Conference in Brisbane – 2009

This peer-reviewed conference paper focused on part of a joint research project undertaken with Assoc. Professor Arianne Rourke, COFA, UNSW. At this time, I was a Research Associate at USYD and lectured at COFA (Theories of colour). We applied for and received a grant to investigate visual literacy skills among university design students and conducted a series of research studies relating to this topic – University of NSW SoLt Research Grant 082014 (2008). An investigation into undergraduate student visual literacy skills and learning styles. Research program developed by Dr A.J. Rourke and Dr Z. O’Connor.


It is a common assumption among higher education design educators that design students have good visual literacy skills (based on having studied art or design in high school) and that they learn more effectively when material is presented visually. However, this is not always the case and recent studies have indicated that visual literacy levels as well as predominant learning modality vary among students (Rourke and O’Connor 2009).

This paper discusses the findings from a recent study that focused on visual literacy levels and predominant learning modality among undergraduate design students. The findings, which have significant implications for higher education
design history educators, reinforce the imperative to incorporate a range of different teaching materials and strategies into teaching. A number of key recommendations are provided aimed at assisting educators towards improving
the learning experience for undergraduate design students.