Teaching Philosophy

The future of graphic design is now and always has been based on one simple premise—communication. More to the point, communication as we have historically done, via stories. For me, the future of graphic design hinges on how well we are able to create stories as visually composed narrative devices that inform, inspire, improve, and enrich our existence. Today’s generation of designers face an enormous task of repairing a world they are inheriting. For this reason, as researchers and teachers, we need to empower future designers with the ability to think critically as well as conceptually about the issues they face within their communities, social structures, and natural environments. The realisation of this goal requires that students become conversant with the use of digital & analogue materials as well as the production methods & creative techniques used to explore the myriad ways in which to give form to their own stories, and those they serve as responsible and conscientious designers. My responsibility as a teacher necessitates that for my vision to have any meaning, I feel obligated to offer my students the ability to explore their stories as visual artefacts that can be used to promote sustainability, justice, and change. With any luck, my research and personal design practice in and around visual narrative affords me insight into building structured, learning environments that provide students opportunities to discover their own unique design voice and the means to express the futures they envision. My job—my vision, as it were for graphic design—is to produce designers capable of showing the world new stories that inform, inspire, improve, and enrich the next few generations.

I believe that narratives have the ability to activate paradigms of place/space and time according to how they are constructed, enacted, and presented. Such narratives require geometries that produce mediated formats that provide mimetic representation for the transfer of language, identity, and culture. It is this phenomenological analysis, of the physicality of narrative, that brings me to the conclusion that visual narratives are a crucial tool that designers can use to help in the realisation of healthier futures.

Because the practice of graphic design is about the forging of relationships between language and visual material through the stories we are able to craft, the education of a design student needs to be predicated upon three things. Honesty, Trust, and Respect. Simple and straightforward idealism these notions are at the heart of what I teach and what I believe a graphic designer should strive for when working. ‘Communication is not an easy job,’ I teach my students. They take it for granted that they can make their wishes known and their desires acted upon, but when trying to convey elementary or complex information for and to others outside of their small circle, it becomes manifestly more difficult. Audience contentment is reached through empathetic message making where and when the audience feels acknowledged, seen, and heard. Understanding is connection; over pandering to sell. Well-crafted visual narratives allow us to see our stories as pieces in a larger tapestry of communication.

While I would like to offer some lofty vision for the future of graphic design (along with flying cars and endless all-you-can eat buffets), I feel it only fair to be real. Of course, the world needs dreamers, but it also needs designers who can tell and craft stories that promise better futures and solutions. I would like to say that narratives will take us there, but I don’t want to sound naive. For this future to happen, I believe we need to lead young designers into more open and empathic ways to approach design as a way of life and a way to live. 

My role in this begins as my vision for teaching. I have found that by being honest, critical, transparent, and fair in my assessment of my student’s work, they have come to learn that I will not trick them or lead them into blind alleys of misinformation. They depend upon me for my experience, but also on my candor and frankness.. For them to develop the skills of empathy I think are necessary in today’s design world, they need role models. 

This begins with honesty but grows into trust. And with this, the experiences I am intent on providing my students can be explored more fully and more passionately. I have stated earlier that I believe failure and mistakes are crucial as part of a student’s education. My students have come to rely on the fact that even in the face of failure they can trust that I will help guide them to alternate solutions. It is up to them to make the ultimate design decisions, but I will offer as much, or as little, guidance as they request. This bond, I believe, can then be emulated by them, to offer others they come in contact with throughout their career the same sort of compassion they received while learning. If they can connect with these prospects through empathic channels, I do believe that together we can all take part in the creation of better stories, and thus, better narrative conditions for all. Lastly, I have found that to achieve the sort of open, empathic students I see as being the future for the discipline, respect is the last piece needed to complete this vision. When students learn to model honesty and truth in a safe environment  as part of their design process, respect is born. Respect for their own abilities, but also respect that the narratives they will craft for others will be met with an equal amount of compassion. It is contagious. 

In the end, my vision of graphic design, and its development is small. Our stories are what binds us together. Our narratives are how we share them with each other. To continue this, we need to do so in more healthful and compassionate ways. For this humble vision to become reality, we need to develop empathic designers who can help their communities to realise better ways of existence that are sustainable and renewable. There is nothing new in what I propose about my vision for graphic design, but there is a lot of work involved in getting the stories and narratives we need out there.