October 31, 2012
October 25, 2012
“A well-designed, student-centered online course can improve student learning and teach students life skills across a much broader spectrum than a face-to-face course ever could. I think every student should be required to take at least one online course as part of his or her formal education.”
–Holly A. Bell, from Online Learning, Only Better
October 25, 2012
This morning I read a very very interesting article posted through a twitter link by Dr. John Maeda, current President of RISD and all-around amazing thinker + leader (who also happens to be a computer scientist, an AIGA medal recipient, and an author on a best selling book called Laws of Simplicity …oh, and he’s under 50 and has been named, by Esquire magazine, one of the 21 most important people in the 21st century).
The article, by the Impatient Futurist in Discover magazine, was a great exploration into how teachers, particularly in higher ed, can be more effective at engaging and promoting retention amongst their students. The general consensus is that students just aren’t staying engaged with the traditional lecture format and there needs to be another way.
The new way to success (not to spoil the article…everyone who is in the business of passing on knowledge to students in a classroom setting should definitely read it) involves teaching new ideas and skills and then immediately putting those skills to use through small quizzes, practical process tasks, etc. By engaging students to process what they’ve just heard students more effectively retain the information because they become active participants in the learning process. Often technology plays a heavy role in the process and students can interact with one another and the instructor via digital means.
Hmmm….constant small quizzes, practical process tasks, interacting with an instructor and other students via digital means…that sounds oddly familiar. : )
Perhaps if distance ed can do these things well, this is something it could teach ground schools?
October 23, 2012
Meredith Davis is my new design education hero. She’s smart, and thoughtful and she cares about the future of the profession in a forward-thinking, inspirational way. She is a total visionary. And it seems like she has published, presented, and drawn up the framework for pretty much every major design education initiative that has happened in the past several decades. Designers of 2020 and beyond….thank Meredith Davis first off that your programs were so amazing and enabled you to be the leaders making policy and designing a new cultural lifestyle that we, as mere early twenty-first century dwellers, can’t even imagine .
I first became familiar with Meredith Davis while I listening to a recorded presentation Davis and Ric Grefe (the current executive director of AIGA National) hosted on Undergraduate Educational Outcomes and Competencies in Communication Design. The presentation was basically a discussion on where the profession is headed and how we as educators can empower our next cohorts of students to be better prepared to enter and be a positive influence in the communities they are a part of once they graduate. Design has experienced some pretty fundamental shifts in its short life and we’re in the midst of yet another shift as we move from designers who are primarily concerned with the creation of artifacts to designers who are primarily concerned with the creation of systems.
While I completely resonated with everything that was discussed (and finished the session with warm fuzzy feelings that I am indeed in the best field every because the potential for design to leverage positive change is pretty much unlimited) I couldn’t help also leave the session with a bit of a sinking feeling about my band of distance ed students. Many of my students (and indeed students in distance education settings worldwide) come to school because they want to learn the trade of making practical artifacts because having that skill will allow them to move out of a somewhat grim living situation. Is this new shift in educational practice going to further alienate my distance ed students from their on-ground peers? How can distance ed implement these new theories if the majority of distance ed students are more just looking to learn a trade? Will the future of design contain some sort of split in those who design artifacts and those who design and implement the artifacts into a larger system/campaign?
It’s an interesting time for sure because it does feel like there’s a lot brewing and change occurs so rapidly. But I suppose that if indeed design education is at the early stages of a pretty significant shift in theory, who better better than design educators to wrestle with how the shift will impact not just ground schools but also distance education learning?
You can view the recording in its entirety here.
October 16, 2012
So, what did I learn today? I learned that it’s more important that you show up and stay true to yourself than that you cleverly mask and try to be someone who you are not because in all honesty the world doesn’t need what you think it needs as you plot and plan in your head…it needs you for real.
But let me explain how I learned all this. Today i was called upon to teach a group of 10 year old-ish girls. No big deal, right? I teach adults…in college. I teach complex ideas in graphic design and creativity and I have achieved a great balance of humor, learning…nuance.
But yeah, not so much. I was kind of petrified and kind of bewildered and kind of feeling very out of my element with teaching 10 year olds. I should be totally in my element because I come from a family of very talented elementary school teachers (all of them can admirably and unselfconsciously use puppets and do voices when reading aloud and sing songs and do motions at the same time.) But, early on I decided that I wasn’t of that tribe and have pretty much stuck to that line of thinking every since. I don’t not like kids it’s just that I don’t really go out of my way to interact with them. But then, due to some unavoidable circumstances, I had to both interact and actually teach them for about an hour and did I mention I was at a complete loss? I don’t do puppets and I have weird self conscious neurosis about reading aloud and doing voices and most of all I am kind of casual to a fault and I know my nonchalance (which is really more self-protective than anything) can seem a little too ironic for a kid audience and a little too detached and uncaring.
