternatives to solve it. Miranda Pacheco  asserts that the education is presented as an innovative requirement pointed towards to overcome a fragmented knowledge, and Cosío , argues that “creative change of university education and research requires increasingly greater force an interdisciplinary approach to teaching, which does not mean the eradication of education organized by disciplines, but of organizing the teaching and learning in terms of their dynamic relationships with other disciplines and the problems of society”. As shown before, a key element to encourage interdisciplinary work is being aware that this takes place within an interactional system and that these interactions determine the success or failure of teamwork. As shown before, a key element to encourage interdisciplinary work is being aware that this takes place within an interactional system and that these interactions determine the success or failure of teamwork. According to Watzlawick, Beavin and Jackson  “an interactional system was defined as two or more speakers in the process or the level of defining the nature of their relationship”. Each participant in the system, recognizes the others and him/herself as an occupant a position inside it, so that each participant is able to contribute with a solution of the problem from a perspective of his/her own, and at the same time that will demand the openness to consider the perspective from which, colleagues from other disciplines observe the same phenomenon. While raising a situation that demands the interaction of individuals from different areas to solve a particular problem, the other is valued for their participation in solving the case, since it is necessary, because from their perspective provides different and useful ideas and concepts.
Forner  explains that the perceptual position is essentially a particular perspective, a standpoint from which a person perceives a situation or lives a relation. However, the appreciation of others depends on the individual perceptual position that the individual occupies in the interactional system and their ability to move “even if the intra and inter personal relationships are good or bad depending on the ability to generate empathy, and these are achieved while being a master of perceptual positions, i.e., to take the place of the other, others and even change our perspective both in distance and in orientation and location” .
1.4 The research as a learning experience The traditional approach on interdisciplinary education and the research was oriented to discuss how to relate disciplines to create knowledge and practical solutions. But in this paper, the issue is addressed from a different perspective: what benefits does a student obtain by involving in interdisciplinary projects? By undertaking this project, it is inferred that this incursion generates a meaningful learning experience that allows the student to evaluate the work of those who with he/she shares the search for solutions. Cach����������������������������������������� ón���������������������������������������  explains that “education as a social reality is a complex reality which consists of a series of practices, processes, contexts, subjects or agents, institutions, cultural contents, intentionality, basis, fields, etc., which together make possible and shape the realization historically overdetermined by political, social, cultural, ideological, geographic and demographic factors”. This demonstrates the multidimensional nature of education as practical, so, conceiving education from a theoretical or single discipline is impossible.
Now, we know that research is particularly important in itself as a knowledge and solutions generator to specific problems. But in this case emphasizing applied research is wished, offering scenarios for the involvement of various disciplines, making it a powerful tool to develop competences for participation in teamwork, and through it, learn to value different perspectives, from which addresses a phenomenon. From this position, according to Casta単eda  the practice of design, being a practical activity where reflection is essential, learning activities should be considered with the objective that the students think, analyze, synthesize, make detailed observations, situational analysis and practical application.
THE APPLIED RESEARCH PROJECT 2.1 Graphic design as a Case description The Graphic Design degree at UPAEP is a program with twenty years of existence. It comes at a time when local and regional competition was scarce and the program succeeded in obtaining an important position in the preferences of applicants. The popularity of this degree proliferated and a large number of schools began offering educational programs in graphic design at Puebla. In these circumstances, the market for graphic design was fragmented. This situation highlighted the necessity to understand the causes in order to raise the appropriate strategies to gain an important position as a degree at local, state, regional and national levels. Thus, in March 2009, the Research Direction of UPAEP authorizes the execution of an applied research project that resulted in a strategic communication program to encourage the positioning in its audiences. This study included the recognition of strengths, weaknesses of the curriculum, assessing the current positioning of the program, the classification of the audiences, recognition of interpretative and motivational conditions in the aspirant, recognition of the factors that incline the election of the candidate and the generation of strategies that allow to communicate the applicant’s the identity features and style of the academic program to promote its position as a highlevel program. From August 2009 there was a qualitative study, having as an approach: semiotics, rhetoric and marketing, which showed the need for intervention in the communication system, which led to a strategic intervention program to the attention of applicants.
The project was based on the rhetoric profile of the program and noted the design process defined in 2009 by the Academy of Graphic Design UPAEP.
