A Study Of The Role Of Material Culture Art Essay


This study explores the role of material culture in arts and design class at colleges in Singapore. Normally, students in a contemporary graphic design class face many difficulties particularly in interactive creation of arts and design. Basically, this study tends to identify and analyze the advantages of using material culture in a contemporary graphic design class. Furthermore, this paper also attempts to design an effective curriculum that will satisfy the needs of using material culture in a contemporary graphic design class.

Concurrently, graphic design schools today face ever-increasing demands in their attempts to guarantee that students are well equipped to enter the workforce and navigate a complex world. Research indicates that material culture can help support learning concerning culture and past histories, and that it is especially useful in developing the higher-order skills of critical thinking, analysis, and scientific inquiry. But the mere presence of material culture in the classroom does not ensure their effective use when it comes in adding validity and substance to graphic design study. This study explores the various ways material culture can be used to improve how and what student learn in the classroom particularly in creative design and arts. Moreover, this paper pointed out the use of material culture as an effective learning tool in studying past history and culture is more likely to take place when embedded in a broader education reform movement that includes improvements in teacher training, curriculum, student assessment, and a school's capacity for change.

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In this study, the researcher investigated several variables that may influence the development and progress of students in different contemporary graphic design classes at colleges of Singapore. These included perceptions of problem difficulty, creative designing, value of art, and quality of work. The researcher believes that enabling the students to use material culture aided by the procedure in graphic design will result in effective learning and understanding in creative design and provides quality design and art.

This research will analyze and investigate the role of material culture and personal perception of the students in Singapore. This shall include a discussion on the positive and negative variables related to material culture and contemporary graphic design, an analysis of performance of the students in school in relation to material culture was also conducted. Particularly, the research will focus on examining the role of material culture in contemporary graphic design provided by the school instructors/administrators. Basically, the results of the study will lead the researcher to the development and devise an effective curriculum in arts and design with respect to material culture in graphic design.

Problem Statement

This researcher finds the necessity for a study that specifically tackles the effects of material culture in contemporary graphic design at Colleges in Singapore. Specifically, this study intends to explore the significant impact of this material to the Colleges in Singapore that are related in contemporary graphic design. It will present the performance of the students by identifying weaknesses and inefficiencies and recommending solutions.

Basically, the problem of this study is about conventional methodology in teaching which used a dry lecturer is really dull and takes a lot of time to finish a modular or syllabus of each topic depending on lecturer capabilities, skills, availability, mood and student indulgent of what their thought. That is not effective for students to get an effective way to learn, there is a need to get a new and effective approach since material culture may now touch the cultural and historical value of a certain art or design. The purpose of using material culture in a contemporary graphic design class is to develop a better learning than conventional method in colleges but through the early resistance, it emphasized their ability to appreciate art and learn it cultural and historical value perform the complex tasks needed in contemporary graphic design. Through material culture student can develop a bond and understanding of one's traditional cultures that motivate visual communication students to create strong cultural identity graphic design. Moreover, this study will try to answer the following queries:

  1. Can understanding of one's traditional cultures motivate visual communication students to create strong cultural identity graphic design?
  2. Can material culture add validity and substance to graphic design study?


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This study seeks to understand fully how students' awareness of their traditional cultures might be the factor that motivate them to research and explore their cultures as a graphic design topic.


This paper will work on the following hypothesis:

  • Material culture in graphic design class in colleges plays significant effect to the students' awareness of their traditional cultures.
  • Material culture in graphic design class in colleges has significant effect to the memory retention of the students when it comes in studying traditional culture. Since it is exciting, challenging and fun to use, then it encourages students to study the material culture again and again.
  • Material culture has significant effect to the learning improvement of the students since it attaches to one's traditional culture.

Definition of Key Terms

Graphic Design- Graphic Design is the process and art of combining text and graphics and communicating an effective message in the design of logos, graphics, brochures, newsletters, posters, signs, and any other type of visual communication (http://www.geemultimedia.com.au/glossary.asp).

Material Culture- Material Culture is a term often used by archaeologists as a non-specific way to refer to the artifacts or other concrete things left by past cultures. An archaeologist thus can be described as a person who studies the material culture of a past society (www.encyclopedia.com).

Art- Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions. It encompasses a diverse range of human activities, creations, and modes of expression, including music, literature, film, sculpture, and paintings (www.encyclopedia.com).

