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Posts tagged ‘graphic design’

day 2: gettin’ it done and being the bachlorette

June 3, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

So yesterday night while driving to a Bachlorette viewing party (pro tip: this is how one best balances the rigors of being an academic dean of an online program…mega drama, make out sessions, and lots of mascara + sequins…awesome) I was listening to a podcast from my new favorite pod-caster, designer, and design educator, Mitch Goldstein. Mitch co-hosts at Through Process. The podcast I was hoping to hear was all about the VCFA Low-Residency Graphic Design MFA Program run by Silas Munro but it wasn’t posted yet so instead I listened to a conversation between Mitch, Nancy Skolos, and Thomas Wedell.

Nancy and Thomas are married (I think) and have been with Rhode Island School of Design for 20+ years. They spoke with Mitch primarily about how their design-making practice has influenced their design-teaching practice and vice versa. Then, as podcasts do, they rambled down several other pleasant side trails like: Does graphic design even mean anything anymore? (nope…well, maybe but maybe not.) What is the best skill a student can have when they grad? (ability to Google so that they can take advantage of all that is out there and not be limited by their own small frame of reference of skill set….woah! never heard that one before! : ) Does curriculum’s obsessive focus on the final project rather than the initial exploration phase ultimately neuter students’ creativity before they even start? (yep….well, most likely but maybe it is just a necessary evil with accreditation and all.)

It was a great conversation to hear and it made me realize how much I miss being in a space and school where I can have these types of conversations with my own faculty on a regular basis. Legit I love my team but it seems with both our program structure and geographically distant disbursement having these types of super heady chats about everything and nothing just don’t happen often.

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3 years ago today…

May 27, 2014

lisa hammershaimb


So, according to my Timehop app, today marks the exact date three years ago when I trekked out to San Francisco and walked across the stage at the Cow Palace to receive my MFA as one of the first graduates of the entirely online graphic design MFA program at the Academy of Art University. What follows for today’s much belated entry is the reflective piece I wrote just after graduation to commemorate the event. My first thought is…woah! so much has changed since three years ago! And then my second thought is…woah! three years in the future I maybe well be doing almost the same thing only in Alberta and getting yet another terminal degree!

It is an interesting feeling to know you’re in the middle of something…not yet arrived yet very much departed from where you once were. I tend to think this new season dates to Winter 2013 when I first was accepted into the doctoral program. And yet looking back I can see the seeds of this season being planted even in 2011…or perhaps even in 2006 when I was first accepted into the program and when I was first giving myself to this crazy concept called graphic design distance education and believing it had value to reach me just where I was.

So, Lisa Jude Hammershaimb of the future…may you look back on these times much like you are looking back on “those” times now…with warmth and grace…with humor and laughter…and most of all with a dazzling wonder at the ways life is redemptive and hope is always always present and you are indeed part of a much larger story.


Finding My Place
by Lisa Jude Hammershaimb

I walk across to the security guard clutching my photo-less ID card—the one I dutifully update the sticker on each semester even though I know no one would ever ask to see it. But today is the big day. I assume a bored expression, like I am an old pro…like it is second nature and this is just another day. Not Graduation. Not the day I’d been waiting for, for the past four years. I flash my ID and then giggle, immediately embarrassed by how out of place I truly feel. The guard nods barely registering, barely caring. I am just another grad walking through the line–to him it really is just another day on the job.

Entering the back hallways—my cool facade in place—I walked like I know where I am going. There are so many people, so much activity, and they all look so… cool. I can do this. I steal a peek into the arena and my heart begins to race. All the old insecurities that I thought I’d put to rest come flooding back to me. What am I doing here? Do I really belong? Who do I even think I am with all these cool, talented, creative people?