So, I spent a couple minutes sitting at my Mac silently panicking and then I did the logical thing to do when stuck and at loose ends…went upstairs and poured a glass of red wine, found the three neon colored macaroons that S had gotten for me over the weekend (that I’d, like a squirrel, I’d hidden away until fancy French sustenance was necessary), bought a Carole King/James Taylor album from iTunes that I’ve been thinking about (preemptive rewards are always a good idea), and went back to the drawing board. Surprisingly enough, the combination was magic and I did indeed realize some pretty astounding things and managed to pop out a good lesson for the girls and a great lesson for myself.
The first thing that struck me was how I’d really been going about this task all wrong. I was trying to construct a lesson based on all the things I thought that a lesson should be, which pretty much amounted to how I pictured J and S teaching it (and all those ways included things that made me panicky, like reading long stories with multiple voices and singing songs with motions). While those ways are great for them because they do genuinely connect to kids, they really aren’t so great for me because I just don’t feel comfortable doing them and to compensate and try to mask my own insecurities I’d pick up all sorts of weird pretending and I’m fairly certain the girls would feel my discomfort and I’d ultimately become cynical about the whole experience.
So, I did the harder work of stepping back and thinking what feels both true to me and true to what I am trying to teach. Basically, I know that Lisa-the-teacher is alive and well but how does Lisa-the-teacher come out with people who aren’t the ones who she usually teaches? And most of all, what is the most important information to communicate and how do I genuinely communicate that information in a way that kind of gets “me” out of the way and gets the girls in direct contact with the info and lets them take it in for themselves?
After some more sips of wine and bites of cookie, I realized just how I needed to do it. And it was not how S or J would have gone about it but another vital part of me getting over myself was me realizing that it was okay for me to do it my own way…indeed, the only way for me to genuinely do it was to do it in a way that is true to who I am and in keeping with my own unique temperament and personality.
When I did my hour of teaching it was far from perfect and kind of only reinforced my own deep love of adult learners, but it did feel perfectly like me and in that I was quite proud.
So how does that translate to this process of distance education and learning and teaching? Well…PhD-ing feels like it should be reserved for a very heady and academic minority. I’d be lying to say that I hadn’t had more than a couple episodes of “I’m just not that academic and I’m not an extrovert and I don’t default to multi-syllabic words like PhD student should.” Basically, I struggle a lot with the idea that I’m just not that person and I can’t do the work in the manner of the crazy smart academic that I picture when I think of PhD.
But…then experiences like today serve to underscore that I don’t need to try and force myself into the form that I think I need to be in order to be worthy of a certain calling. If indeed I have been called to this (and to that I would answer an emphatic yes) then it is and must be the actual me that needs to come through…it must be the actual me in all its messy, humble permutations and not me trying to be the person who appears in my own mind. And when I am myself completely I find that who I am somehow, crazy enough, seems to be just what the situation has called for. So perhaps one of my biggest challenges in this process (and indeed my whole life) isn’t to learn more or think more or do more but rather to stay true to myself and intentionally filter everything through who I am because ultimately this is my project…this is my calling…this is where only I can fit and the people I reach and advocate for are unique to me and I must bring myself to this place no matter how inadequate I may feel.
October 12, 2012
Below is a short article I just wrote for the Steamboat Magazine. This summer me and my fellow Yampa Valley Design Guild members put on a 5-day graphic design for good summer camp. Not sure when it’s going to come out in print or how the printing and editing process might change things up, but read all about it! See some sweet photos thanks to camper, Tarbia Minto after the words and follow this link to see the redesigned identity in action and check out the Design Camp Facebook page.
Steamboat Design Camp 2012
This past August, nine graphic designers from the east coast, midwest, and even Alaska gathered together in Steamboat for the first annual Steamboat Design Camp. Organized by the Yampa Valley Design Guild (Steamboat’s very own graphic design professional organization) Steamboat Design Camp was an intense collaborative design experience for graphic designers who believed that good design makes life better and who wanted to use their creativity to benefit a local Steamboat non-profit organization.
“I loved working with people from all across the US. I would definitely try to keep this up in the years to come. It worked out so well that none of us knew each other. It allowed us to bond so much more! And now we all have so many more touch points across the country!”