Education- Education encompasses the teaching of specific skills, and also something less tangible but more profound: the imparting of knowledge, good judgment and wisdom. One of the fundamental goals of education is to impart culture across the generations socialization. (www.encyclopedia.com)

Knowledge- Knowledge includes, but is not limited to, those descriptions, hypotheses, concepts, theories, principles and procedures which to a reasonable degree of certainty are either true or useful. (www.encyclopedia.com)

School-A school is a type of educational institution. The range of institutions covered by the term varies from country to country. (www.encyclopedia.com)

Review of Literature

World history has witnessed the birth, development, and achievements of the most talented people. These people have their distinct gifts and area of mastery - literature, politics, arts, science, and so forth. Still, much of their success can be traced back to the kind of life and personality they had. Childhood experiences, support from people around them, environmental influences and personal motivations often determine how a gifted person makes use of his innate abilities to become an important figure in his chosen field of expertise.

The world of arts is one of the most interesting topics of study. This field usually includes some of the most peculiar people who can express their personalities through unique paintings, sculptures, and drawings.

Art education is culturally identified as a subject area that enables students to use their imagination and creativity to produce pieces of artwork from a wide variety of materials. This identification may also include the study of famous artists and their well-known artwork (Oliver, 2010). On the other hand, the cultural identity is constructed through various signs and symbols that the culture attribute to art education.  Symbols include art making materials (The Culture of Education in the Visual Arts, 1999). These materials that are attached to one's culture were known as “material culture”.  Material cultures are becoming known to the teachers in contemporary graphic design because of its motivational effect to their students in studying culture and art.

In graphic design class, art symbol with respect to materials are crucial. An example of art education symbols are the variety of medias- both two and three dimensional that are used to illustrate subject matter. In addition to more practical symbols of art education are the humanitarian symbols which may include connecting with artists and their work, both contemporary and historical (The Culture of Education in the Visual Arts, 1999).              The art and crafts around communities, in stores and on posters will always be a symbol of a reflection of art education (The Culture of Education in the Visual Arts, 1999).

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Another facet of creating a cultural identity is to reflect on the cultural rituals that are often associated with art education. The most apparent rituals include the various processes that are employed to make art.  It is important to remember that such rituals/processes are influenced by the geographical location of the school district (Oliver, 2010). Another cultural ritual attributed to art education is the physical demonstration that the art teacher must provide for students in order to teach them specific techniques. This demonstration often includes safety precautions as rituals that the students will then strictly employ to create art without hurting themselves with the tools in the making (Oliver, 2010).

Other ritual distinctive to art education is the practice of critiquing students' art work, often done by the whole class in order to provide constructive feedback and criticism of the finished piece of art.   One final ritual that should be imperative to an art education program is class field trips to museums, galleries, and artists' studios that connect the learning of art in the school to actually viewing art in the community (The Culture of Education in the Visual Arts, 1999).

It is important to connect these cultural rituals and symbols of art education to not only show how they produce a cultural identity, but also form a sense of social solidarity among students, teachers, and communities (Oliver, 2010).

The visual arts or the graphic designs are arts that we see. It has its own language-the language of feelings, emotions and ideas without words. We could discover the world outside and inside us through visual arts. The visual artist through unspoken can communicate with us when he creates visual work of arts like painting. Paintings and works of art in general are meant to move us, especially in ways that words often can't.

Graphic designs inspired by material culture play a major role not only in academic purposes but also in health and medicare related aspect and in the community as well. It develops the intelligence and the overall personality of the students. Moreover, graphic designs inspired by material culture also provide meaningful self-expression of all students. It is used in therapy procedures for aiding child development. It assists in educating disabled children, especially those who are blind and have hearing problems. And finally, visual arts also help in building communities and mural projects. In studying graphic designs inspired by material culture, it shows that visual arts and cultural identity are related. The cultural identity is constructed through various signs and symbols that the culture attribute to art education. 


This section of the research proposal discusses the methods to be used.  This illustrates the method of research that identifies its applicability. Likewise, the section illustrates how the research was to be implemented and how to come up with relevant findings. Moreover, this methodology part of the research underwent into several stages. In the research design, the researcher collected data from students and teachers in some Colleges in Singapore that are using material culture in their graphic design class. At the time of data collection, the researcher gathered and sum upped the data acquired from these resources.

