“I learned a lot from you. I made a lot of personal progress because of the way you teach. Thank you so much for being an inspiring teacher.”– Student
In thirty years of teaching, and in twenty-five years of critically thinking and writing about design, and in twelve years of familiarity with the world’s best design via my involvement with the Type Directors Club, I have concluded that learning how to design is not nearly as valuable as learning how to think and how to see. That I have a facility with graphic design makes it my vehicle for teaching these twin objectives. But design for its own sake is, to me, a false target in education.
These are some samples of freshman work. The emphases are on understanding abstraction of ordinary materials, imagery and individual letterforms, and the figure/ground relationship in artmaking.
These are samples of sophomore work. The emphasis continues on abstraction, but in a more complex environment. Gridded and organic space are introduced.
These are samples of junior work. Some constraints are lifted allowing students to make more decisions on content and choice of design treatment. Abstraction remains a valued attribute: school is certainly the place to nurture individual familiarity with the place between visual interest and legibility. Client constraints will temper lack of legibility soon enough.
These are samples of senior work. Few constraints are imposed so that students’ decisions about all aspects of their work can be considered in class discussion.
These are samples of post-graduate work. Highly motivated, academically proven students with disparate backgrounds attack problems, making their results an adventure in every critique.
My job as an educator is to constantly invent ways to answer these questions: What can I do to promote thoughtful, fresh, creative approaches to standard visual communication problems? What tools can I introduce? How can I cause students to look for the unique in every problem and craft design relationships that express it? How can I build on students’ previous learning experiences to reinforce ideas they’ve already learned?
I teach graduate design students at the Shintaro Akatsu School of Design (SASD) at the University of Bridgeport and at Parsons the New School for Design, and I have taught at FIT, the Hartford Art School, the City College of New York, the University of Illinois, and the State University of New York, among others.
In collaboration with Brian D. Miller, I started a school for precollege students interested in graphic design, the MillerWhite School of Design. There are several exclusive interview videos featuring design education thought leaders Graham Clifford on students participating in professional organizations, and on craft versus concept, Charles Nix on the importance of reading for design students, on graphic design and typography, and on graphic design portfolios; and Rosanne Guararra on students having enthusiasm and keeping an open mind. We discuss what we look for in design students and in design portfolios, and how the study of graphic design is different than other forms of art study.My teaching philosophy is described in these three short videos:
- In the first, I identify a key difference between studying art and studying graphic design.
- In the second, I talk about what I look for in a student and discuss the importance of thinking and seeing for art students.
- In the third, I speak to the importance of typography in design study.
Here are two audio clips of class discussions. The first is about two dimensional design relationships and the second is about designers and artists and how to develop ideas: