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Special Journal Issue Examining Design and Communication Yielded a Distinguished Award from the NCA

Posted at 1:00 PM July 15, 2016, in News

Unlike many travelers, Professor Mark Aakhus returned from Las Vegas better off than when he arrived, having received a notable accolade from his altpeers at the National Communication Association’s 101st Annual Convention there last November.

The Applied Communication Division of NCA bestowed its 2015 Distinguished Award for a Special Journal Issue upon Aakhus and Sally Jackson, a professor of communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for theJournal of Applied Communication Researchspecial issue on communication and design that they co-edited. The two scholars have worked together for over 15 years to open up communication theory and research to design and design thinking.

“Design is a natural aspect of communication to be understood,” said Aakhus. “And in designing, knowledge about communication is discovered and useful things are created. The challenge for the field is to embrace both of these points much better than it has to date.”

Convinced that important work relevant to communication and design was being done across the field but not recognized as such, Aakhus and Jackson sought to bring together leading researchers from across the field and across the generations. They organized a scientific panel at a prior NCA and issued a call for design research. Through competitive and peer-review, the special issue was created examining the relationship of design and communication. They also co-wrote “Becoming More Reflective about the Role of Design in Communication” — one of six articles comprising the special edition.

The special issue was nominated by fellow contributor and University of Texas–Austin professor Josh Barbour and independently reviewed by four active members of NCA’s Applied Communication Division, who scored each submission on a scale of 1 to 100.

“The level of competition was very high this year,” wrote Monica Gallegos, a professor at Northern Kentucky University and vice-chair elect of the Applied Communication Division, in an email. “Results revealed that [this] special issue clearly stood apart from the other nominees and is worthy of the award.”

Aakhus noted that they have taken risks in pursuing the design angle for communication research, as it is a novel and unconventional approach in the field, but added, “sometimes taking risks has its rewards.”

A professor at Rutgers since 1996, Aakhus served on the research board for the NCA and was a co-founding chair of its Human Communication and Technology Division. His research on the relationship between communication and design “seeks to advance knowledge about augmenting human interaction and reasoning through technological and organizational interventions and innovations.”