I truly love teaching design. Being able to teach students creative problem solving and thoughtful visual solutions has been one of the greatest joys of my life. As an educator I have had three goals that I have stood by over the last two years: Encourage student work that feels human, provide students with both the technical skills and communication skills to succeed, and encourage students to be their own designer.
Design to me is best when it feels human, when you’re working with your hands and using technology as a tool but not as a crutch. Its very easy to rely on computers and design programs to make things refined, elegant and clean, but it can easily make work look similar. As a professor, starting off screen whenever possible and then moving digital is important to me, as it pushes ideation, enhances originality and promotes utilizing skills gained in a broad range of studio and design classes. Sketching is an important part of my class, as it enables students to step back and plan without quickly jumping to open an Adobe program.
I believe critique to be one of the most important parts of design. Its very easy in school to take critique for granted and its something thats so very missed for many upon entering the workplace. As a working designer, sometimes you need to hear that your solution is wrong, that you’re close but a certain typeface, or a few points are holding you back. A professor once told my undergraduate class when we were fading during a particularly lengthy critique “don’t wish it away.” This has stuck with me and encouraged me throughout my own teaching experience to push students to really mentally show up, get invested, and give suggestions and constructive criticism during critique. I also believe in mid-way working critiques as a way to address some of those design problems before a project is turned in, so the final is not the first version of an assignment the rest of the class is seeing and weighing in on.
In this same vein I really push participation and public speaking. In my classes I utilize many different critique styles throughout the semester in an effort to get students comfortable talking in front of a class. While I think its important to master design programs and digital tools, if you can’t sell an idea to a client you’re only doing half of your job as a designer. Over the last two semesters students presented their work themselves, presented the work of another classmate and presented as groups in order to practice and improve on communication skills. These changes in critique also helped students created more thoughtful and refined design solutions that were backed with reason and research instead of just preference.
Over the last two years I have spent many hours in individual meetings with students, getting them ready for portfolio review, helping them pull materials for internships and job interviews, and talking to them about their goals and what they love about design. While its easy to provide students with lists of names of top design firms and challenging graduate schools its more important to me to make sure my suggestions and mentoring work for the individual student. Each student is a different designer, with different skills, history, and goals and I think showing up for your students and doing right by what they want is most important as an educator. Having a firm grasp on design programs and tools will take you far, but listening to what someone wants and hopes for themselves will take your farther, as a designer and as an educator.
In order to implement my teaching philosophy in class I utilize a number of skills including demonstrations, daily presentations, material studies, critiques, guest speakers, and group and individual meetings.