My name is Lisa Jude Hammershaimb. MFA Graphic Design, Class of 2011. At least that’s what it says on the card I received when I picked up my cap, gown, and hood. You may remember me from such classes as…oh, wait you probably don’t remember me because you see, I was an online student. My AAU campus was in my basement studio 26 miles west of Chicago, Illinois. Most mornings I had a roughly 4 second commute to school, traveling from my futon to my laptop—interspersed with the occasional coffee shop or library when I was out of town. Yes, I was online full-time, from my shaky beginnings in fall 2006 to my midpoint video conference review in spring of 2008 to my final video conference review in December of 2010. I came to graphic design as a sort of desperate last resort to my creative wanderings and then, in some odd twist of grace, I discovered that graphic design was like coming home—it was the perfect fit that I never knew was possible.

I applied to AAU specifically because it was one of the few places in the country where I could get my MFA entirely online. This was important as I had neither the resources nor the desire to leave where I was currently living and start over in a new city. When I started the program I was about to turn 25, an intense introvert, confused about my life. I was a watercolor painter with an undergrad degree in art history, a diploma in interior design, two semesters at Massage Therapy school and three years of Starbucks work experience. I loved exploring how culture shapes creation and vice versa but I was too free-spirited to buckle down for a PhD in art history and too practical to believe that following my painting muse would ever pay my monthly bills. And so, in the summer of 2006 with a portfolio that now makes me laugh and blush and still wonder what put Phil Hamlett in such an amazingly good mood before viewing, I applied to and was accepted into AAU’s hallowed MFA program.

My first year I learned to love the grid, Pantone colors, and all the keyboard shortcuts in InDesign. I was amazed by the diverse history of graphic design. I felt an odd kinship with these quirky “creatives in the real world” whose ideas had so profoundly shaped visual culture. I was humbled by just how hard graphic design really was and dazzled by how it did indeed touch every area of life. Designers became my new heroes.

My second year, fully committed to this thing called graphic design, I got my first MacBook and my first pair of black plastic glasses. What I lacked in experience, I tried to more than make up for in enthusiasm and hard work. The flexibility of the online environment totally agreed with me and I regularly attended school while visiting new cities and seeing more of the country. Having always been more of a writer than a talker, I had no trouble not seeing my instructors face to face or not physically going to a ground classroom each day. In design I was beginning to find my niche and in my cohort of geographically diverse misfits, I was beginning to find community.

I remember setting up my studio for the my midpoint presentation—what felt like my first big test of design legitimacy. I burned calming lavender candles and arranged a large bouquet of flowers. I wore a black turtleneck like Steve Jobs and kept reminding myself I was a graphic designer and I was legit and I was going to be the master of this very bizarre idea of a video conference midpoint review. Oddly enough, it worked. My parents opened champagne, my friends around the country sent me congratulation emails and text messages, and we all toasted both my small victory in my midpoint pass and even more that I was coming into myself—finding something to give my life to and finding community.

The next two years of thesis work were a roller coaster of design highs and lows—love and apathy. There were several times my thesis just seemed too big and too overwhelming and I questioned why I had gotten myself so vested in this all-encompassing world of design. It was in those times of total uncertainty that I came to appreciate my instructors at AAU. To this day I can vividly remember Skype and iChat sessions where I flipped through page after page of dead-end sketches and whined about not really being so sure of any of it anymore—if I was even good enough to be a graphic designer. My instructors were always there, first patiently listening as I got it all out and then firmly reminding me that design is a process and I just needed to keep going. They believed I could do it even if at that moment I was a sleep-deprived mess who had lost all confidence in my abilities. After each design therapy-like session, I would get off the ledge, take a deep breadth, and continue my work because if they—in their infinite experience and high level of design cool—believed in me, maybe I could believe in me too.

I remember in the minutes before going live with my final presentation (this time a large glass of red wine replaced the calming lavender candles) being so thankful for my experience at AAU. Pass or fail in my final review, I knew deep inside me that I was a different and better person than when I entered the program nearly four years ago. I was confident and passionate about design and its potential for good. I had found a place where I fit. The people to which I was getting ready to present were both my toughest critics and my fiercest allies. I desperately wanted to impress them with the work I had created but even more I wanted to make them proud of the designer I had become because it was their vision that had helped shape my own and their passion for positive change that had begun to rub off onto me.