–Lisa Hoeynck, Colorado
The campers were fairly split in terms of experience. About half were recent college grads (or entering their final year of college) and half were working professionals with several years of experience in graphic design. The process of jumping right into a project and working for a common good bonded the campers immediately. Everyone embraced the ideas of collaboration so that the non-profit could get the best work possible and the week was refreshingly free from ego or creative self promotion.
The lucky non-profit the campers served was Yampa Valley Data Partners (YVDP). YVDP is an organization committed to gathering and distributing data for decision making and community collaboration in the Yampa Valley, Western Colorado and even on the state level. Working with Kate Nowak, YVDP’s Executive Director, the campers produced an assortment of print materials, did a complete redesign to the YVDP logo and provided YVDP with a fresh new look to their most well-known pieces, the Community Indicators Project and the Economic Forecast Newsletter. In the end, campers provided over $30,000 of design work to YVDP for free.
“The work we were doing was just for a client, but for a town and its community and businesses. Being nestled within the micro-culture of which we were designing for felt unique and energizing, yet completely normal and foundational to what we do as designers.”
–Jacob DeGeal, Illinois
“We won the lottery. The campers were a complete joy to work with on this project. If it were not for the Steamboat Design Camp we would not have had this wonderful opportunity.”
–Kate Nowak, YVDP Executive Director
But, lest the name “design camp” mislead you…it wasn’t all work and no play (and no one had to sleep in a tent.) One of the main attractions to Steamboat Design Camp was the small town, big mountain location. Housed on the ski mountain with hiking trails outside the front door and the Gondola a short distance away, the campers had many opportunities for outdoor recreation including a couple hikes, a trip to the rodeo, and even a ride up to the top of the Gondola for Brunch. And creativity wasn’t limited only to time spent behind the computer. Campers also enjoyed an afternoon of drawing and fine art exploration with local artist Gregory Block, cooking in the gourmet kitchen with fresh local produce found at the Farmer’s Market, and exploring many of the great dining and entertainment hotspots in downtown Steamboat.
At camp’s end, not only did YVDP have a new look, but 9 campers as well as several Design Guild members had a renewed understanding of how good design really can add value to daily life and made many great new friends with which to collaborate in the future!
“After camp, I feel that I could go into other collaborative efforts with more confidence.” — Adele Wiejaczka, Alaska
Steamboat Design Camp will be happening again next summer. If you or anyone you know would be interested in applying, check out the Yampa Valley Design Guild website for more information.
October 9, 2012
(while doing some browsing on AIGA.org I came across this article written by Jon Kolko (founder of Austin Center for Design) as a process/content overview of the 2010 AIGA Design Educator’s Conference: New Contexts/New Practices. Granted, it’s almost three years old so it’s no longer quite so “new” but Kolko makes some very interesting observations and definitely has some strong thoughts about the majority of design curriculum’s current deep love of Bauhaus teaching method. I’m still mulling over whether I’m pro Bauhaus or not (and in all truth am still brushing up on my own design education history) but I do think Kolko makes some super relevant points about how design is changing and I can look back at my MFA education and see these shifts loud and clear.) View full article here.
The Cultural Background: Moving Beyond Artifacts
For most of the field’s history, educational programs in graphic design have taught students how to create artifacts—how to develop printed posters, brand elements, pamphlets, postcards and signage. This work involves a number of core competencies, including but certainly not limited to color theory, two-dimensional design, three-dimensional design, typography, composition, printing and prepress, packaging, digital prepress, logo and mark creation. But the world has changed, and professionals rarely focus exclusively on printed material. In the last 20 years, the overall landscape of design has shifted:
- From single–artifact systems to design–language systems, focusing on a unified visual and semantic message across multiple printed pieces
- From one-way communicative artifacts, such as brochures, to interactive artifacts, such as software
- From designed artifacts to design thinking, where the focus of the design process is applied in the context of large-scale business, organizational or cultural problems
- From commercial goods toward service, emphasizing time-based, human and more experiential qualities of designed offerings
October 9, 2012
I came across this quote this morning off Twitter. It was associated with the PBS broadcast of Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I know that the quote was originally associated with providing equality for especially women in what are so often horrific situations. But, when I read it my first thought was a bit more oriented toward my students. Many of them just haven’t had economic advantages or the family stability that can allow them to go off to college in the traditional sense. And yet, their voices too are so valuable…their creativity is so much needed…these students do indeed matter and I want to be their advocate and ultimately help them succeed.