2.2 Forming the team According to Escolano quoted in Cachón,  the importance of interdisciplinary studies is significant because it allows the formulation of integrated research models, with which is possible to achieve a deeper understanding and real problems. The combination of the passports of all possible specialties, if integrated into a team, will facilitate the design of a methodological proposal more consistent from the theoretical point of view for analysis and interpretation of phenomena. In the beginning of the project, the work started with a group of five graphic design students who attended the course of Research Workshop given by the responsible of the project. In autumn 2009, the theoretical framework of research and design of a data collection instrument with the participation of scholars were developed. In its final stage students in the area of marketing joined the project, as well as graphic design professors and students, coordinated by the responsible for the project. The hard work for interdisciplinary was in the spring of 2010, when, for the development of the methodology and solutions to the case, marketing students in the ninth semester who attended the course Creative Design  (subject addressed from rhetoric) joined the team. This subject has as an objective that by the end of the course, students would be able to recognize and analyze concepts related to creativity in graphic design from a communicative and persuasive approach to understand the relation between design and marketing in the professional dynamics,
graphic design students who were in second semester courses in Communication Theories (who discussed the Theory of Code) aiming to understand the phenomenon of communication strategies to design and produce persuasive visual messages, and Signs Production Workshop (who discussed the same theory) and aimed to understand and apply the fundamentals of semiotics of Eco in solving problems in graphic communication. The graphic design academy participated in defining the position and provided feedback on the strategies that integrated the planned program.
2.3 Methodology Stage 1: definition of the problem. Stage 2: understanding of the context of the intervention situation. A team was integrated with Graphic Design students in the 5th and 7th terms which intervention can be seen reflected in the contextual frame, establishing: a. The understanding the term Graphic Design and its profile at UPAEP. b. A bench marking exercise to recognize the context of competence. c. A geographical analysis of the zones that demand Graphic Design in the National Level and labor field demand. Stage 3: FODA Diagnosis of the academic program of Graphic Design at UPAEP. Stage 4: Theoretical frame documenting. Stage 5: Development of the methodology. a. A positioning base frame of the academic program of graphic design was established and authorized by the coordinator of the program. b. Interviews with the coordinator, the groups of students that participated in the field exercise were interviewed. c. A market research survey was conducted with high school students aspiring to study graphic design to restore the code existing in them about graphic design. In this stage, students coursing the 2nd term of graphic design were involved. d. Documentary information was obtained on
the decision factors on which an applicant chooses a career. e. A qualitative study with focus group technique was conducted by 9th term students of Marketing that participated as applicators (they had previous training on topics of design), and as well, they conducted the exercise with four groups of students in the 2nd term of graphic design (new entry) to retrieve the motivations and decision factors that allowed them to take the decision to study graphic design at the UPAEP. f. Analysis and interpretation of data. Stage 6: the creation of the strategic program to position the Graphic Design program of UPAEP among the degree aspirants. Stage 7: the implementation of the program after research, monitoring and evaluation.
RATING OF THE INTERDISCIPLINARY WORK AS THE RESULT OF PARTICIPATION IN APPLIED RESEARCH PROJECTS For the academic assessment of end term for the participating groups, the marketing students had to submit a paper, in which, as way of conclusions, explain the relationship between graphic design and marketing to reflect the achievement of the objective of the course. For graphic design students there was a comprehensive project with specific graphic application, which was based on the interpretation of data obtained by students who applied the marketing sessions and focus groups and applying the Theory of Code. Graphics applications were presented in an expository and feedback session in which students expressed their appreciation for the work done by their colleagues from another discipline. To confirm the hypothesis, we conducted depth interviews with randomly selected students to deepen their learning and perceptions about the exercise. The results were positive, because the students expressed positive attitudes towards their peers from another discipline and expressed satisfaction with the dynamics of class and participation in this research project.
CONCLUSIONS To develop applied research projects involving students and teachers from different areas, there must be a leader of a research project that is the connecting node between the collaborative partners, in a way that he/ she organizes, integrates and involves from a work plan and the definition of the methodology. This person will be a coordinator and facilitator. Interdisciplinarity refers to the use of at least two disciplines in the search for an answer, is a kind of strength able of uniting various experiences in dealing with the challenges of our times. The real world is not aware of academic divisions, it demands a truly interdisciplinary approach that is opposed to the fanaticism of some authors and experts who try to impose the rule of their discipline and artfully argue that inside it there is a common factor for all disciplines. Interdisciplinarity is neither a subject nor content. â€œIt is a process that results in an integrated synthesis, a process that often begins with a problem or a questionâ€?.  From this collaborative work, the idea of using environmental conditions to link academic research with classroom experience, developing real projects, collaborative, which deal with issues specific to the subjects and help develop a research project is proposed.
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