Audrey Bennett is a graphic design scholar who studies cross-cultural and trans-disciplinary design that make use of images that permeate global culture and impact the way we think and behave. In her book, Engendering Interaction with Images, she argues that engendering user interaction with images improves their communicative effectiveness by enabling them to convey meanings effectively across cultures. Bennett writes:
“No longer passive spectators of images, these days we are more likely to be active participants in their production, distribution, and consumption. This phenomenon raises important questions about the consequences widespread user interaction may have on meaning, communicative effectiveness, and society at large.”
Her research contributes a hypothesis called interactive aesthetics that aims to democratize control of images in society. Interactive aesthetics explains the use of technology to place designers in virtual collaboration with lay users, where technology makes it easier for remote participants in various stages of the design process to work together. Bennett currently conducts fieldwork globally to investigate the use of interactive aesthetics to affect social change. Her interactive aesthetics research agenda includes two primary strands of inquiry. First, Bennett studies the use of IA in the prevention of new HIV infections in Kenya and Ghana (funded by the National Science Foundation). Second, she investigates the use of interactive aesthetics towards ethnically and intellectually diversifying STEM education, particularly computer science, with indigenous art curricula (funded by the National Science Foundation and Google).
Her publications include: The Rise of Research in Graphic Design; Interactive Aesthetics; Good Design is Good Social Change: Envisioning an Age of Accountability in Communication Design Education; Towards an Autochthonic Black Aesthetic in Graphic Design Pedagogy; Follow the Golden Ratio from Africa to the Bauhaus for a Cross-Cultural Aesthetic for Images; Global Interaction in Design; A Wicked Solution to the Global Food Problem; and Connotative localization of an HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention image to effect safer sex practices in Ghana.
Bennett has won several awards for her scholarship. She is a 2015 Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Scholar of the University of Pretoria, South Africa and a 1997 College Art Association Professional Development Fellow. At the CoDesign 2000 conference, her peers selected her image that physically engaged attendees in interpreting a red circle for the Best Poster Paper Award. In 2007 she secured a National Science Foundation Career Campaign Award and a competitive grant from the AIGA, the professional association for design to create GLIDE, a biennial virtual conference that disseminated visual communication design research findings on the role of designed images in global society.
Bennett is the co-editor of the Icograda Design Education Manifesto 2011 and participates on the editorial boards of the Journal of Communication Design, Text & Image, and the New Design Ideas Journal. She is a member of the board of directors of CAA: Advancing Art and Design.