October 7, 2012
So, today I made the four block walk back to my undergrad school, Wheaton College. It was homecoming weekend and while I did attend the requisite football game, cheer at most of the correct places, and feel my body temperature lower a couple degrees in the first cold front of the season, the definite highlight of my experience was attending a tribute/mini art history conference in honor of my undergrad faculty adviser, the esteemed Dr. John Walford organized by the new art historian on the block, the effervescent Dr. Michael Milliner.
My undergrad years were a bit of a crazy blur–transferring into Wheaton late in my education and staying there for all of about a year and a half. But, while I was there, studying art history with Dr. Walford was definitely a highlight of my education. His deep engagement with the visual world of the past, his attention to both culture and content, and his utter delight at the gift of creativity were infectious to me as an undergrad and looking back almost ten years I see that though I’ve transferred my allegiance from the somewhat higher art world of art history to the applied world of graphic design, the ways he taught me to see remain with me and are even being passed along to my own students.
Sitting in the back of the lecture room (some things never change) and listening to many diverse presenters talk about some very heady, high level art pieces and methodology for interpretation at first felt a bit like speaking a language you’d not spoken for say 5 years but once were almost fluent in, but the longer I sat and listened and absorbed and indulged my own nerdy fascination with how art is produced in certain times for certain ends in certain ways, the more thankful I became that this was my history and that as a designer and as a design educator, I am grounded in art history and in some small ways, as an art historian who is part of a very rich tradition.
I won’t get too much into the actual topics discussed, but I will say that sitting in the space and feeling the overall spirit of love and appreciation for Dr. Walford expressed by everyone present made me mentally fast forward 30-ish years in my own life and think about where I might want to be, lives I might want to have touched, etc. In many ways it feels like 30 years is a lifetime away and yet I know it will come much much sooner than later and now more than ever my choices have very direct implications on how the next season of my life will play out.
I am no doubt scared of this new journey that I am undertaking and I am the first person to bring up the idea that it’s a bit crazy really, and yet looking at his life and his teaching career, and his overall sense of courage and willingness to risk for the place where he knows he must be…I’m inspired to keep moving forward…to keep asking and probing and pushing the questions and seeing how things can be different…how things can be better. Inspiring stuff for sure.
So, thank you Dr. Walford for living your life in a way that does indeed shine out…and for teaching me how to see.
p.s. there’s also a sweet book out inspired by Dr. Walford called Art as Spiritual Perception. It’s not directly graphic design-y, but it’s definitely going into the resources page and I think everyone should check it out and feel a little smarter and a little like they can see with slightly more clear eyes.
October 4, 2012
Welcome to my graphic design distance learning blog / exploration / reflective-confusing-invigorating project. Hopefully if all goes well this will lead me into a dissertation on distance learning graphic design pedagogy and eventually an EdD (and the feelings of arrival that I am sure must come with the addition of the magic letters D.R. before your name.) But–lest this seem to be only about me and my crazy need to augment my identity with the addition of a couple letters before my name–hopefully this project will also be a catalyst for bringing a bit more good to the world of distance education, specifically as it relates to graphic design.
Deep down I believe in distance education and I believe that distance learning can grow a designer who is every bit as competent, confident, and creative as a design who has gone all the way through a ground-based art school. That said, graphic design distance education in its current online format is in its infancy, doing lots of trial and error learnings, and the movement overall is desperately in need of empirical research. The majority of distance design programs now available are simply asynchronous copies of on-ground curriculum, completed on the students own time with minimal instructor interaction. While this method is remarkably convenient for both instructor and student, it lacks the necessary creative connection between teacher and student that is hallmark of all transformative learning experiences. This flexible learning methodology built on little to no real-time instructor/student interaction undermines the learning experience for the student, ultimately diminishing quality of education.
This should not be. Distance learning should not suggest a diminished, second-rate quality of design education but instead should be a great equalizer in access to learning resources, bringing high quality design education to all people willing to learn, regardless of their geographic location. But, in order for it to be this vibrant equalizer, distance learning must become become an entity on its own and seek to learn from but not directly copy it’s more established ground school siblings.
Having both worked in the distance education field and received my MFA through the distance ed division of a massive on-ground art school, I am uniquely positioned to ask these questions, do this research, and be part of ensuring that distance education students in the future receive the best quality education possible.
It will be for sure an interesting journey and I hope it will end in new discoveries that do indeed bring good. So, it is with great excitement and a somewhat rapidly beating heart that I begin this new process. Here’s to the next couple years, new learnings, and the adventure…whatever it may hold.