Dori Griffin received her BFA in graphic design from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, her MFA in graphic design from the University of Florida, and her PhD in design with an emphasis in design history from Arizona State University. Trained as both a designer and a design historian, she occupies an interdisciplinary scholarly position which engages both studio practice and scholarly research.
Griffin’s design history research focuses on popular print culture and the narrative construction of social and cultural identity. Through this research, she probes the evolving aesthetic and theoretical relationships between visual culture, cultural identity, and image narratives. Using transdisciplinary research strategies informed by visual communication design practice, she documents and deconstructs the graphic narratives of twentieth-century cultural landscapes, both literal and figurative. Her research takes seriously the messages both constructed by and reflected in popular, mass-produced, and ephemeral artifacts such as maps, posters, periodicals, advertisements, and commercial illustrations. Her early publications centered around popular cartographic illustration in the context of twentieth century domestic tourism. Her first book, Mapping Wonderlands: Illustrated Cartography of Arizona, 1912-1962, was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2013. In 2019, she was a keynote speaker at the Mapping Grand Canyon conference at Arizona State University, where she engaged critically with cartoon maps of the Grand Canyon.
Griffin’s recent publications expand the chronological, geographic, and conceptual scope of her research to explore how the artifacts of popular visual culture, and the practicing designers who produced them, have participated in global conversations about social issues. These visual conversations engage diverse issues such as cultural identity, cross-cultural communication, access to health care, and envisioning a more environmentally sustainable planetary future. The history of graphic design is an emergent field of research with an extensive body of unexplored practices and artifacts awaiting scholarly attention. Griffin’s research is situated at the convergence of commercial graphic design practice, the artifacts of popular print media, and their associated cultural and inter-cultural narratives. Her publications include articles in the Journal of Design History, Design and Culture, the Journal of Communication Design, Imago Mundi and Literary Tourism and the British Isles: History, Imagination, and the Politics of Place. She has presented at conferences including the Design History Society conference, the College Arts Association Conference, and the Popular Culture Association Conference.
In dialogue with her historical research, Griffin also presents and publishes research related to design pedagogy. This research centers around shifting the narrative of graphic design education away from aesthetics and toward a historically contextualized and critically informed praxis capable of solving important contemporary problems in a global context. Her pedagogical research has been published in Dialectic and Visible Language and presented at conferences such as the College Arts Association, the Southeast College Arts Conference, and AIGA Design Educators conferences (Decipher, 2018; Converge, 2017; Connecting Dots, 2014; Head, Heart, Hand, 2013; Blunt, 2013).
Presently, Griffin is at work on a history of the typographic specimen as a visual form and a professional practice. This research has been supported by a Cary Fellowship at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Cary Graphic Arts Collection (2015) and a Design Incubation Fellowship (2017). The book is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Academic Press.