It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind.
My life is driven by passion. Fighting depression has led to a passion for the study and rejection of social stigma. Growing up as a musician has transformed into a passion for Barbershop music, bringing me to devote so much of my time and energy to my local Barbershop chorus that I became Marketing Director within a year. My passion for design has led me to the life and career that I knew I was destined for. That passion drives me from the inside, my heart filled with excitement and butterflies at the thought of design research, study, scholarship, and instruction. I want to scream out loud, engaging the world in a never-ending repartee in the language of graphic design.
Without that burning fire, you are left with a smoldering ash. Easy to tame and easy to snuff out. Boring. If there is one thing I am not, it’s boring. My fire burns bright, and I aim to light that fire in each and every student I encounter. I am driven to ignite their passion for design while learning the why of design, not just the how. Anyone can buy Adobe Photoshop; but can just anyone recognize a failing brand and revive it? Anyone can learn how, but having the drive and encouragement to learn why will turn a graphic design student into a professional with a discerning eye and a unique perspective. It is my goal as an instructor to guide students through best research and design practices, and engage them in a process to develop the skills necessary to succeed and excel.
If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.
While my casual, friendly, enthusiastic style of instruction is driven by passion, my scholarship and study steadies me, holding me true. I travel this path with my students, through the world of design, and guide them towards that spark of energy and desire to create, problem-solve, build, and communicate. I teach them to absorb the lessons and practical methods while always maintaining their excitement. I guide them towards success while giving them the tools to continue learning and practicing on their own, beyond the scope of any class or learning institution. I show them how by demonstration and practice. I show them why through critique, lecture, research, and practical engagement. Every assignment requires students to write an artist’s statement and forces them to think and write about their work.
The effort you put into your education is the reward you receive from it. I work heavily under the belief that students and I are equally responsible for the education they receive. I also believe that, as the facilitator of their learning, I need to be able to extract that energy from them and guide them to their destination. I feel their energy and thrive on it, offering it back to them in turn. Once, during a Photoshop demonstration, my students were losing focus and I could see their eyes glazing over. I switched gears, and instead of using a photograph of a house to clone a window as planned, I grabbed a picture of Danny DeVito and gave him a third eye. Then we made him purple, gave him a full head of hair, and removed his ears. This led to a lively discussion of the tools I was using rather than a long lecture. We weren’t just teacher and students; we became a group of people, engaging in conversation and enjoying the process.
While I believe in having fun classes, I never lose sight of the challenges I must present and the education and leadership I am there to provide. I create difficult but attainable goals for every project and demonstration. I challenge students to believe in their talent, practice their skill, and hone their craft. Practice and practical application of a process is what it takes to become a designer, and I push my students to think “outside the box”, to look at a different angle, to feel it from their gut, and use that gut instinct to smash out amazing work with with a rigid grid. A large part of this philosophy is designing, printing, and hand-building mockups of projects. It increases student skill and craft, while allowing them to make mistakes in a controlled and supportive environment. The tactile function of mockups allows them to feel and see the project beyond a flat screen. Even when designing for screens, printouts and mockups are still crucial to the learning process.
I work to impart my passion and knowledge onto new generations of designers. Efficient communication is not only an essential design lesson, but a cornerstone of effective teaching. And, just like my students, I am always learning. I will always teach them as they teach me. They will gain the skills and abilities to perform in a real-world environment while I, in turn, will grow and develop as a teacher and designer, re-designing projects, updating rubrics, keeping up with trends in the industry, and improving myself so I can become the most efficient, knowledgeable, and passionate instructor I can possibly be.