Meredith Davis

Who’s Who in Graphic Design – Meredith Davis: Tracy Sewell

Meredith Davis is a Professor Emerita of Graphic Design at NC State University. Professor Emerita is “the title given to a female professor who has retired in honorable standing but still keeps the title of  ‘professor’ she held directly before retirement” (Garfield). Davis previously taught for 26 years and “served as Department Head of Graphic Design, Director of Graduate Programs in Graphic Design, and Director of the interdisciplinary PhD in Design program” (College of Design).Before Meredith Davis began her teaching career she received her degrees in higher education. She obtains a Bachelors of Science and Masters of Education degrees in education from Penn State University. She also holds a Masters of Fine Arts in design from Cranbrook University which she received during the mid 1970s after realizing the strong interest that she had in the design field (AIGA Medalist). Her whole life she has been a teacher, and she says that there is nothing else she could see herself doing.

An influential project that Meredith Davis worked on while at Cranbrook University was developing curriculum. She was part of a student team working for the Michigan Council of Arts to “develop a curriculum for use in 500 Michigan public schools that introduced students to communication, objects and environments as outcomes of design decision-making” (AIGA Medalist). After this, her involvement and investigation into the relationship of design and education only continued to grow, and still does to this day. From a young age she was able to create powerful work that made a difference in so many lives. Upon graduation from Cranbrook University, she began her career with the objective to directly connect it to design practice. Davis’ career began in Pittsburgh where she was a K-12 teacher, specifically a middle school teacher. She then moved to working with the Hunter Museum of Art as a Curator of Education. This means that she was responsible for the strategic direction and the management of the education programs at the museum in deciding what kind of direction they would move in. Her teaching career continued at Virginia Commonwealth University where she held a teaching position for thirteen years. During this same time “she was also running Communication Design – the firm she founded in 1979 – where she oversaw large-scale projects for clients such as Best Products, the United Nations and Twentieth Century Fund so she could make certain she knew that what she was teaching could live in the world of practice” (AIGA Medalist). Through the Communication Design she was able to gain attention for the community by receiving multiple awards for its “innovative integration of the editorial and financial information, its use of black-and-white photography, and its rejection of what were, at the time, conventional approaches to report design, such as full-bleed photography on the cover” (AIGA Medalist). Davis is still heavily involved in teaching by supervising doctoral research and having the opportunity to train K-12 teachers on incorporating design into the curriculum and meeting those goals.

In 2005 Meredith Davis received the honor of being one of the medalists for the AIGA Medalists. This award is considered to be the most distinguished in the field, according to AIGA, American Institute of Graphic Arts. AIGA is also known as the Professional Association for Design. The medal is “awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements, services or other contributions to the field of design and visual communication” (AIGA). The contribution of the medalist does not have to be specifically in the field of design but can be in the related aspects, such as teaching, writing and leadership that are a part of being an exceptional individual in the field of design and visual communications. Davis was chosen as a medalist for her extreme dedication to teaching in the field of design and having a strong passion for the future of each student. In an interview with AIGA she states, “I don’t remember not expecting to teach – it’s in my history” (AIGA Medalist). She has always had the passion to teach, which is clearly revealed in her work ethic and dedication to the students, whether through the curriculum or the one on one relations with her students.

When Davis moved to NC State is when she had a much further focus on teaching and after only three months of being at the college she was able to become the director of the Graduate Program of Graphic Design. This is incredible to see the strong effect that Meredith Davis has on the community and the people around. She goes beyond the traditional aspect of a teacher to in depth relationships that she is able to create to better understand what can be done to best support the needs of the teacher and student. She has a strong aspect of design education with her teaching as well as her writing. AIGA states, “she is committed to the publication of literature for college students and faculty and to expanding the sources for graduate design education” (AIGA Medalist). This shows through the textbooks that she has written with design philosophy focuses and graphic design theory. Davis is focused on creating an educational curriculum program that will go much further with the students than what traditional teaching.

Overall, Meredith Davis has had an unbelievably impactful effect on graphic design, especially at NC State. She has created curriculum that benefits both teacher and student in the best ways possible. She was able to find her passion at a young age and has done nothing but positive things with it. There have been higher roles that have been brought to her because of the drive to succeed in teaching and writing through design. These include, “Working with NASAD, since 1990, she has been actively involved with the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. Department of Education and the Council of Chief State School Officers. In 1986 and again in 1992, Davis took on the presidency of the Graphic Design Education Association, and in 1989, she began 10 years of service on the American Center for Design’s board of directors. Later, in 1995, she became a director on AIGA’s national board and has continued to serve the organization in a variety of capacities ever since” (AIGA Medalist). She has been able to use her passions for design and teaching to create a better world around through focusing on the larger issues at hand. I have been able to learn a great deal about Meredith Davis, gaining much respect for her and I am excited for her future as a designer, especially with the College of Design.



“AIGA Medalists.” AIGA,

Garfield, Kit. “What Is a Professor Emerita?” The Classroom | Empowering Students in Their College Journey, 10 Jan. 2019,

“Is There a Doctor of Design in the House? An Interview with Meredith Davis.” AIGA,

“Meredith Davis.” NC State College of Design,

“2005 AIGA Medalist: Meredith Davis.” AIGA,