In order to prepare students for a professional career path and studio practice, I believe it’s essential to approach design education holistically. I strive to prepare my students for the competitive job market by providing a well-rounded education that includes the introduction of ideation and problem solving techniques, conceptual thought processes, eloquent presentation and networking skills, multi-tasking and efficiency strategies, collaboration, and exposure to professional environments. Having a practice that is particularly focused on social justice, I believe that graphic design can (truly) change the world, and I encourage students to re-imagine what design is and should be.

Each project follows this process: introduction, inspiration/brainstorming, research, ideation, refinement, and ultimately, the articulation and defense of the outcome (critique). From day one, I make my expectations clear, providing clarity and supporting professional examples as needed. Students investigate innovative and self-invented brainstorming strategies, as well as conceptual and design thinking techniques at the beginning of a project, followed by intensive research. I encourage sketching, chance methodologies, and handcrafted techniques to prevent software from limiting ideas and outcomes. After an iterative process and continuous peer feedback, students state their intentions and make a pitch for the project’s final critique—a stride toward professional preparedness.

One of my primary concerns beyond the curriculum is instilling creative confidence in my students and teaching them to be their own advocates. By providing criticism and extending praise, I create a safe environment where students view failure as an inevitable outcome of a process that pushes boundaries—a practice that encourages risk taking in order to realize inventive solutions. Critiques are a place for honesty, and I enforce thoughtfulness and tact. Because decision-making is essential to the design process, I encourage students to carefully consider feedback and conventional rules of design, but ultimately to come to conclusions based on self-trust. 

I believe that a designer’s best tool, aside from confidence, is a learning community—a network of individuals to interact with and trust. Through collaborative projects, peer feedback, and idea exchange, my classroom becomes a community. To me, it’s essential to recognize the diversity of needs that comes with each new set of students. By listening to aspirations and concerns, I more effectively shape my curriculum by providing immersive experiences for all types of learners. After assessing initial skill sets through short in-class activities, the lessons progressively build on each other. Gauging progress from start to finish, I assess growth on an individual basis. To make these assessments, I closely evaluate student portfolios, the ability to articulate conceptual and logical thought processes, participation in discussions, and willingness to take risks. 

Empowering students is critical for me—while I can foster a classroom of curiosity and passion, self-guided learning is an essential component of the process and allows students to participate more actively in each project. Rather than the sole source of my students’ education, I see myself as a resource of knowledge and experience. The seeking of independent knowledge is essential to instill in young designers who will be forever aiming to master their technical and creative proficiency in this quickly evolving field. In order to encourage independent scholarship beyond the classroom, I engage students in historical and contemporary design discourse, providing relevant examples and encouraging diverse perspectives. In addition, I allow students to individualize specific components of their projects, a strategy that helps students become more deeply invested in the process. 

My expectations are high—I require unfiltered creativity and an environment of mutual respect and acceptance, which ultimately leads to self-awareness and personal growth. I believe that a passionate educator leads to positive energy in the classroom. An active participant in the design field, I remain relevant and credible to my students, and am able to lead discussions about the contemporary landscape of art and design. Ultimately, my goal is to introduce students to the vastness of the design field’s influence, expose them to inventive methods and approaches, and to prepare them to confidently approach professional design challenges and opportunities in the future.