Study Setting

In accordance to the goal of this study i.e. to investigate the role of material culture in contemporary graphic design, the researcher decided to conduct the investigation in 10 Colleges in Singapore. Basically, in these 10 chosen schools in Singapore, a random sample of 10 students each will be chosen. The students to be included should be familiar to graphic design and material culture.

Research Design

Generally speaking, there are two research positions, often call paradigms, which researchers can choose from. The first is the quantitative paradigm in which researcher attempts to understand causal relationship of existing phenomena or attempts to discern the validity of the theory in a particular social context (Creswell, 1994). And since one of the purposes of this study determine the role of material culture in contemporary graphic design, the quantitative research position is taken here because it is appropriate for the research purpose.

Aside from this, the second approach, called the qualitative paradigm, is not chosen. Actually, as indicated in the paper of Daymon & Holloway (2002), the qualitative design the researcher assumes this position and attempts to understand a particular social phenomenon by using the actors' frame of reference. In addition, data are presented not in numerical form but in actual words which is in contrast to the aim of this research.

There are few research strategies that often used for conducting research such as survey, case study, action research, Ethnography etc. According to Yin (2003), there are three conditions to be considered for choosing an appropriate research strategy i.e. :

  • The type of research question
  • The extent of control an investigator has over actual behavioural events.
  • The degree of focus on contemporary as opposed to historical events

From the paper of Saunders, et al. (2007), survey approach often uses questionnaires to collect a large amount of data from a sizeable population in a highly economical way. Therefore, the survey approach is usually able to apply a more representative sample among a massive population for the study, trying to achieve generalisibility of the results. The case study, however, according to Denscombe (1998), is an investigation that focuses on detailed, in-depth descriptions and analysis of one or a few organisations. This approach is normally use to explore the phenomenon by in-depth data gained in the research context. This implies that the research results gained by case study cannot be generalized to a larger population due to that the investigation range is limited. By considering this limitation of case study approach, the researcher opted to choose the survey method.

Population and Sampling Plan

The sample size consists of students, who are the logical key informant related closely to the issue under investigation, as well as the teachers numbering to 10 subjects.  There is no reason to believe that 10 teachers is not a large enough sample size because ultimately it is this individual who works directly with the issue and teachers has the most intimate knowledge of the subject. Basically, the survey respondents are asked regarding their perception towards material culture and graphic designing and student's performance. In essence, Guilford & Fruchter (1973) argued that in choosing sample sizes, the Slovin's formula should be considered. Therefore, in selecting the sample size (100 students) in this paper was identified by Slovin's formula. The Slovin (1960) formula is given as:


e= needed error margin (percent requirement for non-precision due to the use of the sample as an alternative of the population).

N= size of population

n = size of sample

Data Collection Procedures

Yin (2004) provides six different sources of data collection that is commonly used in case study methodology, which include documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observation, participant observation and physical artifacts. The data collection method uses survey and interview that is to take place with the students and teachers, as these are the closest people working with the subject under scrutiny here - Material culture - and should serve as the key informant.

In addition, students are also surveyed to understand how they feel about the use of material culture in their graphic design class since the teacher may provide biased information, however accessing the students is subject to the permission of the teacher who acts as the gatekeeper. If surveying the students is possible the survey that students will fill out will be left on the teachers' desk where they can fill it out and return it to a drop box in a closed envelope without a name or other identifying information. The questions for the employees are created after a thorough review of literature.

For documentation that refers to secondary information about the material culture and graphic designing, such considerations have been taken to reduce concerns as they would otherwise pertain to bias or the reliability and validity of the findings. Relying on documentation are used even if the students do participate since it strengthens the findings further (Yin, 2003). Documentation specifically includes performance reports and records, or books and journal articles discussing material culture and graphic design.

Accessing of the teacher is going to take place by first, sending the school an outline of the study and ethical content forms and arrange meeting, through the telephone or MSN given geographical constraints, to explain what it is the research wishes to do and how it will benefit the organization. Ultimately, what the researcher wants to do is discern how training is able to increase students' performance and the mechanisms that school in Singapore has in place to assure this. Executing the above step is useful since the gatekeepers are going to want to protect the interests of their students and the organization (Holloway & Walker, 1999). Overall, the approach above is based on negotiation, which as researchers note, “Access is negotiated and re-negotiated throughout the research process” (Gubrium, & Holstein, 2001, p. 301). The teacher was also assured that confidentiality - by not releasing information that they do not want to be released -- and anonymity - by using pseudonyms for students, participants and settings -- will be secured (Daymon & Holloway, 2002). It is not unreasonable for the teacher to participate in the study given the steps executed above which are suggested by research methodology practitioners.