Thankfully, my final thesis presentation was a success. Four months later I boarded a plane bound for San Francisco, graduation, and finally seeing the school where I’d “found myself” though never physically attended. The ceremony was amazing and surreal and I walked proudly across the stage and accepted my diploma to the cheers of professors I was finally in the same timezone as and to the shouts of my family who were amazed and delighted at the school that had managed to transform Lisa-the-directionless into Lisa-the-graphic-designer.

When I would tell people I was getting my MFA entirely online, I would usually get skeptical questions revolving around the impersonal nature of online education, the loneliness of the online learner, even the validity of an online degree. But oddly enough I found I connected with both my instructors and my classmates on a much deeper level in an online class environment than I ever did while in any ground school I attended. Perhaps I found success because I am inherently self-motivated or naturally independent. Or perhaps–as I am more inclined to believe–it is because the AAU program has gotten it right, the professors really do see the potential in every student that comes into the program (even in the awkward introverted misfits like me) and have found a way to connect with their students in a meaningful way that transcends the distance and impersonal nature inherent in online education.

Now I’m almost thirty, an active member of the design community in Chicago, invigorated each day by the potential in design, and on the brink of starting an online teaching career of my own. I am so excited to be that force for good in the lives of my own students—especially the jaded introverts who wonder if it’s even possible to find a place where they fit and if indeed they have anything inside worth believing in.

day 5: encounters

May 16, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

My goal for the rest of May is to get comfortable taking intentional time each day to expose myself to new ideas. These ideas don’t have to have anything to do with graphic design, studio culture, online learning, or what I’m doing in my academic sphere rather just need to be things to expand my own mind, make new mental connections, and help me see the world in new ways. So, for the new little bit I’ll use this space to track cool new stuff I’ve encountered…and I think it’ll be interesting to see what emerges!

What I Read:
Inside the Science that Delivers Feeds

What I Learned/Thought:
“…the model of continually streaming updates has come to define how we consume information. We’ve grown accustomed to a world in which data flows by us, letting us dip into the stream whenever, wherever, and however we want.”

So so true. It’s all feeds now and feeds are how I both waste time and learn vital information. I really like the bite sized aspect where you can learn more if you choose or not, depending on your proclivity. I also like the personalized nature of a feed. It’s not scary that it knows me…it’s convenient. Could learning follow some sort of feed stream? Would it be expecting too much of students? Even more…could instructors trust students enough to learn from a feed?

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DAY 3: digging out…

March 5, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

The continuous raging blizzards of Midwestern America are indeed an apt metaphor for my life these past few days. It’s more and more and more emails and calendar events and reports all the time and this morning I was a bit of a frazzled mess about it. Tonight after a highly productive day in the closet office, a successful piano lesson, and liberal amounts of both siracha aioli and Beligan beer, I’m feeling way more like I have at least a tiny grasp things and my pace of life has slowed from Mach 3 to 1987 VCR fast forward. Today the spinning plates haven’t shattered and even more my own soul is firmly intact…..which feels very very good

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DAY 1: looking for answers…

January 27, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

So today I discovered that there are people out there researching studio learning methods and studio practices and even the pedagogy of learning in community and how awesome it is and how maybe it could even work with disciplines other than traditional fine/applied arts. I am stoked to read everything I can get into my little iPad screen because it makes me feel like there is actual merit to my own ideas…I’m not reinventing the wheel, just showing how it might roll along in another context or situation. I also discovered this great thing called “tacit knowledge.” Seriously…we’re all tacit knowledge experts if you know where to look and how to ask the right questions to reveal it. So yeah…I think today was filled with a couple larger positive turns and I think in the not too distant future I’m going to take the very scary step of sharing these ideas in an email and see how they distill out. Ironic right that I have no fears about sharing them on the internet because it feels so wonderfully cavernous and anonymous but sending an email feels like I’m rooting down…feels like I’m staking a claim and saying that this matters to me. And even more crazy…it does.

