I see both formal and critical skills as important for design students. Likewise, experience with and exposure to a broad range of media are important for aspiring makers. Through a range of projects that span from formal exercises to more experimental processes and applied projects, I emphasize a broad education that introduces students to a number of skills early on and primes students to pursue a number of possibilities.
formal and technical proficiency.
The area of knowledge most commonly associated with design is the ability to create aesthetically appealing work in a variety of media. Through foundational projects, students learn to come at projects using different methodologies and develop their ability to conceive and produce work. Projects at this stage introduce them to different media, allowing students to choose a path for themselves and creating a foundation to build on.
knowledge of, and experience looking at, design.
I work to create projects that encourage students to steep themselves in design and type history, or that push them to take an interest in being voracious consumers of design, both past and present. In a tangible sense, this gives students goals and shows them the world of design outside the classroom walls. By seeing and analyzing what’s gone before and what’s going on now students gain a better insight into being a designer. In investigating other design work, students cultivate their ability to look, to examine, to visually dissect.
critical thinking and conceptual skills.
On one level, cultivating critical skills helps students become designers who are better able to answer questions of form because they can see those forms in a larger context. But it also helps them become designers who are able to use design to engage in broader dialogs. In order to educate students who are able to question and critique the methods or even the goals of a project, I create projects that allow, enable, and sometimes require students to redefine or negotiate the project’s objectives.
To do those things, I see part of my job as an educator as staying curious, staying active as a designer, and exploring different design directions, topics, media, and technologies. I can then bring those new ideas and skills back into the classroom.
Additionally, I see design education as part of a student’s broader education. Part of what higher education provides is a richer understanding of the world, which goes beyond the skills a particular job might call for. Design can involve students in making the kinds of artifacts we see and use every day. Technical skills, experience with materials – whether physical or digital – and craft have the potential to give students a richer view of the world, to help them better comprehend the artifacts – books, magazines, websites, interfaces, signage – that surround us.
By coding a website, assembling a book, designing a font, creating motion graphics, or designing an interface, even if they don’t do all these things later in their career, students gain a deeper insight into the construction of our digital and physical world.