Finally, research questions are based from the literature as is suggested by research methodology practitioners.

Data Analysis

To determine the perceptions of the student respondents pertaining to material culture and graphic design, the researcher a set of guide questions for the interview and prepared a questionnaire. A non-threatening questionnaire in nature that can be completed within 30 minutes are considered. The respondents graded each statement in the survey-questionnaire using a Likert scale with a five-response scale wherein respondents are given five response choices. The equivalent weights for the answers are:

When the entire information consumer responses have been collected, the researcher used statistics to analyse it; and was assisted by the SPSS in coming up with the statistical analysis for this study. For the details gathered from journals, an evaluation was drawn in order to identify the role of material culture to contemporary graphic design. Moreover, this research will utilise the several statistics in order to determine the differences between their perceptions towards the impact of material culture on student's performance and art appreciation.

As stated above, the researcher was aided by the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) in the making and creation of the statistical analysis for this study. SPSS is one of the mainly and extensively accessible and potent statistical software packages that has a extensive range of statistical practices, which permits a researcher to sum up information (e.g. calculate standard deviations and means), identify whether there are major differences between groups (e.g., ANOVA & t-tests), observe relationships among variables (e.g. multiple regression & correlation) and graph output (e.g. line graphs, bar charts, pie chart, etc.) (Sauders, Lewis & Thornhill 2007). 

Concluding Remarks


This study will be a significant endeavour in promoting culture awareness among graphic design students. This study will be beneficial to future leaders. By understanding the needs of the students and the benefits of quality education, these practitioners will be assured of a larger progress performance. Moreover, this research will provide recommendations on how to value students as they are taking a large part in the overall performance of the school quality education.

This study would also be of help to those school and market scientists who are interested in finding out the social implications of the boom and the bust phases of the school industry. Moreover, educators can gain from this study, as they find the connection between how they have designed their curriculum and what are the actual needs of the citizens.  In that way, they would be able to make immediate changes, if necessary, or continued improvement of their programs, through further studies.

Furthermore, it is hoped that this study would help the students to improve learning and appreciation skill through Material culture in Art and Design at colleges in Singapore because Material culture has many advantages/effectiveness such as retention and motivational factors in accordance to the leaning behavior of student. Thus, student can go deeply into each topic areas they need to learn without lecturer involvement because material culture is related to the history of the arts they are perceiving. Moreover, this paper introduced important changes in our educational system and gives a huge influence to the way we communicate information with students. It would make them as an active participant in their own learning process, instead of just being passive learners of the educational content.  Apparently, this research also hoped can provides an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the factors that impact on the students' experiences of material culture in learning process.

Finally, this study would benefit future researchers in the field of the, education, arts and design management, business and the social sciences since it depicts the future of the school industry and its varying effects to many sectors of society.


This study will only cover material culture as part of studying contemporary graphic design in arts and design for the college students in some colleges in Singapore. Basically, this paper will only cover students selected from semester 1, conducted from some colleges in Singapore. As there are numerous issues surrounding the school, this research will primarily examine program development and performance progress. The outcome of this study will be limited only to the data gathered from books and journals and from the primary data gathered from the result of the questionnaire survey and interview that will be conducted by the researcher. As the research was completed in a relatively short period of time other factors and variables are not considered. This might have an impact on the results of the study.  Basically this research study will enable the researcher to design a quality curriculum that will satisfy the needs of the students.


(1999). The Culture of Education in the Visual Arts. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from www.orgsites.com

Creswell, J.W. (1994). Research design. Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

Daymon, C. & Holloway, I. (2002). Qualitative research methods in public relations and marketing communications. Routledge.

Denscombe, M. (1998), The Good Research Guide, Buckingham, Open University Press.

Guilford, J.P. & Fruchter B. (1973). Fundamental Statistics in Psychology and Education, 5th Edition. New York: Mc Graw-Hill.

Holloway, I. & Walker, J. (1999). Getting a PhD in health and social care. Wiley.

Oliver, S. (2010). The Importance of Visual Arts in Schools. A Free Article. Retrieved March 24, 2010, from www.afreearticle.com

Sauders M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A.(2007). Research method for business students, FT Prentice Hall, Harlow.

Yin, R.K. (2003). Case Study Research Design and Method (2nd ed), Sage, Thousand Oaks.