What follows is the wet paint…digital, yet still very open to fingerprints, smears, smudges, mixing, etc.

My area of research interest:
1. Tacit knowledge transfer in an online studio space

  • How does it work?
  • What is the experience like?
  • What channels does it utilize?

2. Learning Communities when studio cultures relocate to online environments or how learning occurs in horizontal communities rather than vertical instructor-oriented hierarchy

Why is this area important from a big perspective?
I’ve read a couple articles recently that have studied the positive effects of studio culture in arts-based college programs. Because studios are safe places with high levels of reflection, feedback, and group learning through critiques it is thought that they are particularly effective at helping designers “not just learn about” but also “learn to be”. The sharing of ideas produces self confidence and modeling of instructors engaging in process helps students get an insider view of industry tacit knowledge.

But how does tacit knowledge regarding design develop when the studio moves from a physical to online space? How do faculty-student interactions produce design knowledge and designer self efficacy when the studio space moves from being a shared physical location, hosted by an instructor, to an online interface ultimately mediated by a computer interface? Does the studio experience remain fundamental to the educational experience if there is no physical studio space?

Many schools are moving part or all of their delivery online in order to reach a broader base of students or cut down on their physical infrastructure needs and traditionally studio focused programs are also beginning to transition. This area of research is vital if online delivery programs are going to keep up high level of quality and produce not only students with functional program+software skills, but also who are confident as professionals.
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DAY 3: Qualitative Questioning…

January 22, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

While doing class readings in Creswell’s Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches, I came across three potential research approaches to explore. So, in tonight’s writing I thought I’d reflect on each and try my hand at writing a question in the theme of each and see what happens. The chapter overall focuses on Research Questions and Hypotheses and summarizes qualitative and quantitative research and how to create a compelling qualitative research question or quantitative hypothesis to be tested. It’s interesting stuff and admittedly nothing I’ve had any familiarity with before.

What is a qualitative study?
An academic study that is more focused on getting understanding of the “why” and “how” of human behavior and decisions. Researchers in a qualitative study state questions rather than objectives or hypotheses.

My question:
Does this mean they are more open to the process rather than achieving a set of objectives? Or are objectives also needed but not as explicitly stated? Is a qualitative study more contextual and factor-focused as opposed to generality based?

How is a qualitative study structured?
The study begins with a Central Question. The Central Question is a broad question that asks for an exploration of the central concept in the study. The Central Question is very broad. To construct the Central Question researchers ask, “What is the broadest question I can ask in the study?”

In Qualitative Research, the intent is to explore the complex set of factors surrounding the central phenomenon and present the varied perspectives or meanings that participants hold.

What is my central phenomenon?

  • Learning via an online environment (how is knowledge of a hands-on nature passed along?)
  • Identity transformation (how do mindsets shift to designer status? how do students shift mindset from one correct answer to many creative possiblities?)

Some different research approaches…

(descriptive emphasis; based on interviews and specific people; asks about personal experience)

  • What is it like to learn a traditionally studio-based artistic discipline in an online classroom?
  • What is it like to learn a very “hands on” trade via an online format?

(like studying a people group, thus more culture focused)

  • How do transformative communities form in an online graphic design undergrad program?
  • How do graphic design students, with the absence of a traditional studio, gain self efficacy in their skills and creative vision?
  • How can curriculum be designed to move students from a positivist view to a post-positivist view of creativity in graphic design?
  • How do students view knowledge upon entry into the program and how does that shift as they progress?

