The next generation of graphic designers must be prepared to adapt to the constantly evolving definition of graphic design. My challenge is in the preparation of a designer who cannot only make, but can think, speak, and write about engaging graphic design that communicates.
I challenge my students to not only research design history, but to place themselves in that history. To understand the connections between culture and design is to have a deeper understanding for the concepts behind visual solutions. This engagement with the past also clarifies for the student what has already been accomplished and provides insight for future innovation. Placing themselves in the design history continuum provides context and has the potential for inspiration on a grand scale.
I challenge my students to not only use hand and digital production tools, but to design tools as solutions. The students’ involvement with tools must move from “tools as a means of production” to “tools as design solutions.” Designers have historically designed objects as solutions to visual communication problems, but in order for today’s design students to succeed they must understand systems and the tools that facilitate interaction within those systems. The designer who recognizes the complexities of audience will be able to design tools that are customizable, usable, and accessible.
I challenge my students to not only make design, but to speak and write about design. Designers must have an understanding of the contemporary languages, attitudes and culture of the visual world. Programmers, printers, photographers, illustrators, editors, sociologists, anthropologists are all part of that world and constitute different design teams. The designer should be able to communicate effectively with this team of diverse people, as well as with the client. In the academic setting this acculturation begins with the critique discussion. Developing a verbal design lexicon is crucial to the success of the contemporary designer.
I challenge my students to not only communicate to the audience, but to make them part of the process. An accomplished designer always considers the audience and the delivery of the message to that audience. We must also encourage our students to incorporate user feedback into the design process and even allow the end user to control the design of the message and/or experience that best suits them. In this paradigm the designer creates multiple solutions, not a singular one.
I challenge my students to not only communicate someone else’s messages, but to identify social, physical, environmental, and cultural questions to be visually answered. If we as a profession are to evolve we must move away from being message stylists and move toward a profession that identifies and provides design-based solutions for the challenges of the 21st century.
In order to assist the students in meeting these goals I challenge myself as an educator to: develop project and course outcomes that fit within the curricular sequence of pre-requisites and subsequent courses at all levels of instruction; assign research and writing components as part of the design projects to provide context for content and audience; outline clearly articulated design processes and schedules to provide organization and structure; allow studio time to be used for critiques and discussions; give technical instruction to support the execution of ideas; create critique groups to establish community where the students deliver the majority of the critique so that they may also learn to articulate their own thoughts about design.
I know that I’ve achieved success when a community is formed in the classroom. In that community there is healthy supportive competition, the uninitiated design critique, the transfer of design and technical knowledge from one student to another, the design principles are inherently understood, the student becomes their own best critic, and there is laughter. The ultimate success is that this community sustains itself beyond the classroom and into the professional world.
It is witnessing the transformative moment, when my students look at the world around them and see it as a designer sees it, that inspires me as an educator and fellow designer.