I remember when I was a graduate student, a visiting artist, Jon Bielenberg visited our graduate classroom and something he shared with us, stuck with me. He said, the best designers were those with a T-shaped background—they have the expertise of design, theory, process and aesthetics, represented by the vertical line in the T, with a large base of general knowledge about many things, represented by the horizontal line of the T.
Yes, designers need to be educated on the fundamentals of design but, more important, they need to be taught how to learn, how to love research and be able to understand the processes and functionality of how many things work. When I teach even the basic level of design classes, I teach students to pay attention to popular social trends, current news and visual culture and to be able to access these when creating their work. Not only should they pay attention to the compositional qualities and form—the color, visual linking, emphasis and hierarchy, size, materials, etc.—but also to how the message can be found meaningful for the audience it reaches.
The application of designer’s skills has expanded to include a larger range of projects. Not only are designers creating posters, brochures, websites and motion graphics, but they are using their skills to solve bigger issues. Designers utilize their unique problem-solving skills in collaborations with teams that include doctors, engineers, and economists and solve larger social and economic problems to make people’s lives better. Therefore, I find it very important to spend time, early on, teaching students about the process designers use to solve problems. We explore, not only ways to research, but also many ways to ideate, iterate and present.
In terms of technology, design has forever been on the cutting edge. As designers we need to stay on top of what is current for both making and presenting our designs. We can educate students on how to use the technology at the basic level, but more important we must teach them how to be aware and stay on top of changing technologies.
My overall hope for our design students when they leave the program is that they have a good base of knowledge in design but also and maybe, at the top of my list, is that they have a passion for what they do, for learning and for using it to solve small and big problems and to understand that they can make a big difference in the world using these unique skills.
Beginning Level Technology and Fundamentals
Environmental Design / Exhibit Design