(Use observation, analysis, interviews, etc. to come up with a theory of learning graphic design via online methods. Works opposite of other approaches as it gathers in everything then sifts and threshes it to see what might remain)

  • How do students develop as graphic designers in a fully online education format?
  • What concerns might be important to students who engage in a fully online graphic design education?
  • What is the process by which graphic design students interact in a fully online environment?
  • What is the process by which graphic design students learn how to be designers, outside of a traditional studio space, in a totally online environment?
  • What is the theory that explains the process of discovery for graphic design student learning in an online environment?

So…those are the big three I’ve explored thus far. I’m kind of taken by the grounded theory idea but it sounds really hard and really complicated and totally scary. That said, I love that you’d first collect everything and then see what emerges because it has that element of unexpectedness to it. I think one of the harder things about this exercise is being so broad. I was thinking I needed to be as narrow as possible with this but in reality open is much much better because it allows you to explore the wide fringe connections you might otherwise dismiss.

Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Chapter 2: Philosophical, paradigm, and interpretive frameworks (pp. 15-34).

DAY 1: being in a muddle…

January 20, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

…back to Monday and back to work. I was gone this weekend, celebrating my birthday by eating & drinking way too much, and generally forgetting that big decisions are looming on my vocational horizon and, doctorally speaking, my large research questions are as yet undefined. That said, I regret none of it because working and thinking hard must be balanced by times totally off otherwise your creative well runs dry and that’s not good for anyone involved.

So… here I am again, trying to get back into the 500 words and clear my head a bit…Did I mention I had an interview last week? : )

I did in fact mention it to my cohort last week to get their input and wisdom regarding if I should or should not take the job if it was offered. The cohort, as always, dazzled me as they poured out stories from the past and gave me their own bits of wisdom. The offering was a gift and made me realize yet again that community is quite profound…I cannot say enough how glad I am to have them as yet another barometer in my life.

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DAY 4: Clarity (for right now)

January 15, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

So, I had that interview I was all prepped for yesterday and it was well…interesting. (No worries…I mean “interesting” in a totally academic-related sense and I won’t be going all dear-diary in this posting and get overly emotionally reflective and in touch with my inner twelve year offense to those who are twelve….)

This morning in my usual coffee/quiet time/blog+twitter catch up time I came across a posting that George Siemens, my doctoral supervisor, had recently written in reference to a meeting that he’d had with two other of my cohort members whom he also supervises. In the posting he referenced a meeting that recently happened and the things that struck him particularly in regards to epistemology, ontology, vulnerability in learning, and the social, identity, and emotional factors that influence learners while they are “in progress.” (It was a bit crazy reading his article because previous to reading his blog I’d just spent a lot of time trying to figure out what epistemology really means and even put a definition on this blog to sort of codify it for myself…I’d say we’re tracking.)

Actually, you should really just go read the blog here because it’s short and fabulous…it’ll open in a new window and it is worth your time. But come back, okay?

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DAY 3: Interviews…

January 14, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

Tomorrow I have an interview for the Senior Associate Dean of Graphic Design position with my school. Thus tonight’s five hundred words of grammatical excellence will take a detour from my own readings and be devoted to gathering my thoughts around that most grand event—with a generous dose of gratuitous, education utopian fluff thrown in for good measure.

So, yes indeed to catch up everyone…I am currently one of three Associate Deans with the undergraduate graphic design online department of a technical college in the States. It’s a job that is totally in keeping with what makes me excited to be alive (namely creating new things + seeing people come into their own areas of perceived giftedness.)  I’ve been in this post for about a year and a half and in addition to teaching I train new adjuncts, mentor anywhere from 120-150 students, and write/revise curriculum to better align with the trajectory we as a department see for our students.

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DAY 2: Rhizomatic Learning

January 13, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

Hello Rhizomatic Learning Community. My name is Lisa. I am a graphic designer and design educator. I am unfamiliar with rhizomatic learning but I am familiar with rhizomes as a food group. Most recently I fell in love with ginger, juiced with pears, cranberries, and persimmon. Turns out, ginger burns just enough to heighten the sweetness of the other flavors. Totally addicting.

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