Graphic design is a field in a constant state of flux, and it is my responsibility as a professor to prepare students with the skills needed to stay relevant in this diverse field of study. My major goal is to build critical thinking skills because they will never be outmoded by new technological advances. Today’s graphic designer must be curious, analytical, and a life long learner. I work in the classroom to develop these skills through visual problem solving, critical reflection of design work, peer critique, historical analysis, and exploration of contemporary topics related to graphic design.
I build my assignments in such a way to approach a number of topics. For instance, in my Intro to Graphic Design course, I’ve created a multi-dimensional postcard project. Students learned to use Photoshop to create interesting visuals for a postcard layout. In an effort to begin the seed of understanding for the concept of branding that will be built upon in later coursework, they must complete four designs that are connected both visually and in content. They must implement these designs and print them out, which means they develop an understanding of file management and complete their design in Indesign. After creating the printed postcard, students were asked to reinterpret their design into an animated gif. After a series of reading assignments and in-class discussions related to “The Medium is the Message,” the students wrote a reflective essay about the experience of receiving a printed versus digital postcard. I even require my students to document their work with professional quality photographs because they must understand that as designers, the presentation of their work is as important as the work itself. I choose to focus more on the quality of projects that the students create throughout the semester because I’m not concerned with padding their portfolios with superficial work. Each project has multiple elements that require the student to think through complex design challenges.
In addition to creating a well-rounded educational experience, I work hard to build a community for my design students both in and outside the classroom. Students are encouraged to communicate and critique each other’s work during class. I tell my students that graphic design works best in a culture of sharing, and they are expected to assist one another, share things that they’ve learned, and share their work. While learning Photoshop, I have each student show the class something that they did not know before they began the assignment. With each demonstration, the rest of the class learns a new technique and can also give input and expand on the lesson.
I am passionate about teaching graphic design, and my philosophy to teaching applies to my own practice as well. I am always actively learning new things related to a multitude of topics such as art, design, technology, and education.