I have been cultivating my teaching philosophy for many years. It was only when I left my long-standing professional design 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, Shift, I discovered that my personal surroundings and culture were a key source of inspiration that I could translate into a design methodology which is the core of my teaching philosophy today.
Shift, is an inquiry into an empirically-based graphic design methodology based on observing and synthesizing, amid a constant flux of inputs, organized into three parts. First, intuition enables me to identify pieces of my surroundings as primary sources for design inspiration. Second, transformation of these primary sources of input are developed by using tools such as still photography and video to capture my intuitions. 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 printed matter, a video vignette, an interactive screen project, or a physical installation. Although the process is based in a scientific-like repeatable process, 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 confidence in students that don’t need to look far for inspiration; they just need to look closely at their own lives. Often, things that are overlooked in the everyday, seemingly banal, 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. Helping Students to understand themselves better and develop their own voice, as well as multiple systems and disciplines of output, 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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