Translating latent cultural capital of beginning design students into unique creative voices.


Bourdieu’s theories on “cultural capital” explain how individuals gain social assets through upbringing. Many students attending State Universities have had little to no formal exposure to the Modernist design canon and little to no training in art or design in their high school education. However, they do have incredible life-experiences and personal histories that they bring to the classroom. Designer Anoushka Khandwala explains “the authority of the canon has undermined the work produced by non-Western cultures.” By leveraging the diverse cultural capital of students, Modernist design precedents can be questioned in unique ways. Corrrective Collective’s Design Manifesto suggests that design education must encourage students to review (past norms), react (in a creative way), and reform (adjust by giving an alternative). This can be done through harnessing the diverse knowledge-base of the students in the classroom. One of the challenges to students looking inward for inspiration is their reliance on social media as their primary source for creative insight. Brunfaut & Daly (Base International Design Studios) state how individuals use platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram as their entire research process “…rather than using it as a tool to supplement ‘on-the-ground’ research.” In response to these issues, this author explores ways to help students look inward in order to bring students’ unique cultural capital into their designed works and encourage a more active investigation and development of their unique creative voices. 

Bourdieu, P. Distinction: A social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Cambridge, Mass, USA: Harvard University Press, 1984.

Khandwala, Anoushka. “What Does It Mean to Decolonize Design?” AIGA Eye On Design, (2019, June 05). Online. Available at: (Accessed 25 September 2020).

Corrrective. “Manifesto,” Corrective Collective, n.d. Online. Available at: (Accessed Sept 20 2020).

Brunfaut, Thierry & Daly, Emily, “The Pinterest Effect,” Base, 2019 (Accessed Oct 7, 2021)