My teaching philosophy is something I have been cultivating for many years. It was not until I left my long-standing professional position for graduate school that I discovered how the cycle of teaching and learning could help me rethink my own design philosophy. Through the process of researching and producing my master’s thesis I came to understand that my own surroundings and culture were a key source of inspiration and I could translate that into a design methodology that supports my teaching philosophy.
My thesis Shift is an inquiry into an empirically based graphic design methodology based on a process of observing and synthesizing amid constant flux, organized into three parts: first, intuition enables me to understand that my surroundings are the primary source for design inspiration. Second, transformation is formulated by using tools such as still photography and video to capture my intuitions. Then, captured footage is distilled, edited and reflected upon in order to uncover the essence of the original inspiration. Finally, feedback occurs when the transformed content is presented in a new context: whether it be a printed matter, a video vignette, an interactive screen project, or a physical installation. Although the process is based in science, it is anything but rigid or didactic. I am not seeking predetermined outcomes so much as the awareness necessary to inspire further explorations—whether mine or that of others—in this method.
This empirical methodology is a port of entry when working with my students. Instilling the confidence that students don’t need to look far for inspiration; they just need to look closely. Often, things that are overlooked everyday can inspire formal and theoretical work. With this foundation students can begin the process of critical thinking and problem solving. After the iterative design process begins I support students to experiment in different types of media, from traditional print media to dynamic media. Dynamic media is a critical component in contemporary graphic design but it must be supported by the history—and the incomplete history—of graphic design and typography.
Understanding specific tools and technology is important to prepare students for life outside the University, but I feel it is more important that students understand first where their inspiration can come from, and second what their role is as multidisciplinary designers in society. Students having an understanding of themselves as well as multiple systems of discipline will help them cross traditional boundaries to find where new ideas can emerge. Well-rounded thinkers and makers need to be critical and accept criticism to be good collaborators. Graphic design is a shared experience now more than ever. As a teacher the thing I cherish most is learning from the next generation of designers.
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