The diverse tautology applied to graphic design means different things depending on the perspective from which it is viewed and has become the topic for much debate in recent times. This is of particular relevance to the tertiary educational arena in South Africa, where universities (including Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) which provides the context for this paper) are faced with the dual spectres of programme re-curriculation and Higher Education Qualifications Framework (HEQF)1 level compliancy in the near future and graphic design programmes will have to reconsider their relevance in a changing/changed educational and business paradigm. Determining what graphic design is and reflecting on its role in society is a critical aspect of this imminent, and important process.
This paper will attempt to define the "new model" graphic designer by identifying the qualities, skills, values, content and contexts that best describe the practice and the practitioner; as this should also inform educational best practice, and will present a list of values and characteristics that embody the essence of graphic design for the 21st century.
These characteristics can then become the basis for the development or evaluation of a best practice curriculum that is credible, relevant and vital for the future.
The author contends that responding to the "definition" will allow teaching and learning to become more relevant as the designer‘s identity is clarified, a broader world view is encouraged and curricula evolve to accommodate the present and future realities of graphic design communication.